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.