Personal Injury Legal Aid & Pro Bono Services
What to Consider When Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
After an accident, you may need a personal injury lawyer to help you file a claim or lawsuit for compensation. If you suffered serious or permanent injuries, or if your case is likely to be contested, you should make sure to hire a lawyer. Although most personal injury cases do not go to trial, professional representation can make a significant difference to the outcome. Insurers may take your case more seriously if you have hired an attorney. They may be more inclined to offer a fair settlement promptly. Even if you do not hire a lawyer initially, you should strongly consider taking this step if you face any resistance from an insurer.
Deciding who is the right lawyer for you can be challenging. A basic Google search can be a good place to start, but this should be only a first step. Google searches will lead to a wide range of results, including many paid listings that do not necessarily reflect the skill of a lawyer or their aptitude for your case. Similarly, you might gain useful insights from talking to friends or family members who have hired a personal injury attorney, but the right fit for them may not be the right fit for you. Each case is unique. Here are certain guidelines that can help you knowledgeably research and compare attorneys.
Background and Experience
You should hire a lawyer who has substantial experience handling the specific type of claim that you are pursuing. Personal injury law consists of many distinctive areas. For example, if you are suing a doctor for a misdiagnosis or a surgical error, you should hire an attorney who has handled many medical malpractice cases. If you have suffered a complex and catastrophic injury, such as paralysis or brain trauma, you may want to hire a lawyer who has worked with victims suffering from that type of injury. They can retain experts who can persuasively describe the scope of your injuries and their impact on your life. Some attorneys may have relevant board certifications or memberships in professional organizations. They may have received awards or other formal recognition of their legal prowess.
In general, you should aim to hire an attorney without a history of serious disciplinary issues. Information about an attorney’s professional record can be found by searching for them on the state bar website for their jurisdiction. You may want to review the details of any disciplinary action to get a sense of the events leading to it. Some violations are less significant than others. You may not want to automatically remove an attorney from your consideration based on a very minor infraction if they are currently in good standing.
On the other hand, a record of serious violations should be a red flag, even if the attorney has achieved some good results. You do not want egregious mistakes by your attorney to undermine a case that is otherwise strong, especially since your financial security may depend on the outcome.
Reviews and Testimonials
Reviews by previous clients can give you a sense of what it would be like to work with an attorney. You may find insights into their personality, level of professionalism, and communication skills. Client reviews can be helpful even if the details of your case are different from a previous client’s case. However, beware of very brief reviews that are harshly negative or effusively positive without providing details. These reviews may not be trustworthy.
If an attorney has received favorable reviews from other attorneys, this may indicate that they have a strong reputation in the legal community. They may be more likely to be respected by judges and defense attorneys, which can help resolve your case more favorably and efficiently.
Verdicts and Settlements
Often, a personal injury lawyer will discuss their most notable successes on their website or blog. Each case is decided on its own facts, so you should not rely on a past verdict or settlement as an estimate of the compensation that you will receive. However, consistently substantial awards obtained by an attorney for people in roughly similar situations to yours can be a promising sign. You may also gain insight into the cases in which an attorney performs most impressively if many of their strongest results involve the same type of situation.
If you are especially impressed by a certain result, you may want to figure out the extent to which the attorney handled the key aspects of that case. Sometimes several personal injury lawyers or law firms work together on a case, and the scale of their contributions may vary.
Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation to prospective clients. You can set up a consultation by phone or online after providing some initial details about your case. The consultation helps the client and the attorney decide whether they are the right fit for each other. Even if you are impressed by an attorney’s credentials and achievements, you should not choose them on that basis alone. Instead, you should make sure to work with a lawyer whom you can trust and who relates well to you. You should feel that your lawyer is personally invested in your case, rather than treating you as just another case number. Ideally, you should set up consultations with several attorneys before deciding whom to hire.
Bringing a list of questions to the consultation can help you decide whether an attorney is the right fit. For example, you may want to ask about their initial perceptions of the strength and value of your case. You should not expect a precise answer, but a general impression can help set your expectations. An optimistic answer may be encouraging, but you should think twice if an attorney makes guarantees or seems much more confident than their competitors. They may be overpromising. Also, you should listen to how the attorney explains their evaluation. They should be able to articulate their reasoning in a way that is coherent and accessible to a non-lawyer.
Fees and Costs
Fees are another important issue to address at the consultation. Personal injury lawyers usually work on a contingency fee basis. This means that they do not charge fees upfront but instead collect their fee as a percentage of the verdict or settlement that they obtain for a client. Typically, the attorney will collect about 30 to 40 percent of the award, but the percentage can vary depending on the stage that the case reaches and the work that the attorney performs. Any fee arrangement should be clearly set out in the representation agreement so that you understand your obligations.
In addition to attorney fees, a personal injury case may involve court costs and other litigation costs. These may include expenses such as service fees, expert witness fees, court reporter fees, and document copying fees. Court costs and other litigation costs will come out of a compensation award, but they may be deducted from the award before or after the contingency fee is deducted. You may want to find out how these costs will be handled before signing a representation agreement.
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