If you have suffered a serious injury, you need a competent attorney to fight for your rights and guide you through the process of seeking compensation. However, with so many injury law firms around, you may wonder how to find a personal injury lawyer with the optimal experience, skills, and level of commitment to handle your case.
What should accident victims consider when they hire personal injury lawyers, and what should they check before entrusting their case to a specific law firm? We hope the following checklist helps you choose the right attorney for your needs.
Ask About Their Legal Experience
When you book an initial consultation with a lawyer, you want to know whether they have the right qualifications. The attorney should provide full, clear, and unequivocal answers to your questions. If you’re unsure what to ask a personal injury lawyer, the following list is a good place to start:
- How long have you been in practice? Choose a legal team with years of experience representing personal injury victims.
- Do you handle many cases similar to mine? For example, if you suffered an injury resulting from a doctor’s negligence, you’ll want an attorney who regularly handles medical malpractice cases.
- Can you tell me about a few personal injury cases you settled lately? Reputable personal injury lawyers will be upfront about outcomes while protecting former clients’ privacy.
- What are your unique strengths? These may include insider knowledge of how insurance companies work, extensive trial experience, or another type of relevant professional background.
- What do past clients say about you? Don’t just browse client reviews the law firm lists on its website. Check out client feedback on Google, Avvo, and social media.
Do They Serve Your State?
Each state has different personal injury laws that determine important details like your deadline for filing a claim, caps on punitive damages, and whether you can still claim compensation if you were partially responsible for the accident. Obviously, any law firm you hire must be licensed to practice in your state, but you’ll also want a lawyer who focuses on representing clients in your state and, ideally, your county.
While some law firms serve several states, you’ll need to ensure the attorney representing you understands all the local legal nuances that may play a role in your case. Moreover, a local attorney will be more available for in-person consultations and likely have better knowledge of how courts in your county work.
Do They Have Trial Experience?
Although most personal injury cases settle out of court, trial experience is still important to consider when seeking a good injury lawyer. Working with an experienced personal injury trial lawyer can give you the necessary leverage to settle your claim successfully and within a reasonable timeframe. Insurance companies are a lot easier to handle when you have a competent legal representative who isn’t afraid of taking your case to trial.
Trial experience for a personal injury lawyer is especially important if:
- Your case has very high potential value, like a catastrophic injury or wrongful death claim.
- The evidence in your case is complicated or inconclusive.
- The relevant insurance company is downplaying its responsibility or trying to pressure you to accept a lowball settlement.
- An insurer has already denied your claim.
- Your case involved egregious negligence and may merit punitive damages.
Their Track Record and Outcomes
Many personal injury lawyers claim to have trial experience, but if you believe there’s a higher-than-average chance your case may go to trial, you must scrutinize your lawyer’s courtroom track record more closely.
What is their success rate? What prominent cases have they handled lately? How similar were these cases to yours, and what type of settlements did the lawyers secure for their clients? How did they overcome challenges like pushback from the at-fault party and/or their insurance company? These questions should be integral to your “How To Find a Personal Injury Lawyer” checklist.
Are They Certified Members of Legal Organizations?
Remember to check certifications and credentials when looking for a personal injury lawyer. Apart from the basic requirement of passing a state bar exam, personal injury lawyers may have credentials like a National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) certification in civil trial law or a Medical Malpractice Attorney certification. You can look up lawyers in state licensing databases, where you can also view any past disciplinary actions against particular attorneys.
Personal injury lawyers gain extra credibility if they’re members of the American Bar Association, the American Association for Justice, and other legal organizations.
Do Their Peers Recommend Them?
In addition to former client reviews (or, even better, word-of-mouth recommendations), it’s useful to look into your potential lawyer’s standing among other local law firms. Does this lawyer have a good reputation among their peers? Do other lawyers endorse them? You can check Martindale.com or Lawyers.com for peer reviews.
Asking Other Lawyers From Other Practices
Asking other attorneys is another way to get professional opinions about a specific personal injury lawyer. You’ll want to contact personal injury law firms that aren’t directly competing with the lawyer you plan to hire, focusing on firms that serve other locations or practice in different legal niches. For example, a lawyer who exclusively handles vehicle accident cases may recommend another lawyer who focuses on premises liability claims.
What Is Their Fee Structure?
Lawyer fees are a big factor when considering hiring a personal injury attorney. Most reputable personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means you only pay if and when the law firm settles your case, so you won’t need to worry about out-of-pocket costs. Your lawyer only collects their payout when you collect yours, so personal injury lawyers will look into your case closely and only agree to represent you if they are convinced there’s a fair chance of negotiating a settlement or winning a lawsuit.
Contingency fees vary widely between law firms and cases but typically hover between 30% and 40% of the total settlement. Some law firms charge a set contingency fee regardless of how the case plays out, while others may request a higher percentage for especially complex cases or cases that end up going to trial. Either way, clarifying the payment structure before hiring a lawyer is important.
Can Their Resources and Staff Accommodate Your Case?
When preparing to file a personal injury claim, you should know your lawyer has enough time, energy, and motivation to forward your case. Although big law offices may boast broader resources and more extensive connections, working with a small or medium-sized law firm can give you more personal attention from your lawyer, translating into greater chances of success and achieving a fair settlement.
Whichever type of law firm you choose, you’ll want to ensure your lawyer is going to handle your case personally rather than outsource it to paralegals or assistants.
How To Prepare for a Consultation
Personal injury law firms usually offer no-cost, no-obligation case evaluations by phone or in person. You can take advantage of this to interview several lawyers and gauge which one is better suited to your needs.
Before you go in for a consultation with a personal injury lawyer, you should:
- Make a list of important questions, such as: Do I have a case? How much could my claim be worth? What is your work process? Who will be handling my case? How long can I expect the case to go on?
- Bring relevant documents like medical and police records, evidence of your accident, important communication logs, etc.
- Inform yourself. Read up on possible legal strategies and outcomes in cases similar to yours to ensure you approach the consultation with realistic expectations.
Every consultation with an attorney is confidential, even if you ultimately choose a different lawyer, so don’t hold back, and prepare to share as many relevant details as possible.
What to Expect
During your initial consultation, the personal injury lawyer may:
- Ask you brief, targeted questions about your case.
- Try to establish whether you may have a valid claim and who may be responsible for compensating you.
- Present your possible legal options.
- Tell you what the next steps of your personal injury claim would involve.
- Let you know whether they are willing to take on your case.
- Explain what you can expect regarding timelines, strategies, communications, updates, and fees if you choose to work with their law firm.
A word of warning: Beware of attorneys who advertise themselves as the “best injury lawyer” in the state, inflate your expectations, or evade your questions.
An initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer should leave you with an impression of confidence, clarity, and trust. If your gut feeling tells you something is off, if you are uncomfortable communicating with a particular lawyer, if you believe the lawyer doesn’t have enough experience or skills to handle your case successfully, or if the law firm simply doesn’t seem like a good fit, don’t hesitate to keep shopping around.
Sadaka Law: Your Local Personal Injury Attorneys in New Jersey
Are you wondering how to find a personal injury lawyer who meets your needs? Whether you suffered a vehicle crash, a slip-and-fall accident, or a defective product injury, Sadaka Law is here to provide the dedicated and assertive legal representation you require at this difficult time. Our experienced, caring legal team will leave no stone unturned when negotiating a settlement on your behalf or fighting for your rights in court.