What to Know Before Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you’ve had an accident, you may not know where to turn for help, how to go about hiring a personal injury lawyer, or whether you even need one. You may have been injured in a car or motorcycle accident or fell on public property. If you have been seriously injured, then you need to hire a personal injury lawyer to handle your claim.
Of course, you want to find the best personal injury lawyer out there. But before you hire a firm to represent you, there are some important things that you should know before doing so.
This article on what to know before hiring a personal injury lawyer can help guide you on your path to finding an attorney that’s capable and competent.
But finding the right lawyer is just the first step. It’s also crucial that you ensure they won’t charge you an arm and a leg. They should also be trustworthy, communicative, and helpful.
Before you begin your search for a lawyer, learn more about your legal issue. Understanding the issue, learning the terminology, and knowing what you’ll be responsible for as a client can save you both time and money. It’s important to educate yourself on your legal matters, so you will be able to understand what’s going on in your case. You’ll also be able to communicate more effectively with your attorney.
Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
When you have a legal problem, you need advice from a professional and the right information. Many online resources are not accurate and are unreliable. While there are some aspects of a case that you can handle on your own, the do-it-yourself approach can cost you big in the courtroom. A lawyer can help you research legal issues, can provide strategic advice, and can advocate for you.
Limited Help for a Case
Some clients prefer to turn their entire legal issues over to the lawyer and rely on them to handle things, while other clients prefer to handle some of the legal matters on their own. Many attorneys are very open to providing a limited amount of help, such as researching particular issues or reviewing documents. If this is the type of help you’re looking for, be very open about this when you’re meeting with a prospective lawyer.
How to Find a Personal Injury Attorney
On your search for an experienced personal injury lawyer, begin by asking family, friends, and colleagues for references. You can also contact a lawyer referral service, which can help you find a reputable firm. However, make sure that you also read online reviews of law firms to ensure that the firm has a reputation for winning cases and excellent client communication.
Preparing for a Consultation with a Personal Injury Lawyer
You must make the most out of your meeting with the lawyer and ask all the important questions that can help you determine whether or not the attorney is capable of handling your case.
Bring all the documents on your case and hand these copies over to the attorney.
Before your scheduled meeting, write down an outline of your legal problems, and be sure to include any questions you may have. A lawyer needs all of the relevant details to assess your case and determine how to proceed.
Be upfront and honest about your legal problem. This can include issues that may be sensitive to you or other parties involved. Keep in mind that the conversation you have with your attorney is private and cannot be discussed with anyone else without your permission.
Your Initial Meeting with an Attorney
Hiring a lawyer is a very important decision. The right one can make all the difference. Many lawyers offer free consultations, either over the phone or in person. These consultations usually run from half an hour up to an hour.
Think of a consultation as a way to interview a lawyer. Likewise, an attorney can determine if they can handle your case, and whether or not they’re a good fit for you.
Because many lawyers offer free consultations, you can meet with more than one attorney.
Never be afraid to shop around and get multiple opinions.
A lawyer with experience will begin your meeting by listening to you tell your account, as you discuss the many details of your case. Once you’re finished they will provide an opinion on how strong your case is and whether or not you have a case. While you’re deciding on whether to hire the attorney, they’re also deciding if they want to take on your case.
If both parties decide to proceed, then your attorney will begin obtaining evidence to support your case. This can involve hiring an investigator, examining the records and evidence you provide, and speaking with police and witnesses.
They will also go over the process with you, what’s involved, how long your case may take, and the type of results you can anticipate. A good personal injury lawyer will work tirelessly to win your case and fight for your right to the full compensation you deserve, using all the resources they have available.
A lawyer will be ready to discuss fees during your initial meeting, so you should be prepared to do the same. This can also be a good time to discuss payment plan options with your attorney.
Make sure you understand what you’ll be expected to pay after your case has been settled. A lawyer may require you to pay a retainer, they may charge a flat fee, contingency fees, or they may charge you by the hour.
