Research personal injury attorneys in your area
1. Understand why you need a personal injury attorney.
A personal injury attorney is different from other types of attorneys because of their experience and expertise in a specific area of the law. If you have been injured in an accident, you need an experienced personal injury attorney. Personal injury attorneys understand the medical diagnoses and processes associated with personal injury claims and have a deep understanding of the law regarding negligence and insurance coverage.
2. Consider the factors that go into choosing a personal injury attorney.
It’s important to understand what makes an effective personal injury lawyer. Begin searching for lawyers that meet your criteria.
- Location. Find an attorney who is licensed to practice in the state where you were injured.
- Focus of practice. Lawyers usually focus their practice in certain areas of the law. If you were injured in an accident through no fault of your own, you should hire an attorney who specializes in personal injury law.
- Reviews and testimonials. Consider researching what former clients have to say about the attorneys you research.
- Trial experience. While most personal injury cases settle out of court, it is important to hire an attorney who is willing to present your case to a jury at trial.
3. Research potential lawyer candidates.
Try a simple Google search and see what you discover. Be specific with your keywords to get the most relevant search results. Look at the attorney’s website and get a feel for what they do and who they are. Viewing a lawyer’s website will also give you a good idea of what type of law firm they practice in (e.g., is it a small or large firm, does the firm specialize in one area of the law or do they have different attorneys working on different topics). The general sense is that small law firms specializing in personal injury law obtain the best results for their clients.
4. Use the phone to research strong lawyer candidates.
Speaking with someone on the phone will assist in obtaining more specific information and may give you a better sense of someone’s demeanor.
- Call your county’s bar association. Speaking with a county bar association may help give you a lawyer candidate who is geographically close to you.
- Call law firms. Do not hesitate to call a law firm and ask questions. This is a great way to get personalized answers to your questions.
Contact and Meet Your Top Choices
1. Prepare a list of questions to ask your best candidates.
Before meeting with your top attorney candidates, prepare a number of detailed questions that will give you the answers you need in order to choose the best attorney for you. Use the following questions, and any others you feel are appropriate, when you sit down for an initial consultation:
- What is the statute of limitations for my case?
- What are your areas of specialization?
- Are you the only attorney that would be working on my case? If not, who else will be working with you?
- What is your fee structure? Will you take my case on a contingent fee basis? If so, what is your percentage? If not, what is your hourly rate?
- How will you keep me informed of my case’s progress?
- How often do you go to trial in similar cases?
- Does your law firm carry insurance?
- How confident are you in my case? Do you think I have a good case?
2. Know the facts of your case and have as much documentation as possible.
Before meeting with an attorney for an initial consultation, write down and know as many facts about your case as possible. One thing an attorney will do in an initial consultation is ask you about your case so he or she can gauge its likelihood of success. Be as detailed as possible and do not leave out facts you may consider minor. Having documentation relating to your case is also extremely helpful. When you go in to have an initial consultation, the attorney may want to see any or all of the following:
- Medical documents, including bills, diagnoses, and test results.
- Arrest records, issued citations, and toxicology reports.
- Professional opinions from experts in fields such as crash site reconstruction.
- Pictures you or someone else took of anything from the scene of the accident.
- Written statements of anyone who witnessed anything at the scene.
3. Sit down for a face-to-face consultation with your top choices.
Ask for an in-person consultation. While most initial consultations are free, some attorneys may charge a fee. Be sure you ask about the lawyer’s consultation fees before agreeing to sit down. Be aware that sitting down for an initial consultation does not mean you have to hire the lawyer. Hiring a personal injury lawyer is an important decision. Feel free to sit down with as many candidates as you need to in order to find the right attorney for you.
Making Your Decision
1. Follow-up with your best candidates.
Once you have sat down with all of your top candidates, think about how each consultation went and decide if you need to follow-up on anything. If you do, call them back and ask your follow-up questions.
2. Feel comfortable with the candidate.
You are going to be spending a good amount of time with your attorney, so make sure it will be a rewarding experience. The ideal candidate will make you feel comfortable, will be available to answer any questions you may have, will have outstanding credentials, and will have a positive outlook about your case.
3. Feel comfortable with the candidate’s fee structure.
Before hiring your ideal personal injury lawyer, understand how their fees work. You will know each attorney’s fee structure because you will have asked about it during your initial consultation. Most personal injury attorneys will take your case on a contingent fee basis. This means the lawyer will not take any money up front but will instead collect his or her fee once the case has been resolved. The average contingent fee rate is 1/3 of any recover obtained.
4. Hire your top choice.
Once you have done all of the above and thought about your options, hire the personal injury lawyer you think will best represent you. Once you contact the attorney you want to hire, make sure you receive and sign a written fee agreement. This agreement will spell out exactly what the lawyer will be doing for you and how much he or she is going to charge for those services. Read over it carefully before signing it.