How should I choose a personal injury attorney?
If you have been hurt in an accident, you are likely overwhelmed with all that you are facing: lost wages, mounting bills, pain and suffering, and the fear of being unable to return to your former life. Having to choose a personal injury attorney on top of all of that may seem daunting — yet it is incredibly important to the outcome of your case.
Understanding the role of a personal injury lawyer can help you make the best choice for the individual or firm to handle your case. The following is a list of factors to consider when deciding which attorney is right for you.
First, look for an attorney who dedicates their practice to personal injury law. Many law firms claim to handle personal injury cases, but also represent clients on a number of other matters. Personal injury is a specialized field of law that requires knowledge of specific areas of law. You will typically get the best result by hiring a lawyer who primarily or exclusively practices in the field of personal injury.
Second, seek out a lawyer with experience. There are two kinds of experience that are important here: time in practice and trial experience. While an attorney fresh out of law school may be excellent — and an older lawyer may not be great — generally, you will want someone who has handled a fair number of personal injury cases and knows how to get results. Similarly, while the majority of personal injury claims settle before trial, look for an attorney with trial experience. This is critical to the negotiation process, as the insurance company may be more aggressive in pushing for a low settlement if it believes that your lawyer won’t take your case to trial.
Third, do some research about the attorney’s fee arrangement, and whether the firm offer free initial consultations. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means that instead of paying an hourly rate, your attorney will receive a percentage of the money you receive if you obtain a settlement or an award. This amount is typically around 1/3 of what you receive. Be sure to ask check with any prospective attorneys about what their contingency fee percentage is, along with how they charge for other expenses.
Fourth, consider other factors that are important to you. Do they have an office that is relatively close to where you live? After meeting them, do you feel comfortable with them? Did the attorney really listen to you, and consider what you wanted? These are some of the intangible issues that should be considered before making a decision on which attorney to hire.
Fifth, ask for recommendations from family and friends. Some people you know will have used a personal injury lawyer in the past. They may be able to refer you to an attorney that they like and trust. You can also use websites like avvo.com to search for attorney recommendations and read client reviews.