If you’ve been hurt in an accident, you may be debating whether or not you want or need a personal injury attorney to assist you. We put together a list of the top 7 things to consider when choosing a lawyer. While not exhaustive, this list will help you begin the process. We’ve also created an infographic (see below), that you can print out and take with you to the initial consultation.
The first thing to consider is how much experience the attorney has. According to personal injury attorney Joshua Glotzer, years of experience handling personal injury cases is one of the most important considerations.
To find out how long they’ve been practicing, you can do an attorney search at the California State Bar website. The attorney’s profile should include how long they’ve been practicing, contact info, and where they attended law school.
Now that you know how long they’ve been practicing personal injury law, you’ll want to know whether they actually handle your type of case.
For example, let’s assume you were bitten by a dog. You found an attorney online who has 20 years experience but hasn’t handled dog bite cases. Given your circumstances, it might make sense to keep searching until you find someone who has experience with your particular situation.
While reviews should always be taken with a grain of salt, it’s a good idea to spend time researching attorneys and reading their online reviews. Some of the more popular sites to read about attorneys are:
YELP – is a good place to start. An attorney’s profile will usually include pictures, business hours, business information, and former client reviews. When looking at reviews, don’t simply focus on how many or the quantity of stars. Instead, take the time to read the reviews.
AVVO – Another great site to get more information on personal injury attorneys. Avvo includes reviews, as well as other business info. A great Avvo feature is that you can easily find out whether an attorneys has ever been disciplined by the State Bar Association. Lastly, look to see whether the attorney has endorsements from other attorneys.
Another consideration is the fee arrangement. Most personal injury attorneys work on contingency. This means that they only get paid if you win.
While this sounds great, keep in mind that you’re usually on the hook for any fees incurred during the litigation process. For example, assume that you’re in a car accident and your attorney decides to hire a private investigator (PI) to examine the accident scene. After you recover, you’ll be required to pay the PI out of your share of the money.
While this may be common practice, it can be a rude awakening if you didn’t understand that at the time you signed on the dotted line. Before agreeing to anything, make sure you take the time to understand the fee agreement.
After an accident, you’ll most likely be dealing with the at-fault party’s insurance company. In other words, let’s say you were rear-ended by someone while driving. You will file a claim with his/her insurance company. At that point, it’s you versus the insurance company.
One key reason to hire a personal injury lawyer is that by doing so you level the playing field. The insurance company has an army of lawyers and insurance adjusters whose main function is to minimize or deny your claim.
Given the disparity, you versus a team of highly trained professionals, it’s often a good idea to get a personal injury attorney on your side. This becomes even more important if you’re dealing with serious physical or psychological injuries from your accident.
Before signing up, make sure you spend enough time with the attorney during the free consultation to ensure that you’re a good fit for each other. At the very least, you want to make sure that you feel comfortable speaking with the attorney and that they are responsive and friendly with you. You don’t want to find yourself locked in litigation having to deal with an attorney that you don’t like.
It pays dividends in the long-run to spend time with the attorney in the beginning and make sure you get along well enough to proceed.
The last component to consider is where the attorney attended law school and any additional training they may have undergone. While you can see what law school they attended by visiting here, you’ll also want to discuss any additional training that may be helpful to your case.
While experience and past results are usually a much better indicator of future performance, it’s a good idea to at least know where they attended law school and some research on that school.
Few accidents happen for a single reason. Instead, most situations resulting in an accident have many moving parts from many contributing parties. If you are injured in an accident for which you are partly to blame you may want to know if you are barred from filing a claim for damages against other involved parties. California follows a theory of pure comparative negligence, which allows injured accident victims to file a claim for damages even if they were partly to blame for the accident that caused their injury(ies). If you or someone you know has been injured in a California accident you should contact an experienced lawyer to learn about your legal rights.
Before we can understand the standard of pure comparative negligence we must have a basic understanding of what negligence is. Negligence is a basis for legal liability that is proved by showing:
An injured plaintiff must also have suffered actual damages as a result of the injury. Actual damages are generally what a plaintiff seeks to recoup in a California personal injury lawsuit: costs incurred for medical expenses, prescriptions, rehabilitation, or to account for lost wages if a plaintiff missed work to recover.
In California, victims of an accident may seek to recover damages regardless of whether or not they played a role in causing the accident in question. Pure comparative negligence basically means that an injured plaintiff can seek to recover damages equal to the percentage of damages that are attributed to the defendant.
Here’s an example. Let’s say X is driving along the Pacific Coast Highway when Y runs through a traffic light at an intersection. X and Y collide. If X was abiding by all traffic laws and Y was entirely at fault, X would be permitted to seek 100% of the damages she sustained in the accident. If, however, it is later determined that X was speeding and/or texting at the time of the accident, the amount she would be able to recover through a lawsuit against Y would be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to her. Let’s say X was determined to be 15% at fault for the accident. If she sought damages in the amount of $100,000 for hospital bills and lost wages, her ability to recover from Y would be capped at $85,000.
Or, let’s say that X is visiting a restaurant in Los Angeles, slips on a wet floor, and is injured. If the restaurant had taken no precautions to dry the floor or warn guests of a possible hazard, and X was paying proper attention to her surroundings, she would probably be able to seek 100% of the damages she incurred to tend to her injuries.
If, however, X is involved in a heated phone conversation and drinking heavily, which causes her to ignore several “wet floor” signs posted around the hazardous area, her ability to recover may be significantly reduced. Her ability to recover could even be prohibited if it is determined that the restaurant exercised the proper degree of care in tending to the hazard and warning customers.
The theory of pure comparative negligence allows any injured victim to seek damages, so long as they were not entirely at-fault for an accident.
After you suffer an injury in a Los Angeles accident you may suffer significant financial burdens. You may also wonder which costs and damages you may be able to recover through a claim for damages against an at-fault party. California permits injured accident victims to seek both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are those that are awarded for verifiable expenses related to an injury. These may include hospital bills, ambulance costs, prescription medication, follow-up visits with specialists, labs and bloodwork, lost wages, or funeral costs.
Non-economic damages are those that are awarded for intangible injuries that are more difficult to value. These may include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of companionship, diminished earning capacity, or mental anguish.
Regardless of the type of damages sought in a California personal injury lawsuit, an award will be limited if you are partly to blame for an accident. Pure comparative negligence is applied to all damages, regardless of classification.
If you have been injured in an accident you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney, regardless of your level of culpability for the incident. Even if it determined that you are 99% at-fault for an accident, you are still legally entitled to seek damages from other involved parties.
Renown snowboarder Kody Williams will not be on the slopes at Squaw Valley or Mammoth Mountain anytime soon, but his family and friends are confident that hey will eventually recover from a traumatic brain injury. For now, the 22-year-old snowboarder known as “the pretzel” for his acrobatic moves lies in a medically-induced coma. Mr. Williams was filming […]