Consider what you can afford. If you’re not able to pay a retainer or you can’t afford hourly rates, you may need to search for a lawyer that charges on a contingency fee basis. This means that a lawyer will only charge you if you win your case and based on the size of your settlement. In some cases, if you don’t win in court, you won’t owe your attorney anything at all. All firms are different. Because of this, you need to sit down with your attorney to learn exactly what you can expect in terms of contingency fees and payment options.
Understanding how your lawyer charges and getting the fee agreement in writing is very important.
Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
If you’re currently searching for a personal injury attorney and you want to ensure you choose the best one for your case, there are some questions you must ask:
- How long have they been practicing?
- Where did they practice law?
- Do they have enough experience in the courtroom?
- Are they prepared to take your case to trial if needed?
- What are their plans regarding how they will handle your case?
- How long has a lawyer been handling personal injury cases?
- How often can you expect to receive communication?
- How many cases are they currently handling?
- What are the fees?
When you ask these questions, you can significantly improve your odds of finding an attorney that specializes in your exact type of case.
Personal Injury Lawyer Background
Is the lawyer you’re meeting with experienced enough? All lawyers are required to graduate from law school and pass the bar exam. However, a new lawyer may not be prepared to represent a client or take a client’s case to trial. There’s no experience like real-world experience. The best personal injury lawyer will have several years of experience representing clients in legal matters during negotiations, or in the courtroom. Aggressive representation combined with effective strategies in the courtroom requires vast experience in many different types of situations.
Experience will allow an attorney to gain the skills they can’t acquire in law school, such as:
- Choosing a sympathetic jury
- Valuing a case for settlement
- Cross-examining witnesses
- Persuading judges to make rulings that favor their client
- How to make effective arguments to juries
Choosing a Personal Injury Lawyer with Experience
As a lawyer earns experience, they learn how to deal with insurance adjusters and other attorneys. They also learn about the tendencies of local judges, while getting a sense of how juries will respond to different types of witnesses and evidence.
With so many attorneys out there, choosing the right one can be a time-consuming process, especially if you’ve never hired a lawyer before. Choosing the wrong lawyer can be devastating to your case, which is why you need to do as much research as possible before you finally settle on a lawyer.
Expertise in Personal Injury
Almost every lawyer has her or his area of specialty. A lawyer that has decades of experience in probate law will be the wrong person to hire for a slip and fall case. Make sure you find an attorney who has expertise in the exact type of legal matter that you’re dealing with.
Some lawyers dabble in different areas of the law. A small-town lawyer tends to handle a bit of everything from probate law to slip and fall accidents. They may handle a car accident case occasionally or handle a criminal defense case or two, but these lawyers cannot handle complex personal injury cases.
For your case, you want an attorney with a limited practice. These lawyers have the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge that a general practice attorney doesn’t.
You need a lawyer that specializes in personal injury law, one who has a track record for successfully handling these types of cases in and out of the courtroom. Lawyers with this type of specialty will be current with state and federal laws, will have experience negotiating with insurance companies, and will know exactly how to proceed with your case to win.
Many people mistakenly believe that all lawyers go to court and try cases regularly. However, this isn’t true. A high percentage of attorneys who call themselves trial attorneys have little or no experience taking a case to trial. Because of this, the first question you need to ask a lawyer is how much trial experience they have and how often they go to trial. This is a very important question and one that many people fail to ask.
An insurance company knows very well which lawyers will take a case to trial and which ones will not. They will use this information to evaluate their risk. This is one of the reasons an insurance company wants to know who is representing a client.
To receive a higher settlement, the insurance company must believe that the lawyer you have is capable and ready to take and handle a case in the courtroom. If you hire an attorney who is known to settle quickly, one who never goes to court, then you should be prepared to receive a much smaller settlement than you expect.
Does a Lawyer have the Resources to Handle Your Case?
A major insurance company will have the financial resources to hire a team of skilled attorneys who specialize in personal injury claims. The skills and experience of your lawyer will play a vital role in the type of settlement you receive.
