If you or someone you love has been injured due to the actions or negligence of another person, it is understandable that you would expect compensation for those injuries. Many people hope that those responsible for their pain would do the right thing and pay for the damage that has been done; sadly, that is rarely the case. Instead, many people have to file a civil claim for compensation. The first step in this process is deciding how to choose a personal injury lawyer, something that can seem daunting to those unfamiliar with the legal system.
The simple truth is that when it comes to attorneys, a referral from someone you known and trust carries far more weight than any slick advertisement. As a result, if you need to hire a personal injury lawyer it is critical to ask around. Check with family members and friends to see if they have ever hired a personal injury attorney. Make sure that they would hire the person again and ask questions about what it was like for them to work with the attorney. Were they generally pleasant? Were they easy to get ahold of? These are important questions that will matter a lot as your case progresses through the litigation process.
Do your homework
Referrals are a great starting place when choosing a personal injury attorney, but it is essential to follow-up on any leads online. Check out the lawyer’s website and make sure that they include personal injury as one of their areas of practice. Read up on the firm and your potential attorney by searching for them online. You can also check out sources like Martindale-Hubbell, which lists attorney’s AV ranking, a peer review based rating system that can give you an idea of the attorney’s competence.
Meet and ask about experience
Once you have an idea of which attorneys you want to meet with call their offices and schedule an appointment. The initial meeting should be totally free. Recognize that this is your chance to evaluate the attorney as well as his or her practice. Do you feel comfortable with the people you interact with while you are there? Is the environment a good fit in terms of size? How about support staff? Are they friendly and helpful? Do you feel heard and respected by your attorney? If you feel uneasy take note, that could be a sign that this not the person you want to rely on for a potentially lengthy personal injury lawsuit.
Once you’ve finished feeling the place out, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. What about experience? Does the attorney focus on personal injury? Do the attorney have a track record of successfully managing cases and settling disputes with insurance companies? If a firm does not know how to handle insurers then cross them off your list, any good personal injury attorney will spend a large amount of their time dealing with insurers and you need someone who is confident in the area.
How about trial experience? If your case is simply not a candidate for settlement then you need to make sure you’ve chosen someone who is experienced enough to take your case all the way to a courtroom. Almost anyone can settle a case, but finding truly excellent litigators can be challenging.
Do you share the same goals?
Once you’ve discussed your case and had a chance to feel out the attorney’s style, it is essential that you discuss your goals for the case. You have to let the lawyer know what your preferred outcome is and make sure that you both are in agreement about how you will achieve that goal.
Make sure you feel comfortable about money
If you are unfamiliar with the personal injury claims system you likely are unaware that most personal injury cases are handled on a contingency basis. This means that many attorneys pay fees associated with your case out of their own pockets and then collect their share based on a percentage of the amount you are awarded either in settlement or at trial.
It’s important that this contingency fee agreement is in writing and explained clearly and completely by your attorney. If your personal injury attorney appears unwilling to discuss the matter, consider this a red flag and continue your search for another lawyer.
If you’ve found an attorney with solid experience, a good reputation, who you feel comfortable interacting with and who shares your goals for the case then chances are you have successfully identified a personal injury attorney you can work with. Though the process can still be a trying one, the hope is that armed with this new information you are now better able to answer the question of how to choose a personal injury lawyer.