If you have been involved in an accident or have been injured through the neglect of another person you may want to hire a personal injury lawyer to help you recover for damages that you have incurred.
As there is a wide choice of competent personal injury lawyers, your main task is to find one that is trustworthy and, of course, he or she should specialize in personal injury litigation. Most professions today are specialized in one or two areas of expertise and this also true in the legal world.
Ask your friends and family
One of the best ways to find a personal injury lawyer is by asking family members or close friends who have had experience with a personal injury law firm. If you are considering hiring a particular attorney but need to know if they are reputable, you can check with the local bar association, however, not all bar associations are allowed to make recommendations. If you are unable to find out the information you need by any of these methods you’ll need to invest some time and embark on your own research, but this will pay off in the long run. A good place to start is to search the internet for legal services.
As part of your research you can consult legal journals in your area or websites that specialize in personal injury lawsuits. You can find these publications in a library or through the bar association. These reviews will cover the details of various cases including the defendants, plaintiffs, and the outcome. If you discover a case where the circumstances are similar to yours with a positive outcome for the plaintiff you could contact the plaintiff’s attorney. Speaking of online resources, you can do a search on Google for ‘personal injury lawyer’. This will bring up a number of personal injury firms and will give you a starting point to refine your research.
If you know a lawyer who does not specialize in personal injury cases they may be able to refer you to an attorney who does. As a rule the referring attorney may receive a fee from the attorney who takes your case. The attorney that you hire may not be as enthusiastic about litigating your case knowing that a portion of their fee will go to the referring attorney.
As a last resort you may need to find a personal injury lawyer through an advertisement such as the Yellow Pages or a TV commercial. Many of these lawyers are extremely competent but again you must do your due diligence to insure you get the best personal injury attorney that you can. It may be necessary to interview several before making your choice. Again, you can use the resources of the bar association to verify that your candidates meet the highest ethical standards and that there are no disciplinary actions on their record.
Don’t do this!
The worst way to pick a personal injury attorney is by the recommendation from someone who shows up at the accident scene. These individuals, referred to as “ambulance chasers”, appear out of nowhere at accident scenes to solicit business for a particular lawyer. As you have just been involved in an accident you are most vulnerable to anyone offering “help”.
Getting down to business
Once you have selected the attorney you want to represent you, the next step is to set up an appointment for the initial consultation. This is like meeting with your doctor for the first time except the lawyer reviews your legal “health”. If your injuries are due to an automobile accident bring photographs of the accident if you have them. You’ll also want to provide your doctor’s name and contact information. Don’t forget any insurance documents you have as well as any documentation from the hospital if applicable. The more information you can provide to your lawyer the less expense you will incur when litigating your case.
Personal injury attorneys normally do not charge for the preliminary consultation so you can interview as many as you like before making your final selection. However, it’s not a good idea to prolong making your choice as it may be advantageous to begin the investigation into your personal injury case as soon as possible. During this consultation ask if the interviewing lawyer will be the one who will ultimately handle the case and if not you’ll want to interview the attorney who will.
If you decide on an attorney and sign a fee arrangement but then later change your mind, you can fire the first lawyer and pick another. The original lawyer must hand over your file to the replacement and you will not incur any extra fees.
Ask about their credentials
You should know if your candidate has experience a trial lawyer and how many jury trials have they litigated to a verdict. Some attorneys are reluctant to try a case before a jury and would rather settle for an amount less than what you are asking. Your personal injury law firm should be financially strong enough to bring your case to trial by jury if that is what may be required. In some cases if a personal injury attorney is particularly skilled at litigating successful outcomes, an insurance company may not want to risk a trial and will make a generous settlement offer instead.
Be actively involved
At the consultation make sure you tell the attorney that you will be actively involved in the case and that you want to receive copies of all communications sent out in your behalf. This is normally standard procedure as most lawyers feel obligated to keep their clients informed about the proceedings. In addition, clients who are actively involved may catch errors before they become a problem. Think of yourself as not just a client but rather as a team member with your attorney. This will help you get the most from your personal injury claim.