If you have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, one of the first steps you should take after receiving medical attention is calling a personal injury lawyer. Who should you call? A quick Google search or scan of the YellowPages will show you there are dozens—maybe even hundreds—of lawyers in your area. How can you choose the right personal injury attorney for your case? Ask each attorney these questions:
Do you have experience representing clients in cases similar to mine?
In order to find the best legal representation possible, you will need to look for an attorney who handles personal injury cases on a daily basis instead of one who dabbles in personal injury law in their spare time. But, not just any personal injury attorney will do. Be sure to ask the attorney how much experience he has representing clients in cases similar to yours. For example, if you were involved in a slip and fall accident, you don’t want an attorney who primarily handles car accident cases. Each type of personal injury case—whether it involves a slip and fall, defective product, or traffic accident—is unique, so look for an attorney who has experience handling cases like yours.
How often do you take cases to trial?
Personal injury cases will begin with negotiation talks between your attorney and the at fault party’s insurance company. If you can’t come to an agreement out of court, the case will be brought to trial where a jury will decide how much compensation (if any) you are entitled to receive. Most of the time, the insurance company will try to get you to agree on a low settlement during the out-of-court negotiations. Because of this, you will need an attorney who will not just accept the first settlement that is offered and will instead take your case to trial if it’s necessary to do so.
Ask each attorney you speak with how often they take personal injury cases to trial. If they take a lot of cases to trial, this usually indicates they receive fairly large settlements for their clients. However, some lawyers will only handle the out-of-court negotiation talks, and will refer you to another attorney if the case goes to trial. Switching attorneys in the middle of your case can be a pain and lead to a lot of confusion, so it’s best to avoid hiring an attorney who won’t handle your case from start to finish.
What are your fees?
The overwhelming majority of personal injury attorneys do not take money upfront from their clients. Instead, they wait until the case has come to an end, and take a portion of the settlement. If no settlement is ever reached, the lawyer does not charge you anything for his services. This is known as working on a contingency basis, and you should not work with an injury attorney who does not offer this option. Some attorneys will charge clients on an hourly basis, but you should not agree to these terms. Hourly costs can quickly pile up and the last thing you need to worry about when you already have medical bills is paying your attorney.
There may be other expenses that arise during the course of a personal injury case. For example, a lawyer could recommend you see a specialist about your injury or he may need to call in an expert to reconstruct the accident and prove liability. It’s important to ask your attorney who will pay for these expenses if they do come up. Most attorneys will cover the costs of these additional expenses, which makes the entire process much easier on you.
You should also ask what percentage of the settlement your attorney will take after the case is over. Most attorneys will take anywhere between 25-40% of the settlement, so you should expect a percentage that falls in this range.
Who will be working on my case?
Before agreeing to work with a law firm, make sure you ask who will be working on your case. Sometimes, the person you connected with during your initial case consultation will not be involved with your case again. If you hired the law firm because of the way you got along with this person, you probably won’t be happy to find out he has nothing to do with your case.
Larger law firms will usually assign a paralegal, case manager, and/or junior associates to your case, so you may never work with one of the “big name” attorneys. Once you find out who will be assigned to your case, ask these people about their qualifications and how you will be able to reach them to see if it’s a good fit.
Have you ever won any awards?
Personal injury attorneys are often recognized for excellence by their peers or local professional associations. Winning these awards indicates the attorney is considered to be reliable and successful in his field, so if possible, find an attorney who has won numerous awards.
For example, one of our attorneys, Nicholas Rowley was given the “Outstanding Trial Lawyer of the Year” award in 2013 by the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC). He was also a finalist for the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles “Trial Lawyer of the Year” award in 2009, 2010, and 2014. These awards show how respected Nicholas Rowley is within the legal industry, and also make potential clients more comfortable trusting him with their personal injury case. Ask every attorney you are considering whether they have won any awards and if so, what organization awarded them.
The answers to these five questions will help you narrow down the many personal injury attorneys in your community to find the best match. If you have been injured as a result of someone’s negligence, contact the Trial Lawyers for Justice to schedule a free consultation by calling 888-811-0844.