You’ve likely seen advertisements for many local personal injury lawyers on billboards around town, flyers that come in your mail, on daytime television, on the side of public buses, and even online.
This leaves you wondering: How do I hire a good personal injury lawyer?
No matter where you live, you can find a good personal injury lawyer using many methods, but not by picking one randomly from an advertisement.
All lawyers aren’t equal, and there is no shortage of personal injury lawyers. The first advertisement you recall seeing or the first personal injury lawyer returning your call may not be the best for you. Ensuring that you pick the best attorney for your case involves several steps.
Of course, all attorneys are legally and ethically required to check certain boxes, such as passing the state bar exam and remaining in good standing with their State Bar. However, you need to look for more than a licensed attorney in good standing when hiring a personal injury attorney.
How Do I Choose a Good Personal Injury Lawyer?
No one will see an eye doctor for a sore throat, so you shouldn’t hire an attorney who does not have the knowledge and experience that matches your legal needs. So, for example, you shouldn’t hire a lawyer specializing in divorce to handle your personal injury claim.
Not only must you choose a personal injury attorney who focuses on the area of law and injury that your case needs, but there are other considerations, as well. Remember that choosing the right lawyer maximizes the chances of receiving fair compensation for your injuries. You also will be working with this attorney and trusting them to protect your rights and financial future, so you should get along with them.
Step 1: Finding a Lawyer
If you sustained injuries in a recent accident, there is no time to waste in finding the legal help you need. Your health and well-being take precedence over legal help. Still, once you are stable enough, your next task should be finding the best personal injury attorneys to represent your claim. Waiting too long to find legal representation can risk your claim not being filed within your state’s statute of limitations for filing an injury claim or having valuable evidence in your case lost or destroyed. In addition, you can take care of your medical bills sooner if your case settles sooner.
Word of Mouth
Often, your best referral source will come from those who have used the services of a local personal injury attorney. Talk to your coworkers, neighbors, friends, and family members to see if they can recommend an accomplished personal injury attorney. However, this can sometimes be difficult and time-consuming. You might not know where to start since it’s not always common knowledge about who has used a personal injury lawyer.
You can use social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, but doing so may come back to harm you during your claim. If you look for recommendations this way, don’t share too much information about your injury or accident.
Many injured individuals turn to sites like Nextdoor or Angie’s List for referrals, which can be helpful since they give reviews and recommendations from people within the same community. You should, however, always be aware that these sights are advertising-supported. This means that what may seem like a recommendation from someone in your city can, in fact, be a paid advertisement.
Ideally, you should use sites of this kind to find a list of attorneys located within a particular geographic location and then research them independently of that website from there.
Online Legal Directories
Another source for finding different personal injury lawyers is online legal directories. Legal directories are similar to sites like Nextdoor. Still, they have more specific search capabilities focusing only on finding the legal help you need.
These websites have their own search engines and include sites like:
- Avvo: As one of the most widely used directories for finding an attorney, Avvo provides information such as ratings, law school attendance, and contact info. This helpful site also tells you if the lawyer has ever faced discipline by a State Bar.
- FindLaw: This legal directory will provide attorney contact information and bios. However, it does not have a review system, as Avvo does.
- Lawyers.com: Owned by Martindale-Hubble, this site has a long-standing reputation for providing information about lawyers. It provides users with contact info, client reviews, and peer reviews.
- Yelp: Yelp is not specifically a legal directory; however, it is a go-to site for anyone looking for legal assistance. You will find contact information, bios, and reviews for lawyers in your area here.
- American Bar Association: Also a good source with an online directory that helps you to find lawyers using location-based search criteria.
Use Online Reviews
Many online directories, social media platforms, and Google will provide reviews for the law firms and attorneys listed. It is wise to look these over; when you do, don’t just look at the number of reviews or overall ratings. Be sure to take the time to read through some of the reviews, especially those greater in length. A longer review often says more about an attorney, whether good or bad.
Google Maps can also help you find attorneys in your area. Simply open the app or the website and type “personal injury attorney” in the search bar. You can see the results of attorneys near you and their reviews.
