Dealing with a personal injury can be stressful, especially when injuries are serious and when the opposing side, whether that is the culpable party or their insurance adjustors or attorneys, either deny liability or the seriousness of your injuries. In any of these situations, it might be best to hire a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. This will allow you to focus on your most important task–getting better. So how should you go about choosing a personal injury attorney?
Ask people you know about their experiences with personal injury attorneys. This can be useful as a jumping off point to form a list of potential names and as a way to vet attorneys already on your list. People’s personal experiences with an attorney will go beyond the information available on his or website, and can go a long way to helping you decide if this attorney might be a good fit for you.
You want to make sure that your attorney has handled not only personal injury cases, but this particular type of personal injury case. Since personal injury law is largely precedent bound, knowledge of this particular area of case law is important both in terms of liability and damages. In addition, if your attorney has handled many of these kinds of cases before, your attorney will be well-versed in subtle issues that may arise during the handling of your case.
Find out if this attorney has taken this type of case to trial in the past. Experience extends all the way through trial and post-trial motions and appeals. While most cases settle before trial, you want an attorney who feels comfortable with trial.
Shared Vision and Goals
You want to make sure that your attorney sees your liability and damages issues the same way that you do. This may take you several consults with prospective attorneys or just one. As a prospective plaintiff, you want to know what the case is worth–its strength and its weaknesses. Most attorneys feel quite comfortable discussing a case and giving a possible range of value. And while, these figures are not a guarantee, you want to be comfortable with how your attorney views you and your case.
In the world of law, reputation often precedes the attorney. Some attorneys are easy going and affable with their clients while being a bulldog in court. Some are just developing skills as attorneys. Know your attorney’s reputation and make sure that his or her reputation is in line with your needs and desires. If you are afraid of trial and this attorney’s reputation is that of a flamboyant trial lawyer, this may not be a comfortable match.
Most personal injury cases are handled on a contingency fee basis. That means that your attorney’s fees will be a set percentage of whatever your recovery amount is. These percentages can vary widely among attorneys. Some attorneys take 33% up to 30 days before trial, and then the percentage may jump to 40 or 45%. Some attorneys take more than that, some less. In addition, in most jurisdictions, you will have to pay all costs of your case whether there is a recovery or not. You want to make sure that you fully understand and are comfortable with the fee structure that your attorney proposes.
Develop a list of questions to ask a prospective attorney. These questions can be about things such as experience in handling your type of case, but can also encompass such things as how your attorney handles communication, fees, a prospective time line for resolution and how this attorney sees you and your case.
Weigh the answers you get carefully. If this attorney answers your questions fully and you feel comfortable with these answers, this may be a good fit for you. If the attorney is evasive or seems too rushed to answer your questions, it may not be a good fit. This is your injury, and your case. You want to hire an attorney who will work well with you.
When it comes down to it, trust may be the least quantifiable, and the most important quality in assessing a prospective attorney. Listen to your gut about an attorney. Your attorney will be acting on your behalf; making decisions on your behalf that will have a huge impact on your life for years to come. You must be able to trust that your attorney will work in your best interests. Your case is important to you and it should be important to your attorney as well.