Does the firm have the staffing and financial resources to take on your case? Cases that involve catastrophic or serious personal injuries can be very costly to take to court. A medical malpractice lawsuit can call for several expert witnesses, investigative work, and hundreds of hours of research. A serious case against a trucking company can require trucking safety experts, accident reconstruction experts, and experts who can testify in court regarding the extent and nature of the client’s injuries. If an attorney doesn’t have the resources to fund a case, they may resort to cutting corners at the expense of their client’s case. If this happens, then a client may be pressured to settle. It pays to hire an attorney who has the financial resources to handle complex cases and take them to trial if needed.
Don’t Pay Attention to Ads
Avoid choosing an attorney based on their ads alone. Many inexperienced lawyers settle their cases quickly because their firm works on a fast turnover and high volume basis. These lawyers will not have your best interest at heart.
Because of this, it will be up to you to do your homework to find a reputable lawyer in your community. When you decide to meet with a lawyer to discuss your case, you need to choose the right questions to ask to find a lawyer that knows how to handle your case and one that has a proven track record of success.
Does the Attorney Seem Motivated?
The best personal injury lawyers love what they do and have a passion for their work. An attorney who writes extensively and speaks publicly on relevant issues often has more passion for their job. If an attorney has been actively involved in the field of personal injury, attends seminars on the changes in personal injury law, and writes papers on related topics, this can be a great indicator that the attorney is genuinely interested in your case.
Is the Lawyer Hands-On?
You don’t want to hire an experienced attorney, only to have them pass your case off to an associate with little to no experience. No attorney can handle every task in a case. However, a lawyer should be meaningfully involved when it comes to critical decisions made in your case.
Does the Attorney Make it a Point to Stay Current on the Law?
Laws are constantly changing. Even a top lawyer can become ineffective or less effective if they don’t stay up to date on the law. A good attorney doesn’t rest on their current knowledge base. Instead, they attend national and local legal seminars regularly to discuss emerging strategies and review new cases.
Reputation in the Legal Field
Does the lawyer you intend to hire have a good reputation? An attorney’s reputation is critical in several ways. A lawyer can develop a reputation with the judges, the state bar, their adversaries, and their peers. A good reputation can assist an attorney in resolving a case and getting things done.
A lawyer should have a good reputation for professionalism, aggressive representation, and honesty. Attorneys that have a good reputation in the field are usually called upon by other attorneys for advice. An attorney with a bad reputation will find it very challenging to get things accomplished for several reasons.
Some lawyers view the law as a job. The right attorney will view the law as a way to bring justice to people in need of help. The best lawyer cares about their clients.
During a consultation, a lawyer needs to ask a lot of questions to learn about the important facts of your case. A good lawyer will listen carefully and will make it clear that they understand your concerns.
A lawyer should care about their clients and will do everything they can to help their clients achieve justice.
A Strong Advocate
Your lawyer is your advocate. He or she should fight on your behalf using cost-effective, ethical, and reasonable means. You should have a clear and open line of communication with your lawyer. There’s a reason why lawyers are also referred to as counselors. The right attorney will listen to your concerns, will provide helpful, knowledgeable advice, and will guide you through the many challenges of the legal process.
How Comfortable Do You Feel Communicating with the Lawyer?
Because you will be working closely with your lawyer, you need to feel comfortable speaking and interacting with them. An open and comfortable relationship will allow you to share relevant information about your case, completely and honestly. Keep in mind, an attorney can’t fully assist you without knowing all relevant information.
Is the lawyer readily available? An attorney who is hard to reach can be a total waste of money. Your case is critically important to you. There may be an emergency that arises that requires legal assistance immediately. An attorney who understands this will make themselves available 24/7. You need a lawyer that treats you like family and one that makes you a priority. Ideally, a lawyer should return phone calls and emails within twenty-four hours. A lawyer that’s never available is a waste of money.
A great way you can put your new lawyer’s availability to the test is to email them questions shortly after your consultation.
Omit a few important questions during the consultation and follow up by emailing them. If it takes several days for them to respond to your questions, then they may be too busy to handle your case and give it the attention it deserves. On the other hand, if you find yourself impressed with the lawyer’s response, then you may have found the right attorney.
