Were you or a loved one injured in an accident caused by the negligence of another person? Do you think you are entitled to get compensation for lost wages, medical bills, property damage, and pain and suffering? You should make it a priority to find an experienced personal injury lawyer to represent your case.
You are likely already experiencing a lot of pain, stress, and frustration because of your situation. You don’t want your search for an attorney to add to your anxiety. To reduce your stress, we’ve compiled some tips to help you find the right lawyer for you or your loved one.
Where to Begin
One of the best ways, if not the best way, to find a good lawyer is through referrals. You likely know of a family member, friend, or co-worker who has used the services of a personal injury lawyer. Check with them and see if they can refer you to their lawyer. Or, if you already have a lawyer who practices other areas of law, they can often refer you to a trusted colleague who practices personal injury law.
There are also referral services that provide the names of lawyers who are in good standing with the state bar and they maintain liability insurance. But be cautious with these services. Some referral services only require lawyers to meet minimal requirements to be listed as a referral.
If you decide to use a referral service, do a little research first. Check to see what information they require the lawyers to provide. A good referral service should include the attorneys’ years of experience and specialty, in addition to their status with the state bar and if they maintain liability insurance.
Some lawyers may contact you soon after you are injured. They may know a lot of information about you and your accident. These individuals are often called “ambulance chasers”. In some parts of the United States, people are even being contacted while they are in the emergency room. If you are contacted this way by an attorney, it’s often an indication that they’re not very trustworthy. Steer clear of these lawyers.
Whether you choose to use a referral from a family member or friend, a referral service, or just do an online search for local personal injury attorneys, make sure that you meet and talk with them before making a decision. It’s often advantageous to have a free consultation with multiple attorneys before selecting who you want to represent you.
What to Look for in a Good Personal Injury Lawyer
After you’ve set up appointments to meet with various lawyers, you will need to prepare yourself for the initial consultation. Let’s look at 7 things you should consider with the attorney during your first visit with them to determine if they’re a good fit for you.
Ask the attorney how long they’ve been practicing personal injury law and if they specialize in any other practice areas. Keep in mind that more is not always better when it comes to areas of practice. A lawyer that practices too many different types of law can’t specialize in everything. To help you determine how much experience they have in personal injury law, you can ask them what percentage of their cases are personal injury cases.
It’s also a good idea to ask them how much experience they have representing the defendant. If they have a lot more experience representing the plaintiff in personal injury cases, this could mean that they think more like the insurance company. Having that mindset, they may encourage you to settle for less, because they are thinking about how the insurance company will fare in the case. This could be detrimental for your case.
This may not seem very important, but it’s common for one personal injury case to cost over $100,000. Lawyers often need to consult with doctors and hire other professionals for the case. These professionals charge a fee for their investigation, deposition, and appearance in court. Then there are court costs, administrative expenses, and filing fees that can add up quickly. Make sure the attorney has enough resources for your case. They should either have enough personal assets or a line of credit that will enable them to see your case through to the end.
3. Past Clients
Speaking with past clients can give you valuable insights into what kind of lawyer you’re dealing with. A reputable lawyer should let you speak with their past clients. To help you determine if they were happy working with that attorney, ask them questions about their experience. Did they win their case? Did they have any issues working with the lawyer? If the lawyer doesn’t want you to talk with their previous clients, this could mean they have a bad reputation. You don’t want to get stuck working with a less-than-reputable attorney, so don’t work with someone who wants to hide past experience.
4. Track Record
After learning that the attorney has a good reputation with their past clients, you should check to see if they have a reputation for winning cases like yours. For example, if you have a million dollar case, you want to make sure they have won million dollar cases in the past.
It may sound like a no-brainer, but you should find out if they’ve ever taken a case to court. Some attorneys just try to get their clients to settle and never actually go to court. And insurance companies will know if they’ve never been to court. They’ll take advantage of that fact and make ridiculously low offers and try to get you to settle outside of court. Always get a lawyer that has had courtroom experience.
5. The Case
Personal injury cases usually require a lot of research and documentation. It’s very common that multiple people are assigned to help with the case. Check with the attorney to see if there will be other lawyers or paralegals working on your case. Ask to meet with them and ask about their qualifications, as well. You don’t want to hire a great lawyer only to find out that a different, less experienced attorney is actually working the case.
Although attorneys can never guarantee the length or outcome of a case, competent lawyers can provide an estimate of how long the case will take. Don’t expect it to be over quickly. Personal injury cases take a lot of time. If any attorney you meet with guarantees a quick settlement and fast cash, they’re deceiving you. Find another lawyer.
7. How You Feel
After talking with the attorney, do you both feel comfortable about how you want to proceed? Whether you want a settlement, more money than what the insurance company has offered, or to get as much money as you can, make sure everyone is on board. You should never feel pressured to make any decisions, and the attorney should not force you to settle. Also, make sure that you feel comfortable working with the attorney as an individual. If you have any hesitations, keep looking.
It’s very important that you consider these factors in your search for a personal injury attorney. Their responses can reveal much about their expertise and integrity as a lawyer. Use their responses to help you determine which attorney you will trust to represent you and your personal injury case.
Discuss the basics of your case with your lawyer and talk about how you want to proceed. This initial consultation should be free. If a lawyer wants to charge you just for talking about your case, go to another office.
Bring all documentation related to your accident with you on your consultation. This way the attorney can get an idea of what will be involved in your case. Bring items like:
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Loss of income information
- All correspondence with the insurance company
Talk with as many lawyers as you need to before making a decision. You want to feel comfortable with the attorney and how they suggest you proceed with your case. Before moving forward, you should have confidence in their experience and knowledge of personal injury law.
Once you decide who you want to represent you for your personal injury case, you will need to create an agreement. Make a clear, written agreement laying out all the fees and expenses for your case. The majority of personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means they will only get paid a percentage if you win your case. This should be clearly stated in the agreement. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about any of the expenses.
Experienced Lawyers who Care
As you’ve likely concluded, a good personal injury lawyer can be hard to find. At Robichaud, Schroepfer & Correia, P.A., we have multiple attorneys that specialize in personal injury law. If you’d like to have a free, initial consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer who will take the time to listen to your concerns and work their best to defend your case, contact us today.
Quick Reference Guide
How to Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer
Finding a Lawyer
- Get a referral from a family member or friend and/or
- Get a referral from your lawyer and/or
- Use a reputable referral service and/or
- Contact one of Robichaud, Schroepfer & Correia, P.A.’s experienced attorneys
What Should I Bring to the Consultation?
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Bills related to your accident
- Loss of income documentation
- All correspondence with the insurance company
Asking the Right Questions
- How long have they been practicing personal injury law?
- How much experience do they have representing the defendant?
- Do they have enough resources to cover the costs of my case?
- Can I speak with their past clients?
- Do they have a good reputation with their past clients?
- Have they won cases like mine before?
- Have they taken cases to court?
- Who will be working on my case?
- About how long will my case take?
- Do I agree with how the lawyer wants to proceed with my case?
- Do I feel comfortable with the lawyer?
- What are their fees and expenses?
- Do they work on a contingency fee basis?
Once you decide which lawyer you want to represent you, have them create a formal, written agreement spelling out all fees and expenses.