A good attorney can maximize your compensation after a personal injury. But finding the right attorney may present challenges, especially if you have never needed the services of one before.
There’s no shortage of personal injury attorneys. You’ve probably seen advertisements for them on television, billboards, buses, and online. With many choices, you cannot easily determine the best one for your personal injury claim. Should you hire the first one in your online search results? What about the one your coworker recommends or the one with the closest office to your house?
Your personal injury claim’s outcome relies on the amount and quality of work an attorney is willing to perform. Hiring the wrong one will more than likely reduce the compensation you receive for your injuries. It can also affect your recovery and the effort you put into your claim.
One of the most critical factors in choosing an attorney is trust. Your financial health might rest upon the ability of an attorney to do their job effectively. While working on your case, they can access some intensely personal details.
If you don't feel you can trust a potential personal injury lawyer to obtain the compensation you deserve or personal information, move on. You can sabotage your case by hiring an untrustworthy advocate.
Several steps can ensure that you select a trustworthy personal injury lawyer who will stand up for your rights. These steps require time and effort, but receiving fair compensation for your injuries is worth it.
Find Available Reputable Attorneys
Your first step is to have a pool of available reputable attorneys you can draw from, which involves doing some research. Once you have this pool, you can begin narrowing down your list based on several factors and the ones most important to you.
Remember, stick with attorneys specializing in personal injury, not those that usually represent other types of cases, and occasionally dabble in personal injury law.
Are There Attorneys in Your Network?
You can use your network to add potential personal injury lawyers to your list.
Suppose you’ve previously hired a lawyer for another civil matter, a divorce, a bankruptcy, or a contract dispute. In that case, they’re an excellent place to start. If you had a positive experience with them, ask if they can refer you to a personal injury attorney that they trust. They can likely refer you to at least one lawyer with similar philosophies and values about practicing law.
You can also ask your family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers if they’ve needed a personal injury lawyer in the past. Maybe they used one they liked and received positive results.
Even if the people in your life haven’t required a personal injury attorney, they may have retained legal representation for other purposes. You can ask them to reach out to that attorney for a referral.
Review Attorney Ratings
Review their ratings once you find some attorneys you want to learn more about. No matter how you find a lawyer, check with your state and local bar association to ensure they are in good standing. Some state bar associations might also have a referral list to help you find a reputable lawyer.
Online rating directories can provide information about the lawyer’s practice and standing. Typically, the ratings are objective and gauge their reputation and skills. These resources often list educational and biographical information, state bar disciplinary actions, peer reviews, and client reviews.
Attorney Websites and Social Media
Reviewing attorney websites, Google ratings and reviews, and social media accounts can also be beneficial. You can find information like their office location, what types of cases they handle, and get a general idea of how they approach injury claims by looking at their website.
You can also read reviews from former clients on their websites or social media. However, don't let these reviews determine who you hire. They can be paid reviews or from friends trying to help them.
After receiving recommendations and checking ratings, narrow your list to three or four potential lawyers.
How to Compare Attorneys
Now, it’s time to narrow your selection even more by comparing. You need to consider several aspects when comparing different attorneys. First, here are a few aspects that you typically shouldn’t factor into your decision.
Of course, you want an attorney with a law degree who has passed the state bar. But their standings in their law school class or what law school they attended don’t matter if they aren’t an effective attorney. It’s better to find a lawyer with excellent negotiation skills and a history of obtaining high settlements than someone who graduated from an Ivy League school at the top of their class.
Some attorneys have offices in modern high-rise buildings. Others have basement offices in older buildings. However, it doesn’t matter how fancy a lawyer’s office is if they can’t get the case results you need.
Your goal for legal representation is to receive compensation, not to hire the lawyer with the most appealing or fancy office. Looks can be deceiving; an attorney with a luxurious office won't necessarily be the best for your claim. Instead, focus on their legal experience, organizational skills, and financial stability.
Length of Legal Experience
The attorneys on your list may have only been in practice a couple of years, or maybe they have decades of personal injury experience. There are pros and cons to hiring a long-standing attorney and a recently licensed attorney.
A less experienced lawyer can welcome new cases and have the time and resources to give your claim the attention it needs. Those just beginning their law career are eager to prove themselves and build a reputable practice. Their clients benefit from their enthusiasm.
A more experienced attorney might have an intense caseload, making them unavailable when you need to talk or start your case immediately. However, they often have positive working relationships with insurance adjusters. Experienced lawyers might hold out for higher settlements.
However, depending on the types of injuries you suffer, you want to consider the financial stability of the attorney you want to hire. Personal injury cases, such as those involving a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or a spinal cord injury (SCI), can cost a lot of money.
Attorneys who take on these clients need significant financial resources. They’ll need to advance payments to specialists, such as medical experts and actuarial accountants. Even though they’ll recoup these funds once they successfully negotiate a claim, they must pay upfront for their services.
Suppose an attorney doesn’t have money to pay for the necessary specialists. In that case, their client’s claim isn’t likely to succeed.
Consider Your Observations
After meeting with the lawyer, reflect on your experience. Consider the following questions.
Did the receptionist answer your call promptly?
Firms flooded with cases or poorly trained or uncaring staff might take time to answer your call. They might even put you on hold for quite some time. You can see this as a red flag.
Was the person who answered professional and respectful?
If someone on the phone seems uncaring, rushed, or rude, you might want to move on to another lawyer.
As a client, you might call for frequent updates or have questions. You don’t want to feel like you are inconveniencing the staff with your needs.
How does the attorney handle client calls?
Reputable attorneys are typically busy meeting with their clients, attending court proceedings, or representing their clients in court. Don’t expect that you can speak to your lawyer each time you call.
However, they should tell you how they'll handle your calls. A receptionist can direct you to a paralegal who'll answer your question. They Finding The Right Personal Injury Lawyer might take a message and have the attorney return your call. Some attorneys even provide clients with their direct phone numbers.
Did you meet with the lawyer?
Some lawyers will have a paralegal or other office staff meet with potential new clients. Reputable attorneys will make it a point to ensure they meet with you face-to-face so that you can get an idea of what it will be like to work with them.
Do they charge for an initial consultation?
When you call to schedule your appointment, ask if it is free. Trustworthy personal injury attorneys won’t charge for a case consultation.
Does the lawyer’s office appear clean and organized?
You want an orderly and organized attorney. Those who aren’t might have problems properly handling their cases, keeping track of essential documents, and meeting deadlines.
How long did you wait to meet with the lawyer?
Understandably, you may need to wait to see the attorney. Sometimes other meetings or hearings can go longer than anticipated. It can indicate that the lawyer will give clients additional time when necessary. However, someone in the office should greet you and provide an estimate of your wait time.
Did you receive the attorney’s undivided attention?
Your personal injury attorney must give your case the time and attention it deserves. If calls or staff members interrupt your meeting, they cannot give their undivided attention to your claim.
Did the attorney answer all your questions?
You want to leave your consultation confident that the attorney addressed your questions.
During your consultation, the lawyer should typically discuss:
- The strengths and weaknesses of your case
- How long it might take to settle your claim
- If your case might go to trial
- A settlement estimate
Do you feel comfortable and confident with the lawyer?
Once you consider the above questions, you might have a gut feeling about whether this is the right attorney. The right one will make you feel comfortable with them and confident in their abilities to settle your claim.
Who will work on your case?
Some busy personal injury lawyers use other junior attorneys or paralegals to handle their cases. You have the right to know precisely who will work on your case.
How does the attorney get paid?
During your meeting, the lawyer should also discuss their costs and fees. You need to know how your attorney will get paid and what other costs you’ll need to pay, such as photocopy charges and court filing fees. Most personal injury lawyers receive payments on a contingency fee basis. With a contingency fee, you won't need to pay them from your pocket or a retainer fee.
When your claim settles, they’ll receive a pre-arranged settlement percentage. You owe the attorney nothing if your claim does not settle or resolve with a court award. This allows you to hire a lawyer without any money upfront and motivates the attorney to not only take on cases that have merit but also to work hard to get the compensation their clients deserve.
The personal injury attorney you select you can make or break your claim. If you want to maximize your compensation, take the time to hire the right one. The right lawyer can make the process much easier and more successful. Seek your no-cost, no-obligation case evaluation as soon as possible after an accident.