Check Personal Injury Lawyer Reviews
These days, the internet makes it pretty easy to learn what clients think about their attorneys. Don’t solely rely on the reviews a firm has hand-picked to display on their website. Look online to read public reviews and take a look at both the positive and negative reviews. The number of positive comments should outweigh the negative ones.
How to Compare Personal Injury Lawyers
There are many factors to consider when you’re choosing the lawyer who’s the best fit for you. While finding an attorney with extensive experience in personal injury law can be crucial, you should also keep in mind that the attorney may have a heavier caseload compared to an attorney with just a few years of experience.
A heavier caseload may mean they will not be readily available every time you email or call.
On the other hand, a lawyer with extensive experience may have developed a good working relationship with other attorneys and claims adjusters and may have established a reputation for not settling cases if the settlement offer isn’t high enough. They may also have a reputation for being a tough litigator, which is something a claims adjuster will want to avoid.
A new attorney may be looking for cases, trying to build their practice. A lawyer that’s fresh out of law school will want to prove themselves. While they may not have years of experience, they may have the drive you’re looking for in an attorney who will fight harder for you.
Since a new lawyer will not have a substantial caseload, they will be more willing to take smaller cases and will be more accessible. You’ll have a much better chance of reaching them on the phone or meeting with them in person to discuss any changes in your case.
Complex injury cases that arise from product liability and medical malpractice can be very expensive. A successful lawyer who specializes in complicated litigation will need to advance the funds that are required to hire expert witnesses, specialists, and other professionals. A new lawyer who is just starting out may not have the funds or resources to handle your case.
Sole Practitioners and Law Firms
The size of a firm can indicate the type of caseload they can easily handle. Some lawyers are sole practitioners who have little to no administrative help. If you have a major personal injury case, then you may need to look for a reputable, larger firm, one that offers a high level of administrative support to their attorneys. A larger firm also means that your attorney will have the resources they need to hire expert witnesses, accident reconstruction experts, and more.
Some firms may also have a less experienced attorney handling cases under the direct supervision of a senior lawyer. They will have experienced staff members on the team that follow up on discovery requests, type documents, and handle other types of time-consuming tasks. The senior lawyers can work more cases if they have support staff that will help them prepare for trial.
A Client’s Responsibilities
As a client, it will be your responsibility to provide certain types of documentation, such as medical records. It’s also your job to make sure you continue to receive medical care and stay in compliance with your physician’s treatment recommendations. In a personal injury case, seeking the recommended medical care can be crucial to the success of your case. It’s the client’s responsibility to ensure their medical bills have been submitted to their health insurance company, promptly.
A client must also keep their lawyer up to date on the progress of their medical condition and any treatments they receive. Failure to receive ongoing medical treatment can have major consequences. It can also make it difficult for your attorney to advocate for you and the severity of your injuries. If you fail to follow your lawyer’s advice and don’t follow through with medical treatment, a lawyer may refuse to continue to represent you. When you’re searching for the right attorney, you want one that knows how to handle a case, one with several years of experience, and a lawyer who knows exactly what they need to do and what you need to do to win your case and receive the type of settlement you deserve. Because of this, following their advice will be crucial. During your consultation, a lawyer must make it clear what they expect from you and will stress the importance of following their advice, seeking ongoing medical treatment if necessary, and providing the requested documentation.
Contact the Ferguson Law Group
At the Ferguson Law Group, we realize that hiring a lawyer can be a time-consuming process and a difficult decision to make. We’ve worked hard over the years to distinguish ourselves from other law firms in the state, and to build a reputation as honest, aggressive advocates for our clients. We offer the type of hands-on approach that many clients are looking for and strive to treat each client just like family. If you have a personal injury case and you need someone to advocate for you and pursue compensation for all of your pain and suffering, loss of wages, and medical expenses, contact our firm today to schedule a consultation. Let us show you how we can help you win the settlement you deserve and hold the party responsible accountable.