How To Choose A Personal Injury Lawyer

 

How To Choose A Personal Injury Lawyer   By R. Ludwig                                                                                  Updated 12/30/14

Table Of Contents

The Importance Of Finding A Good Attorney
Finding The Right Attorney
The Initial Consultation
Personal Injury Details
Fees
Red Flags
Other Information
Local Resource Pages

The Importance Of Finding A Good Attorney

Hiring an attorney is never an easy task, in fact, it can be quite overwhelming. When dealing with a personal injury case, there are many factors that one should consider. When entering into a relationship with any attorney, a person must feel secure that they are the best person to fight their case. After all, having the right attorney can increase the odds of a nice settlement, and the wrong one can make things much worse. If things should progress to a heated court battle, it is important to know that the person retained is fighting to the best of their abilities for their client. A good attorney will usually not take a case unless they are sure they can win. Since this type of attorney mostly works off of a contingency basis, they are very cautious in the cases they take. After all, they want to make money and to also make sure that they have a legitimate case. No attorney wants to invest a great deal of time and effort into the complaint, and not make any money.

What kind of legal case is this, a car accident, medical malpractice or other personal injury? Usually an attorney will have a specialty. For instance, one attorney may deal with worker’s compensation while another one is only comfortable with car accidents. Depending on their area of expertise will depend on whether or not they take the case.

The size of the settlement can play a big part in finding the perfect attorney. Some attorneys deal with smaller sums of money, while other firms have won multi-million dollars settlements numerous times. If it is a big case with millions of dollars at stake, it is best to hire someone who has already dealt with a case of this caliber. The lawyer’s job is to take all the stress out of the claim for the client and to get their client the settlement they deserve.

Finding The Right Attorney

Finding the right attorney may not be as easy as one would think. After all, this person will be the one fighting and defending the wrong that was done to their client. A person wants not only someone who can fight, but is also knowledgeable about what they are fighting for. Most people think the best way to find an attorney is a phone book ad. They think the bigger the ad the more experience they have. There are numerous phone book listings, as well as websites that paint every attorney and firm as the best. A phone book ad or webpage cannot tell a client anything about the way the attorney conducts themselves in court or runs their practice.

One good way to find an attorney with a good reputation is to ask friends and family members. Word of mouth is often the best advertising way to find a referral. Finding out what kind of job they did with previous clients is advantageous. If a person had a great experience with a personal injury attorney, they will be sure to refer them. On the other hand, if a friend or relative had a bad experience, they will also be sure to let you know. Listen to others advice, if a person had a horrible time with an attorney, that should put up a big red flag to future customers.

Another great way to find the right attorney is by using referrals through other legal counsel used previously. If a person has been through divorce or bankruptcy, they may find that the attorney they used beforehand will be more than eager to lead them in the right direction of a good attorney. Remember, all attorneys work at the courthouse together. If a lawyer has a less than desirable reputation, a fellow attorney is sure to know. Reputation can make or break a case’s credibility with the court. Many people have found great attorneys by just asking other attorneys. If a person has no previous legal counsel, they may want to try to local BAR association. The BAR association has a listing of all attorneys and the fields that they practice in for the local area.

Another resource for finding good attorneys in your area is the legal aid society. They work with a lot of lawyers and have resources to help people like you find a good attorney.

One thing to avoid is finding a lawyer by a television advertisement. Sure attorneys love these big ad campaigns that have music and a great looking staff. While they may have paid a boat load for their ad campaign, that doesn’t say a thing for how their service is. In fact, both television and phone book full page ads are often ran by referral agencies. They get a commission for helping these lawyers to find new clients. Also keep in mind that not all injury attorneys are the same. It is not uncommon for an attorney to have an area of expertise. Some injury attorneys may focus on car accidents while others may look at medical issues. It is important to know what area the attorney specializes in before the interview, it can save a lot of time.

The Initial Consultation

Almost all personal injury attorneys have a free initial consultation, or they should. It is customary in this area of law to not charge the client for the initial meeting. This is a good time to get to meet the attorney and to see if they are easy to talk to. The consultation should be used as an interview process, as a client is essentially hiring the attorney. This is time for the client to get to know the attorney and for a strategy go be put together. Communication between the lawyer and client is key, because if they cannot communicate with their client well, how will they ever get their point across in court? Make sure that the attorney is someone that is easy to talk to and takes time to answer all questions. If the attorney is in a hurry and skipping over questions, think about how it will be in months ahead when there are major questions that need to be answered. In the initial consultation and before hiring them, it is best to ask the attorney about their previous cases and their success rate. Should a person hire someone who hasn’t won very many cases? Maybe it’s time to look for someone more successful. There’s a reason why this attorney is not winning much.

