Most people don’t think about who they would hire as a personal injury attorney until tragedy strikes. It’s good to have a lawyer in your list of contacts beforehand, if possible. In either case, there are some things to look for in hiring an attorney to ensure you are well-represented and give yourself the best chance of recovering fair compensation.
Expect the Unexpected
Since you can’t see into the future, you have no idea if you’ll get into a car accident, suffer injuries from medical malpractice, slip and fall, or have another personal injury matter. While you hope nothing ever happens, and you’ll never need a personal injury attorney, it’s a good idea to do at least a little research while you are well and able. It can significantly reduce stress in the event something happens.
You have many choices, but not every personal injury attorney handles every type of case, and you might not get along with every attorney you come across. Knowing such things before an accident can streamline your case and help you recover compensation faster.
Starting Your Research
You might make a short list of attorneys to contact in the event of an accident. Because you can’t predict the kind of accident you might end up in, look for attorneys who have experience in several practice areas, including vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, gun injuries, traumatic brain injuries, boating injuries, etc.
You might also have an attorney listed who specializes in one or just a few particular kinds of personal injury cases. For example, if the attorney at the top of your list doesn’t handle dog bites or intentional torts, make sure you locate another attorney with those skills to add to your short list.
If you have prepared a list of attorneys but suffer injuries that leave you unable to contact an attorney yourself, your loved one will have your list of already-vetted attorneys. All your loved one needs to do is schedule a free case evaluation with those on your list to determine which one is best to handle your specific case. You won’t have to add stress to an already stressful situation by having to research attorneys and delaying your case.
Things to look for in creating a long list
You might want to start by collecting a longer list of potential attorneys. Go through the personal injury attorneys in your area by locating their websites. Add to your list those with professional-looking websites with plenty of information about the firm, its practice areas, and its results. For example, a car accident attorney should have informational content about car accidents on their web pages and in blog posts.
Narrowing It Down
Once you have a long list, compare case results to narrow down your choice. Case results explain outcomes an attorney has had in past cases. Most attorneys will tell you about the cases they have won, whether the case settled or went to litigation, and give a short synopsis of the facts of the case.
If an attorney has just a few case results or none at all, you might cross them out. If you’re impressed by an attorney’s presentation of his or her skills, though they don’t have a lot of results posted, put them in the “maybe” column. You can always ask about results when you have an initial consultation.
Also look for testimonials on the attorney’s website. If the attorney has not posted testimonials, you might ask the attorney for references.
Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Attorney
Once you have a narrowed-down list of attorneys, your next step is to contact the attorneys on the list. You can choose to do this over the phone or schedule an in-person meeting. If you already suffered injuries, ask to schedule a free case evaluation. During the evaluation, you will be evaluating the attorney as much as they will be evaluating your case.
Some potential questions you might ask an attorney during a phone call or at a free case evaluation include:
What are your fees?
Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, but you should confirm. You do not want to have to worry about attorney’s fees while you are recovering from your injuries and cannot work. Under a contingency fee arrangement, you don’t pay unless the attorney succeeds in getting a settlement or court award on your behalf. If your attorney wins, they will take their fees out of your settlement or trial award.
Also clarify what percentage of the settlement or court award the attorney takes as their fee.
If we lose our case, do I have to pay any costs?
Ask the attorney if you have to reimburse them for any costs if the attorney loses. Costs may include filing fees, deposition fees, arbitration and mediation costs, fees for court reporters, or investigation fees, among others. Most attorneys will require you to pay some costs, even if they lose the case.
Also, verify when those costs are due. Most attorneys wait until the end of the case to ask you to reimburse costs, though some will ask you to reimburse costs as you incur them.
How many cases similar to mine have you settled, and how many have you litigated?
The attorney might have settled or litigated many personal injury cases, but you need to know about the attorney’s experience handling cases like yours. For example, if you suffered injuries in a vehicle accident with a commercial truck, an attorney who has primarily won in slip-and-fall cases, and has only won a handful of vehicle cases, might not have the experience best fit for your case.
How long do you anticipate it will take to resolve my case?
All cases are different, and there is no clear answer to this. However, the attorney can tell you how much time they give insurance companies to come to a fair settlement, and how long it generally takes to move through the court if a settlement with the defendant and their insurer doesn’t pan out. Keep in mind that it is generally hard to predict how long a case will take to resolve.
Hopefully, after asking a few lawyers those questions, you can decide which one is best for you.