Choosing a personal injury lawyer can seem daunting. You’ve already been injured, and you are probably receiving calls from insurance companies. You might be struggling with missed work, wondering how to fix your car or what to do about medical bills. On top of it all, you need to make an important decision about taking legal action. How can you choose someone who will meet your needs?
Do your research. Many good attorneys advertise on the TV and radio, but don’t just call the first number you hear. Look for an attorney who focuses on the matters that affect you. You’ll want an attorney who knows personal injury cases and how to deal with insurance companies. You can ask family and friends who they recommend.
If you don’t know anyone who has taken legal action after a car accident, you can also turn your state or local bar association for a list of attorneys in good standing. And, if you are already considering hiring an attorney, you can always check his or her name on the state bar association website. The website will tell you if the attorney has a disciplinary history.
Look for other information too. How long has the lawyer practiced law? Does he teach or have involvement with local bar associations? Has he handled cases like yours? If so, what was the outcome? Look for a record of results and positive testimonials from other clients.
Ask questions about the practice. Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations. Injury victims often attend them focused on one question: Will this attorney take my case? Remember that the initial consultation is just as much yours as the attorney’s. It is your chance to see if this attorney is right for you – not just whether you are right for the attorney. Are you comfortable with the law firm’s practice style? Do you think you’ll get the support you need throughout your case? How will they keep you informed as your case progresses?
Make sure you get real, clear information about the costs to you. Knowing exactly what you’ll be paying is important in a personal injury case. For example, most personal injury attorneys handle cases on contingency. That means that the attorney’s fees are taken from a percentage of the money you recover, either through a settlement or at trial. Ask about the percentage and how other costs may be calculated. You may be expected to pay for court fees, copying or hiring expert witnesses. If you aren’t exactly sure about something, ask for clarification.
Be honest. It is important that you share with the lawyer as much as you know about your situation – the good and the bad. Concealing some facts about your case can make it difficult for your lawyer to represent you effectively. Your lawyer will be an empathetic counselor and has probably heard it all before, so don’t worry.
In the end, hiring a lawyer is one of the biggest decisions you may make. Taking the time to do it right and find someone who will be right for you is critical. By taking a thorough and honest approach, you are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome.