After a serious accident, you want to choose the right personal injury lawyer. You will need to work with that lawyer for a long time as you manage your claim. Not only can the attorney you choose make a big difference in the funds you ultimately receive in compensation for your injuries, choosing the right personal injury lawyer can mean increased peace of mind.
How do you know you have chosen the right one?
You may find many personal injury attorneys in your local area. As you select the right one for you, make sure you consider these criteria.
Step One: Look for a personal injury attorney near you.
Using a local attorney offers two advantages. First, you want an attorney who knows the local court system: who has worked within it in the past and who has a solid understanding of what you need to know about your local area.
Knowing the local court system means familiarity with local laws and regulations, which can make it easier for the attorney to manage your claim. Second, you want an attorney who can easily meet with you, whether you need to hand over paperwork or receive the assurance of a face-to-face meeting after your injuries.
A local attorney may also find it easier to work within your restrictions: for example, if you suffered spinal cord injuries or a hip fracture in your accident, you may need an attorney to come to you, rather than going to the office. A local attorney will find it more convenient to meet with you. The Florida Bar website can help you narrow down your search.
Step Two: Choose an attorney who has experience with the type of personal injury claim you need to file.
Not only do you want an attorney who understands local laws and who has worked within the local court system, you want an attorney who has experience with the type of personal injury claim you need to file. You do not, for example, want to work with an attorney who focuses on car accident claims if you need to file a claim for a product liability accident.
Look at the areas the attorney covers. Do those areas include the type of claim you need to file? If not, you may want to contact a different attorney to help you file your claim.
Step Three: Look through the attorney’s website to get a better idea of the attorney’s practices, standards, and experience.
You have narrowed your search to the type of attorney you need. Now, you want to look deeper into what the attorney has to offer you. Take a look at the attorney’s website and past reviews offered by other clients to get a better idea of how the attorney operates. You may want to consider several factors as you choose an attorney to manage your claim.
What do the attorney’s results look like?
Results matter when it comes to your personal injury claim. You do not want to work with an attorney who can gain you little more than the insurance company might offer in an early settlement. Instead, you want to work with a personal injury attorney who has a history of significantly increasing the compensation accident victims can receive for their injuries.
The attorney’s results in past claims will not guarantee what you can receive for your injuries, but working with an attorney who has achieved substantial results in the past may increase the odds that you will get the full compensation you deserve for your claim.
What does the attorney prioritize?
A look at the attorney’s website will give you a better idea of what the attorney considers important. All attorneys want to get the best possible results for their clients. Some attorneys, however, prioritize a hard-hitting strategy, including an aggressive strategy and determination to take the claim to court if needed, while others focus on providing a compassionate, caring experience for their clients.
While some attorneys want to listen to your story and make you feel more comfortable with the entire claim process, others focus on taking everything out of your hands. Review the website and see what the attorney focuses on. What offers does the attorney make for his clients? You can learn a lot about what a specific attorney considers important by reviewing his website.
What do past clients have to say about the attorney?
Take a look at the attorney’s reviews. As you get more serious about contacting an attorney, you may want to look at all available reviews for that attorney, including Google reviews, reviews on the website, and reviews on social media. You might also want to check out the attorneys’ ratings on specific pages geared toward helping you find an attorney, like Avvo.
As you read through the reviews, consider:
- What do the reviews on the attorney’s website focus on? The attorney can choose the reviews visible on the website, which means you will see only positive reviews of the attorney’s services. Those reviews will focus on the things that the attorney considers important. They will also tell you what it might look like to work directly with a specific attorney, based on the things that past clients have to say.
- What do the reviews on Google or social media have to say? Keep in mind that anyone can leave a review on Google or social media. Evaluate positive and negative reviews alike, but consider where the negative reviews might come from. For example, a dissatisfied individual not accepted as a client could leave a negative review, as could the liable party who lost a personal injury case to the attorney. Do not just focus on star reviews. Instead, take the time to read what the reviews say about the attorney, and consider what it might mean to work with a specific attorney on your claim.
Step Four: Schedule a free consultation.
In most cases, personal injury attorneys will start with a free consultation: you will not have to pay for the initial visit. This consultation will give you a chance to get to know the lawyer, ask any questions, and present your claim and your evidence.
Presenting Your Claim
When you present your claim, the attorney will have a chance to decide if he wants to take your case. Not every attorney will turn out to fit your needs, and many attorneys will turn down claims they feel they do not have the experience to handle.
As you present your claim, consider these key factors.
- Does the attorney think you have a chance of winning your claim? You may already have a settlement offer in hand when you speak with a personal injury attorney. The attorney will let you know whether he thinks he can win more than that amount by pursuing your claim. If the attorney does not think he can increase the compensation you can receive in a personal injury claim, he may decide not to accept your case. Sometimes, an attorney may let you know that he does not think he can adequately handle your claim. In that case, you may want to go with a different attorney.
- How much does the attorney think you deserve for your injuries? Different attorneys may have different perspectives on how much you can receive for your injuries. Some attorneys may estimate much more money than others. That does not necessarily mean, however, that you should always go with the attorney who offers you the highest idea of how much you should receive in a personal injury settlement. You may, for example, have one attorney who offers a much higher idea of the settlement you should receive than the others you speak to. You may choose not to work with that attorney due to unrealistic expectations.
Asking Your Questions
Once you present your claim, you will have a chance to ask the attorney questions. An experienced personal injury attorney will give you time to go over the factors that you consider important and provide you with comprehensive answers.
Look for an attorney who fits your specific needs based on the answers to these questions.
Who will actually handle your claim? Some law firms put big names on the header, but the majority of their claims end up handled by junior attorneys within the firm. Others may put their legal team to work on your case. You want to know who will actually handle your claim. Will the attorney you speak with during your consultation handle the actual claim, or will you work with someone else?
Sometimes, you may feel comfortable with a specific attorney that you speak with during the consultation, only to later discover that you will work with someone else entirely on your claim. Make sure you clarify upfront how the law firm will handle assigning your claim.
How many clients does the law firm currently have? In addition to considering who will handle your claim, ask about the number of clients the law firm currently has. Does the firm have the resources on hand to effectively handle your claim, or does the firm seem overloaded? Sometimes, a firm may have too many clients to juggle, which may mean that your claim does not receive as much time and energy as you might expect. Consider the number of attorneys the firm has on hand as well as the number of cases the firm currently needs to manage. You may want to ask about the firm’s capacity compared to the current number of cases.
How does the attorney prefer to communicate? Communication makes a big difference when you need to work with an attorney. Your personal injury claim could represent the funds you need to pay off medical debt or to manage your regular expenses while recovering from serious injuries. You may want your attorney to remain in regular communication so that you can stay informed about all the details of your claim.
- How often does the attorney communicate? Some personal injury lawyers will only get in touch if they have something to tell you. They might contact you only when they have something new to report or only when they need specific information from you to proceed with your claim. Others will provide regular updates to let you know what comes next or what you can expect, even if nothing has changed regarding your claim.
- How responsive is the attorney? You may learn a great deal about the attorney’s overall responsiveness just by setting an appointment for your consultation. How long did it take the attorney to get back to you? How long did you have to wait for an appointment? Ask the attorney how long he usually takes to respond to emails or to return a phone call.
- How does the attorney prefer to communicate? Consider how you would prefer to receive communication from your attorney. Some prefer to communicate over the phone, which may, on the surface, seem to provide a more personal touch. Others may prefer to communicate via email or text. Keep your injuries and any new limitations in mind as you consider your preferred communication style. For example, if you suffered a traumatic brain injury in your accident, you may want to receive primarily written communications so that you can review that information later as needed.
- How often does the attorney take claims to trial? Some attorneys pursue maximum compensation very aggressively, often ending in a trial. Many, however, prefer to settle out of court when possible. Discuss your attorney’s preferred style upfront so that you know what to expect.
Choosing the right personal injury attorney depends on your personal needs as you manage your recovery and your claim. Ideally, however, you want to choose a personal injury attorney as soon after your accident as possible to maximize their ability to work on your behalf.