When you have suffered an injury because of another person’s negligent action or inaction, you have the right to hold them accountable for your injuries and losses.
One of the many challenges of holding someone accountable is finding the right personal injury lawyer to help you through the difficult process of filing claims and, if needed, taking your case to court. Finding the right personal injury lawyer is important. Here are some hints for finding a personal injury lawyer to help you pursue compensation.
Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer Who Will Communicate
Communication is one of the most important parts of dealing with a personal injury case. You need an open line of communication between you and the party handling your case. When you speak with a personal injury lawyer for the first time, find out what processes they have to answer questions, address concerns, and how their day-to-day communications about a case are handled.
Experience With and Focus on Personal Injury Law
If you need a criminal defense attorney because you were charged with drunk driving, you will not go to a law firm that focuses on family law. The same holds when you are searching for a personal injury attorney. When searching for the right attorney to represent you for a personal injury claim, you want someone with experience handling personal injury claims.
Remember, there are several types of personal injury claims, and not every law firm handles every type of case.
Some of the most common reasons for hiring a personal injury lawyer include:
- Roadway accidents, including car, bus, truck, and motorcycle accidents
- Traumatic brain injury from slip and fall accidents, car accidents, or assaults
- Wrongful death claims
- Premises liability claims
- Defective product claims
Always make sure the law firm you are interviewing has experience handling cases that are similar to your case.
Track Record of Success Negotiating With Insurers
When exploring possible candidates to represent you in a personal injury case, you want to know that the attorney has a track record. Most personal injury law firms post the results of past legal cases online to advertise their record of success. One thing that is important to remember: Just because an attorney has been successful in the past does not always mean they will have the same success with your case. Past cases are not always a good indicator of future successes.
Past cases demonstrate the law firm’s history of success with negotiations. You want a personal injury lawyer who is representing your interests. You want someone willing to fight to get you the compensation you deserve for your losses. Having testimonials available from past clients is very helpful in establishing these aspects of the firm’s success.
Disclosure of Legal Charges and Fees
When you are meeting with a personal injury lawyer for the first time, you must discuss their fees if they are going to represent your claim.
Certain questions will help you determine if you are consulting with the right attorney, including:
- Do you work on a contingency fee basis? – Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means that they will not get compensated for the work on your case unless and until they can secure a settlement on your behalf.
- How much are your legal fees? – In many cases, there will be slightly different fees based on whether your case settles in or out of court. This fee structure is normal because taking a case to court requires more work than settling out of court.
- What other fees should I know about? – Depending on the type of accident injury case, there may be other fees that you should be aware of before agreeing to work with an attorney. Some of these include filing fees with the court, expert witness fees, etc. Ask about these fees ahead of time and how they are to be paid. Also, inquire how these fees are paid if a settlement is not reached in your case.
Before you sign a retainer agreement with any attorney, you should always review it thoroughly to ensure that what you agreed to is contained in the agreement. Once signed, you are bound by the terms of the agreement.
Doing Research to Find a Personal Injury Lawyer
You are your own best advocate. Before you settle on an attorney to handle your injury claim, you can and should do your research. You can contact trusted friends, family members, or coworkers who may have previously required the services of a personal injury attorney.
However, before you hire any of the following, make sure you:
- Search your state’s Bar Association to make sure the lawyer is licensed in your state
- Search The American Bar Association (ABA)
- Read online reviews
- Review the lawyer’s website for information
Always keep in mind the goal is to make sure you get a fair settlement and that you can often only get the results you want by hiring an attorney who will not only do the work that is needed to investigate your case but will follow through and make sure there is a positive outcome. You can often win a personal injury case when you hire a lawyer instead of trying to represent yourself.
Why Hiring the Right Lawyer Makes a Difference
After an accident that results in injury, there is usually a clear indication of what caused the accident. When the responsible person is easily identified, many people ask, “should I file my injury claim myself?” The answer is no.
Here are some of the reasons why you should avoid filing your claim on your own:
- Complicated laws and rules – California has complicated rules regarding personal injury cases. Unless you have a law degree, allowing an attorney to deal with these cases on your behalf is best.
- Statutes of Limitations – Every state has rules regarding when a claim must be filed. Some are more complicated than others. For example, California allows a claim to be filed two years after an accident. However, if you do not learn about the injury right away, you have until one year after learning of the injury.
- Insurance company adjusters – Accident victims often believe insurance adjusters are there to help them settle their claims. This is seldom the case. While the adjuster may seem sympathetic, they have one job: To minimize the amount you receive on your claim.
- Complex cases – The more serious your injury, the more likely you need an attorney. For example, a victim who suffers traumatic brain injuries may not know for months the final prognosis for their recovery. These cases are complicated and may require medical and financial specialists to determine future wage losses.
The last thing any accident victim needs is an insurance company taking advantage of them. Remember this: Insurers know that you are out of work, they likely know the extent of your injuries, and they know that you are on shaky financial ground. Because of these factors, they will likely make a quick and low initial offer to settle your case. Settling with the first offer would be a mistake.
Be Wary of Insurance Company Adjusters
When an insurance company receives notice that their client has been involved in an accident that is believed to be their fault, the action begins nearly immediately. Insurers have legal teams on staff to help them deal with these issues. One of the first things which will occur is an adjuster will be assigned to the claim.
Then several things may occur:
- The adjuster contacts the victim – If you have already hired a personal injury lawyer, you do not need to communicate with the insurance adjuster. Tell them you have hired a lawyer and provide their contact information. If you have not contacted an attorney, use caution in answering questions. Please do not agree to a recorded statement; it is not legally required. Remember, the adjuster will use anything possible to minimize the amount they pay in the claim.
- Documentation to the victim – If you have not hired an attorney, the adjuster will likely mail you a great deal of paperwork. Among this paperwork will likely be a medical records release form. Do not sign anything without contacting an attorney first. Doing so could put your legal rights in jeopardy.
- The adjuster makes an offer – The more serious your injuries, the more likely the adjuster will come back to you with a fast settlement offer. They may even tell you this is the maximum offer they will make. Please do not fall for this common tactic; this is in the hopes that you will accept the offer, even though it is low. Once you accept an offer from the insurer, they are off the hook for any of your future losses. This includes medical bills and wages.
All accident victims should be wary of adjusters when they are contacted. Remember, while they will generally be truthful, they are under no obligation to help you understand your rights. Insurance adjusters are not working for victims; they work for insurance companies. The insurance company has already decided who is at fault for the accident; however, this will not prevent them from misleading victims.
When Meeting With a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Consultation
Before you meet with an attorney for the first time, ensure you are prepared with the information they will need to evaluate your case.
Some of the items you should bring with you include:
- Accident details – Bring a detailed account of what you recall from the accident. This account includes anything which led up to the cause of the injury you suffered.
- Police or accident reports – If police were on the scene, bring a copy of the police report. If the accident involved any other type of injury and you have a report, bring that along as well.
- Medical reports – Bring a summary of your treatment following the accident. The hospital or doctor should be able to provide this for you.
- Witness contacts – If there were witnesses to the accident which resulted in your injuries, then bring their names and contact information.
- Other documentation – Medical bills, prescription medicine receipts, copies of your last full pay stubs, and other documents will be helpful for your attorney to review.
When scheduling a free consultation, you should ask the attorney if there are any other documents that they may feel are helpful to have on hand. Remember, the more information you can provide, the better advice the attorney can provide.
Contact an Attorney as Soon as Possible
After an accident in which you suffered an injury, contacting a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible is important. The sooner someone reviews your case, the better. Not only can an attorney advise you of what legal rights you have, but they can fully explain what options are available.