You’ve been injured due to the fault of another. You’re facing extensive medical bills, loss of time at work, and you want to know if you’re entitled to any compensation. You know you need the help of a personal injury attorney to represent you, but which one? There are many factors that go into choosing the right attorney for your particular case. Unless you know one personally or one has been recommended to you by someone you trust, it can be a delicate and stressful process. Here are some steps you can take to help you to make a good decision. After all, you have a lot at stake and want the best qualified and most successful attorney you can find.
The Search Process
Ask around for referrals from your family and friends and from the people with whom you work. Chances are one or more of them has had an occasion to hire a personal injury attorney at one time or another. If no likely candidate surfaces from this inquiry it’s time to begin researching personal injury attorneys in your immediate area. Since you’re the injured party, make sure you seek out an attorney that represents plaintiffs. Keep in mind that there may be time limitations for filing a claim so don’t procrastinate. Make this search your top priority.
Proven Steps to Aid Your Search
There are certain common-sense steps that can help you narrow your search for a good personal injury attorney. A thorough review of their web site can answer many of the questions posed here.
- Experience matters: Given what may be at stake in terms of your recovery from an injury and your future ability to earn an income, you want someone who knows what they’re doing and has a record of winning. Bear in mind that winning in personal injury cases is measured in settlements out of court as much as it is in court victories. Look at the attorney’s biography. Where did they earn their law degree? How many years have they been in practice? Are they members of any trial lawyer associations? Are they in good standing with the State Bar Association? Take a look at their advertising and web site. Are there testimonials from satisfied former clients?
- Does the practice specialize in any particular area? If you’ve been in an automobile accident you probably don’t want to choose a practice that specializes in liability from workplace accidents. In these instances, your best bet is likely to be a practice that specializes in representing plaintiffs who have been involved in an vehicular accident.
- A good reputation is everything: A good personal injury attorney is going to be dealing with all types of people on your behalf, including judges and court personnel, law enforcement officers, medical doctors and staff, insurance companies and the defendant’s legal representation. How they interact with others is crucial, and nothing serves them better than possessing a sterling reputation for diligence and integrity.
- Make sure there are no conflicts of interest: You want to be sure to ask any attorney you’re considering if they are affiliated in any way, no matter how remotely, with anyone involved with your case.
- Are there any special situations you need to be aware of? Does the attorney live in close proximity to the court where your case will be heard? Is the attorney you are considering likely to hand off your case to an associate?
Zeroing in on Your Choice
Now that you’ve conducted a thorough search for a personal injury attorney by soliciting recommendations from those you know and from your own research, you’re likely at this point to have narrowed the choices down to three or four attorneys. What you want to do next is to schedule an appointment with each one. It is standard practice that this initial consultation take place at no charge to you. If you’re informed that a charge will be due after your consultation, cross them off your list and move on to the next one. Don’t be put off if this initial meeting is handled by a member of the attorney’s staff. Remember, if they’re good, they’re going to be busy, and much of the actual case work will likely be performed by competent and trained staff anyway.
How Much Should You Pay for Legal Representation?
Personal injury lawsuits are almost exclusively based upon a contingency fee structure in which the attorney is paid a certain designated percentage of any settlement or court ordered compensation you receive. Amounts vary, but somewhere around one third of the gross amount is a good estimate. Now if you do not receive any settlement or compensation this also means that your attorney will not be paid. It is imperative that you ask any attorney you are considering hiring what their fee structure is and if you will be held responsible for any costs associated with your case, even if you receive no compensation yourself.
A Search Well Worth the Effort
As you can see, searching for and obtaining good legal representation for a personal injury case is a process that you need to take seriously. Be proactive and be disciplined. Take lots of notes and ask lots of questions. If you do, you’re likely to find just the right personal injury attorney — one who will guide you as well as represent you through a difficult time, and one who will ensure you receive the compensation that is due you.