If an attorney asks for a retainer for a personal injury case, move on. The majority of all attorneys that focus on personal injury charge no fees unless they win. If a lawyer wants money up front, this could be very costly and it could show that they have reservations about the case. If an attorney wants money up front, they might not be too confident in winning. Personal injury attorneys get paid when their client wins and it is done by percentage. The percentage should be clearly defined up front and in writing. If there are car repairs that need to be done, or a car that needs to be replaced, the percentage should never be taken on that portion of the funds. Here are some other important questions that need to be asked before retaining any attorney:

1. What is their education?
2. Are they current with continuing education courses?
3. How long have they been practicing?
4. How many personal injury claims have they settled?
5. Does this attorney typically represent the insurance company or the injured person?
6. Does the attorney work solo or do they have someone else helping on the case?
7. What is the likelihood of this case going to trial?
8. What is their trial experience?
9. How does the attorney feel about taking a lower settlement to avoid the stressful trial?
10. How will the attorney react if you reject a fair offer wanting to pursue trial for larger amount?
11. Do they work solely on contingency?
12. Is there a retainer involved?
13. Are there any out of pocket expenses the client needs to know about?
14. Has the attorney seen cases like this in the past?
15. How long do they think it will take to resolve a case like this?
16. Who answers all the clients’ questions?
17. Is someone readily available for the client to speak to?
18. How can I improve my case?

Personal Injury Details

If the incident was a car accident, it pays to be prepared. Make sure to have the police report, any pictures and as much information as possible at the initial consultation. The details of the crash are very important for strategy at this meeting. The documentation can be reviewed on spot and the attorney can make a determination whether there is a case or not. Providing the attorney with name, driver license number and a copy of the insurance policy will only help to expedite things. Other things the attorney will need to know are:

– Date and Time of Incident
– Location of Incident
– Weather Conditions at the Time of the Accident
– Information About The Other Involved Party
– Were there drugs and alcohol involved?

It is essential to go to a personal physician shortly after accident. The biggest mistake that people make is waiting too long to see a doctor. The physician needs to know that you were in an accident in order to run the correct battery of tests. They can help prove your claim and will be used to testify in court many times. They will be able to provide the attorney with a physician’s report, as well as medical bills. There may be many ongoing expenses after an accident, like treatment and therapy. A court case might look suspicious if a person waited days, weeks, or months to get medical treatment. It really benefits the case to have the doctor helping out. Here is other information the attorney will need:

* Number of days of lost wages from accident
* Copies of correspondence between you and the insurance company

Fees

While already covered, make sure that there is no cost for the initial consultation. If an attorney tries to charge, look for legal representation elsewhere. A personal injury attorney works on a contingency payment plan. The acceptable range for contingency payments is between 33 and 40%. There may be other miscellaneous costs, like medical records etc., which may be charged to the client if the case is not won. Make sure to get any costs associated with the case upfront.

Red Flags

When going to the initial consultation there may be some red flags that should be considered. First, if the attorney is one who usually represents the insurance companies rather than the client, be careful. An attorney who doesn’t answer questions and won’t follow the wishes of the client is also a huge red flag. There should always be a retainer agreement that clearly defined the contingency payment percentages. This contract should include:

* Attorney rendered services
* Required actions from client
* Legal fees and related expenses
* Payment Schedule
* Process for dissolving relationship if it’s not working

If an attorney will not give the client a fee agreement, do not retain this attorney!

Other Information

A person should never make the decision to retain an attorney until they have talked to the lawyer and they have answered all questions. Communication is the biggest hurdle that people have with their personal injury attorney. While it is understandable that they are busy and have many cases, a client still should have all of their questions answered and feel confident about the direction that the case is moving.

An attorney that is honest enough to tell a client what their chances are and the entire process is worthy of a chance at persuing the case. Not every person that goes for a consultation will have an injury claim. Not every person who is in a car accident will have grounds for a lawsuit. Generally, a lawsuit is when someone has been wronged and has suffered damage due to someone else’s negligence. Time and chance happens to everyone, it is the acts that could have been avoided that personal injury attorneys are helping with.

Local Resource Pages

Los Angeles California Area

There are 2 articles here which contain local resources for the LA area. LA Injury Lawyer is geared towards all types of personal injury, while Accident Lawyer LA is more geared towards car accidents.