Step 2: Narrow Your Search
Now you have a list of personal injury lawyers in your area, hopefully with good reviews. Now what? Thanks to technology, nearly all personal injury lawyers have websites. Their websites will tell you a lot if you know what you are looking for.
A website profile for an attorney will usually contain:
- Educational background
- Courts where the lawyer has admission to practice
- Practice areas or specialties
- Honors and awards
- Other interests and activities, such as if they sit on any boards of nonprofit organizations or volunteer within the local or legal community
- Contact information
Websites often have profiles for the entire legal team as well. If you decide to hire a personal injury attorney from a more prominent firm, you can expect that there will be several professionals working on your case, including lawyers, junior lawyers, legal assistants, and paralegals. Much of your communication can be with someone other than your own attorney.
Read the attorney’s bio as well as the bios that work with them. You might get an immediate gut feeling about them. Maybe you feel a connection with them due to interests or hobbies you have in common or can appreciate that they have handled many cases like yours.
Most law firms and individual attorneys will offer personal injury clients a free consultation. To help save you time and confusion, narrow your list of possible attorneys to about three to five choices.
When you meet with each attorney, think about their personality. Did you find them easy to talk to? Did you feel rushed or belittled?
If possible, bring to your initial meeting:
- Medical records that explain your diagnoses and treatments
- Dates of treatment (including hospital admissions and release dates)
- Any accident-related medical bills, including those that were already paid by you or by your insurance company
- Documentation for any related medical services you received, such as ambulance transport, hospital, therapies, medications, or medical devices
- Documents that describe what your future medical needs are
- Copy of your relevant insurance policies (medical, auto, homeowners, or others related to your accident and injuries)
- Documentation of lost income and proof of earnings
- Police reports or other documents like witness statements or photos related to the accident or your cause of injury.
Make copies of all papers and documentation, one to keep and one to give to the attorney you hire. If you can, explain each piece of documentation and organize it before you go.
Questions to Ask During Your Consultation with a Personal Injury Lawyer
You will want to ask several questions before you decide if you want to hire a lawyer:
- What experience do you have with my type of case?
- How many of your cases settle out of court, and how many go to trial?
- Who on your team will be handling my case?
- What do you need/expect from me during the legal process?
- What can I expect from you during the legal process?
- What if I have questions?
- When can you file my claim and start the official process?
- Are you willing to litigate my case?
- Do you have the time to give my case the attention it deserves?
- Do you have contacts with expert witnesses who will be available and reliable to testify in my case?
- What’s your approach to negotiating settlements?
Step 4: Understand How Personal Injury Attorney Fees Work
Whether you ask it or not, you are likely wondering how and when you will need to pay your attorney. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. With this arrangement, you owe them nothing upfront for their representation. They are paid from those monies if and when they work out a settlement or win a court award on your behalf. They only get fees if you get compensation for your injuries.
Typically, you can expect to pay a predetermined percentage of your final settlement or court award. The fees your attorney charges may depend on the complexity of your case and whether they absorb administrative costs, such as the costs of obtaining copies of medical records.
Ask if you must pay anything upfront. Some law firms might want payments for expert witness fees, travel expenses, or other incidentals throughout the legal process. Others will cover these for you and only seek reimbursement after the case is over. You should be well-informed about when and how you must pay those fees.
Avoid bargain shopping when searching for a good personal injury lawyer. Hiring a personal injury lawyer isn’t like purchasing a flat-screen TV. You can’t look at three different stores and compare the same model for the best price. Even though attorneys within a similar geographical location will have similar fees, shopping for the best deal is not always a reliable strategy.
Lower fees do not always reflect better value or quality of legal representation. A lawyer might charge a lower percentage due to less experience or resources, which might affect the success of your overall case.
The key is to use your judgment and consider all relevant factors, not only whether a lawyer’s fees are lower or higher.
Hiring the Best Personal Injury for You
Hiring the best personal injury for you is no small task, but it’s crucial, and you should hire one sooner than later after you suffer an injury. By carefully following these steps and tips and not rushing through the process, you can ensure that you hire a good one. Remember that the caliber of your attorney will substantially impact the outcome of your injury case.