What is The Best Way to Find a Personal Injury Lawyer?
After being injured in any type of accident that was caused by the negligent or wrongful actions of another person or entity, you might be starting your search for a personal injury attorney. However, figuring out how to find the right personal injury lawyer to handle your case might seem overwhelming with the large number of attorneys advertising on television and the internet. Advertising does not necessarily translate into the provision of competent legal representation. Instead, there are a few steps you can take to find a qualified personal injury attorney who can handle your claim and help you to recover compensation for your losses.
One way to find a personal injury attorney is by asking your friends and family members for any recommendations based on their experiences with being represented in the past. While a referral from someone you trust might be a good starting point, it is important for you to make certain that the recommended lawyer focuses on personal injury law. You do not want to hire an attorney based on your friend's recommendation when the lawyer represented him or her in a family law case, for example. If someone you trust recommends a lawyer to you, make sure to ask the attorney how long he or she has practiced in the area of personal injury law and the percentage of his or her practice that he or she devotes to this area of the law. You can also ask other professionals for recommendations, including your pastor, accountant, or other professionals who might be familiar with the personal injury attorneys who are practicing in your area.
Instead of retaining the first lawyer you find, it is a better idea to carefully research attorneys and law firms and create a shortlist of lawyers you think might be a good fit. Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations. Scheduling consultations with a few personal injury attorneys can help you to gauge whether or not you will be able to work together. A personal injury case can take months or years to resolve, and you want to find an attorney that you can trust and get along well with during your case. When you attend consultations, pay attention to the attorneys' communication styles and how you are treated by the office staff. Take note of whether the lawyer listens to you and how well he or she explains the relevant laws as they apply to your case. Meeting with several lawyers can allow you to compare them and help you to make a more informed decision.
When you go to a consultation with a lawyer, you should be prepared to ask several questions. Asking the right questions can help you to determine whether or not to hire a lawyer. Some of the questions you might ask include the following:
- What percentage of your practice is focused on personal injury cases?
- How many cases have you taken to trial?
- What are some of the outcomes of the cases you've handled?
- How long have you been licensed?
- Have you tried any cases that are similar to mine in the past?
- Who will handle my case?
- Do you have any former clients I can talk to?
Some attorneys practice in general practice law firms and accept many different types of cases. You will want to find an attorney who devotes a significant portion of his or her legal practice to personal injury cases. An attorney who focuses on personal injury law is likelier to be up-to-date on the latest case decisions that might affect your case. He or she is also likelier to understand how different insurance companies typically handle claims and anticipate how they might argue against your claim.
While most personal injury cases are resolved through settlements instead of trials, you still want to find an attorney who has some trial experience. Some personal injury firms settle all of their claims and never go to trial. Having an attorney who is prepared to litigate on your behalf through a trial if necessary is important because he or she might be likelier to successfully resolve your claim even if it does end up settling.
While an attorney's past record cannot guarantee results in your case, a competent lawyer should be able to share some details of the outcomes of past cases. Asking whether an attorney has handled cases in the past that are similar to yours is also a good idea because the answer can help you to determine whether or not a lawyer might be prepared to handle your claim.
Asking an attorney how long he or she has been licensed is also important. While there are many good attorneys who are newly licensed, you do not want to retain an attorney who will be learning on the job by representing you. Ask prospective attorneys both how long they have been licensed as well as what their experience in the area of personal injury law is.
Knowing who will handle your case is also important. At some law firms, new associates and paralegals handle most aspects of their firms' cases. You will want to know exactly how your case will be handled by a firm you are considering before agreeing to retain an attorney.
Finally, ask prospective lawyers for the names and phone numbers of past clients you can speak with. A good lawyer should be able to provide you with a few past clients who might be willing to talk to you about their experiences with the attorney. After you have received these names, make sure to follow up with the former clients to get their perspectives on how the lawyer handled their claims.
Most personal injury attorneys operate on a contingent fee basis. Under this approach, you will not have to pay the attorney's legal fees until he or she successfully settles your case or wins a verdict for you at trial. However, you might have to pay certain costs upfront during your representation. For example, if you have to retain an expert, an attorney might ask you to pay the expert witness's fee during your representation.
Ask prospective lawyers to explain their fee structures and whether you will be responsible for paying any costs during your case. Make sure that you get a fee agreement in writing, and ask questions about anything that you are unsure of when you review it before signing.
You can research different lawyers you are considering online. Attorneys are listed in each state's database, and you can check to see whether a lawyer you are considering has been disciplined in the past and if he or she is currently in good standing. In California, you can search an attorney by name or bar number on the State Bar of California's website here. You can also check on attorney rating websites like Martindale-Hubbell and Avvo.com and read reviews about a lawyer online.
When you are looking for an attorney, you will likely notice television and radio ads, signs on buses, and billboards advertising different personal injury law firms. You should not rely on these types of advertisements to make a hiring decision for a lawyer. Good personal injury attorneys are likelier to offer value to prospective clients on their websites rather than focusing on television ads. Take the time to read a prospective lawyer's website, including his or her practice pages and blogs, to get a good sense of how the attorney conducts his or her business before you call him or her.
There are several red flags that you should watch for when you are searching for a personal injury attorney. It is a good idea to avoid attorneys who exhibit the following things:
- Lack of trial experience
- Poor reviews online from past clients
- Speaks over you/interrupts
- Doesn't seem to understand how to handle your case
- Guarantees a successful outcome
- Unable to explain the law in terms you understand
- Does not provide a fee agreement to you in writing
Finding the right personal injury lawyer to handle your claim is important. By taking time to research different attorneys and what to ask, you might be better able to evaluate lawyers and find one who can handle your case competently and compassionately. A good lawyer should be able to evaluate your case and provide you with an honest assessment of its legal merits. To learn more, schedule a consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer at our law firm today at 866.966.5240.