If you’ve been in an accident and have begun looking for a personal injury lawyer you know by now that there are literally hundreds to choose from. Television, billboards and the internet are full of advertisements for lawyers promising to get you thousands of dollars for your injuries.
How can anyone possibly figure out which lawyer is the best choice? There are a few options to help you make the decision on who to trust. Your best bet is a personal reference from someone you already know and trust.
Chances are good that someone among your friends, family or colleagues has previously needed the services of a lawyer and can give you insight on their firsthand experiences, whether good or bad.
Social media is a good outlet to turn to when looking for a reference; people are always willing to give their opinions and suggestions online. Make sure to find out their overall opinion of the attorney.
Were they satisfied with the work the lawyer performed? Did the lawyer communicate regularly? Did they feel well informed and up to date on their case? Would they return to the same lawyer if the need should arise?
Google is a great place to start. Google your law firm’s name, and check the reviews in their business listing.
Online resources like Martindale rate lawyers based on peer reviews. You can search for specific lawyers and get their rating or you can search for a lawyer by their specialty in your location.
Other websites like Avvo rate lawyers using a model that considers years in practice, history of disciplinary action, achievements and industry recognition. They rate each lawyer on a scale of 1 – 10.
Typically, you do not. A contingency fee is taken out of the money awarded to the client when their case has a successful resolution.
A client will pay a contingent fee to their car accident lawyer only if the case ends in the client’s favor. This means that if the client does not win their case, they do not owe their lawyer a fee.
This most often happens in cases such as car accidents, workers’ compensation, medical malpractice, police brutality, inmate abuse, and other cases which fall under the umbrella of personal injury law.
Under this arrangement, the client’s lawyer agrees to accept a fixed percentage for their services, taken from the recovery. This means that there is no upfront cost, and if the client does not win or settle their case the attorney does not receive his or her fee. If the client does win their case, the fee comes out of the money awarded to the client.
Often, this fee is approximately 1/3 of the settlement amount. For example, if a settlement is $30,000 as a result of a car accident, the attorney receives $10,000 as his or her fee.
This fee may increase if the case goes to trial, but it typically is not a large increase. Win or lose, the client may still be responsible for court costs and filing fees, costs related to deposing witnesses, etc.
Call our office today for a FREE review of your personal injury case. We typically work on a contingent agreement basis, which means our fees are contingent upon the outcome of your case.
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Knowing when to hire an attorney can be difficult. Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the degree of your injuries, you may not need a lawyer. If it was a minor accident with minimal damage and no injuries, you may be able to manage the claim yourself, though it is not advised. If you had a serious car accident, with serious injuries, you need an experienced car accident attorney. Above all, it is important to consider the extent of your injuries as well as other damages (medical bills, property damage, lost wages). The greater the injury, the more likely you are to need legal representation to ensure you get the proper compensation.
Depending on the extent of your injuries you may incur many thousands of dollars in medical expenses. You may be willing and able to settle your own claim with the insurance companies for a couple thousand dollars, but if your injuries are serious and your expenses exorbitant you may be at the point where your case is simply too big to manage yourself.
Insurance settlement negotiations are a lot of work and require a lot of time. The insurance companies may not necessarily have your best interest in mind. They are there to protect their own bottom line and will likely attempt to offer you a low settlement that will not fully cover your expenses, leaving you stuck paying the costs they don’t cover out of pocket.
Your consultation may conclude with the attorney telling you they will consider your case and contact you if they choose to accept. It is in your best interest to consider and meet with multiple attorneys. Your first choice may decline due to their existing caseload or they may recommend you to a different lawyer if they feel your case lies outside their area of expertise.
If possible, try to make your choice and hire your lawyer soon after the accident, this way they can be involved in the case from the beginning, giving them time to investigate while the facts are still fresh.
In the case of reporting a car accident to your insurance company; that answer depends entirely on your insurance provider’s policy. You can check the terms of your insurance policy for the information or call your insurance company for more specifics.
In any case, reporting the accident as soon as possible is in your best interests. There are extenuating circumstances that occur. You may be hospitalized from injuries. You may have injuries that don’t make themselves known until some time has passed.
Personal injury lawyers exist to advocate on your behalf. They have the knowledge and experience needed in dealing with insurance companies, it is their responsibility to obtain the compensation you deserve for your loses and suffering.
Having an attorney working for you after a car accident leaves you free to spend your time and energy focusing on recovering and not worrying about the stress of dealing with insurance companies.
In 2004, the Insurance Resource Council released findings from a study they conducted which revealed that people who used an attorney in their cases received 3.5 times more money than people who settled with insurance companies on their own, even after accounting for attorney fees.
Once you’ve identified a couple of options you need to set up a consultation. Most attorneys offer a free initial consultation with no obligation to immediately commit. This is your opportunity to personally interview your potential attorney.
Be sure to come to the consultation prepared. Bring copies of pertinent documents and records related to your accident (police reports, medical records, medical bills, insurance info, correspondence with the insurance company, photos, etc). The lawyer will have a lot of questions regarding the accident. You will have the opportunity to question them as well, bring a prepared list of questions to help you determine if they are the right lawyer for your case.
Car accident claims are based around information. The lawyer will have a lot of questions for you, but before you decide on which lawyer can best represent your interests there are questions you should be asking. Knowing the right questions is crucial.
You can expect the lawyer to ask for general information from you regarding your accident.
The more information you can provide, the better.
It is a good idea to get some background and experience information on your lawyer. Where did they attend law school? How long have they been practicing personal injury law? How many accident cases do they handle per year? Of those cases, how many settle? How many go to trial?
The answer to these questions will help you decide if they are the right person to represent your case.
Once the lawyer has a fundamental understanding of your case he/she will be better equipped to answer any case specific questions you may have.
Once you have answers to all these questions you need to ask yourself a few questions. Do you believe the lawyer has the appropriate skills and experience to manage your case? Do you trust their judgement? Does their rate seem reasonable? Do you feel comfortable having them as your attorney?
It is important to remember that your initial consultation is essentially a job interview for both the lawyer and the client. Make sure to come to the interview prepared to both answer and ask questions. The more information you can share the better. Help your lawyer help you.