Choosing the Best Car Accident Lawyer for Your Injury Claim
Why is it important to select the best accident lawyer for your injury claim?
The simple answer: the right attorney can get you the most money for your accident or injury and help you avoid the pitfalls of dealing directly with insurance companies.
Although this seems obvious, you might be surprised by how many people choose their attorney with little or no truly useful information. Too many people choose a lawyer without having enough information to inform this important decision.
Here are a few tips to help you in select the right attorney.
- Use Trusted Referrals
- The Local Bar Association
- The Internet and Ads
- Make Sure It's a Good Fit
- Get a Second Opinion
Use Trusted Referrals
One of the best places to start your search for a good lawyer for your injury case is to ask people you know and trust. Why? Trusted friends and family members will generally refer you to someone who has previously represented them or someone they know.
Having the benefit of first hand experience with the quality of a lawyer's representation is one of the best places to begin. This way you are relying on trustworthy information rather than just superficial presentations or appearances.
Be sure to ask questions: How satisfied were your friends or family members with with their experience? Was the settlement or jury award adequate or better for the seriousness of the injury? Was the lawyer responsive, professional and knowledgeable?
If you ask around but can't seem to find a good referral, ask a lawyer who practices in another area of law other than injury. A good lawyer usually knows who the other good lawyers are. If you don't have anyone in mind you can again turn to a friend or family member who may know a good lawyer.
The Local Bar Association
Another place to turn to find an injury attorney is your local bar association. Most bar associations offer lawyer referral services. The lawyer referral service can often provide you with the names of several local attorneys with experience in personal injury litigation.
In most states, the bar association helps to regulate attorney's practice of law and often takes disciplinary action against unscrupulous lawyers. For this reason, the bar association will generally refer you to lawyers who carry malpractice insurance and are in good standing, without a history of misconduct.
A Word of Caution about Bar Association Referrals.
Despite these minimum safeguards, many bar associations also collect a percentage of the fees from referrals. This means that lawyers are often paying the bar association for referrals. Also, most bar association employees are not lawyers and will often refer lawyers with little or no knowledge of their professional reputation.
The Internet and Ads
Many people need a lawyer for the first time in their lives after suffering an injury from an auto accident, slip and fall or some other mishap. If this is the first time that you or your family have needed a lawyer you may find an attorney by searching the internet or some form of advertising. In the past, you may have started by opening the yellow pages. Nowadays, most people would rather just hop online.
Pros and Cons
Some advantages to searching the Internet or ads are that there are often so many personal injury attorneys that you can comparison shop and thoroughly explore the most options (by far) than any other method.
Also, many lawyers who do the most advertising are able to blanket the airwaves, yellow pages and internet because they have developed a successful injury practice over many years.
On the other hand, a lawyer with a lot of ads may not be the best and may actually "broker" your case to another practice that actually does the work.
Also, many of the highest ranking internet sites are essentially advertisements designed to get your attention, but have very little useful, informative information about the lawyer or your case; the same is true of other forms of advertising.
The message is that the Internet and ads can be a great place to start because of the many lawyers to choose from. However, in the case of Internet and advertising, as with any other selection method, you need to do your homework.
Make Sure It's a Good Fit
One of the most important things about your choice of a lawyer is the attorney-client relationship. Almost all personal injury lawyers offer free consultations. Call in advance to confirm this option and take advantage of it by scheduling an appointment.
If you have the opportunity to speak with the lawyer over the phone this may help you decide if it's worth your time to meet face to face. If you can talk to a lawyer first, it's probably an indication of the level of personal attention you and your case will receive.
As you start to meet with lawyers face to face, it's important to answer several questions:
- Is this lawyer knowledgeable about the law and the process of litigating your case?
- Is the lawyer professional and attentive to you and the details of your case?
- Does the attorney explain how the case is evaluated and what is a good settlement based on your injuries and monetary damages?
- Does the attorney explain the fee structure? Most injury lawyers will charge you nothing for their services and take a third of any settlement, sometimes forty percent if the case goes to trial. Generally, the balance of a settlement or award is paid to you after expenses.
Most importantly, trust your instincts. Even a very good lawyer may not get the best result if the attorney-client relationship is not a good fit.
Get a Second Opinion
Finally, and perhaps most importantly seek a second or third (or more if necessary) opinion. If the injury you've suffered is slight you may not have a case worth pursuing. This is because the more severe your injury, the more your case is generally worth and vice versa.
However, if you can't find a lawyer that understands or believes in your case as much as you do, keep trying. Many cases were at one time rejected and then settled for hundreds of thousands of dollars or more once the full extend of the injury became apparent.
All injury cases have a statute of limitations. In most cases it is two years and in some cases less. Once this time has passed, even if you have a case worth a lot of money, you can no longer sue to recover the money.