Six Steps to Finding the Right Personal Injury Attorney
If you have suffered a severe injury due to another’s negligence, it is natural that you feel that someone else should pay for it. The problem is, you don’t know where to start to hold that person responsible. You want to hire a personal injury attorney who will know your options and handle the legal process for you. But who do you hire?
Personal injury lawyers will represent you when you are bringing a case against someone else for injuries they may have caused. Or, they may serve you to defend against someone bringing a similar case against you. Either way, choosing a personal injury lawyer you can afford and feel comfortable with is incredibly important. Lawsuits must be filed within a specified period, or else the statute of limitations will run out, and you may not be able to submit your case. So, be sure to work diligently in finding the right candidate for you.
Whether you want to hire a lawyer to handle all aspects of your claim, or you want professional guidance on settling your case, you want an experienced personal injury lawyer with whom you are comfortable.
The best way to protect your rights is to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury attorney in West Palm Beach. A seasoned attorney can review the facts of your case, answer your questions, and provide sound legal guidance. Below are seven steps to follow when finding the right personal injury attorney for you.
Step 1: Understand Your Case
To know if a lawyer is right for you, understand the basics of why you need a lawyer in the first place. Different lawyers focus on different areas of law. If injured due to another’s negligence, your claim is in the personal injury arena. You wouldn’t hire a business attorney to defend you in a criminal case. Similarly, you don’t want to simply hire any family member or friend with a law license unless that person has the necessary personal injury experience. Many people make the mistake of hiring someone that they know, or someone that a friend or family member might know, even if they aren’t the right attorney for the job.
The type of accident forms a significant variable in personal injury cases. You wouldn’t want to hire a lawyer who only handles car accident cases if you suffered an injury in a slip and fall at Walmart. Handling a car insurance claim is VERY different than going up against corporate giants such as Walmart and their insurers.
It’s also important to consider a lawyer’s experience with your type and the severity of your injury. If you suffered a severe or catastrophic injury, make sure to inquire with your lawyer if they have experience handling cases such as yours.
Even if someone practices in personal injury law, they may not have the experience and resources to handle a wide variety of personal injury claims, from a typical car accident up through a catastrophic 18-wheeler case, or a dangerous injury slip and fall claim. Some larger personal injury law firms have both the capacity and skills to handle a large variety of these types of cases. Still, you need to make sure you research such a firm before you hire them. The upside of hiring a large firm is that you have more considerable resources and firepower behind your claim. Be careful, though, and make sure that such a firm doesn’t have a reputation for treating their clients “like a number.” Sometimes your best bet is to hire a large law firm but one that offers high levels of individual service. This way, you get the best of both worlds – more significant resources behind your case, and personal attention from the team.
Finally, understand that there are different ways to seek compensation in personal injury cases. Insurance companies may offer to pay some claims, while others may require going to court. You want a lawyer with experience in handling claims with many different insurance companies, as well as litigation experience in your type of case and the injuries for which you’re filing a suit.
Step 2: What to Look for In A Lawyer
A plethora of law firms handle personal injury cases, so consider the following factors that separate the best personal injury attorneys from the rest of the pack:
- Experience: Newer lawyers do not have as much experience and may not know as much as lawyers who have practiced personal injury law for decades. A newer lawyer who works at a firm that provides the support and training of highly experienced attorneys should, however, be okay.
- Reputation: Lawyers respected in the community and who have a positive reputation will often prove better than attorneys who have garnered less-than-stellar reputations. A positive reputation will often mean a dependable lawyer who will commit to your case. In today’s “age of the internet,” there is no reason not to do your research.
- Record: Lawyers who miss deadlines, do not keep clients informed, or otherwise act unethically may find ethics complaints filed against them with their state bar or licensing body. Utilizing the state bar or licensing body’s website, look for any claims, suspensions, or disbarments on the attorneys you are investigating.
- Availability: If your injuries prevent you from coming to an attorney’s office, see if the attorney will visit you at your home or in the hospital. Look for a firm that has team members available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Results: It doesn’t matter how many cases a lawyer has handled if the lawyer doesn’t regularly achieve excellent results for clients. Pay attention to reviews from previous clients regarding past case results. While it’s not a guarantee, it may provide a good indication of what a particular lawyer might achieve for you.
Step 3: View Testimonials and Reviews
What is a better way to learn about the services of a lawyer than from the words of clients? Clients are not required to write testimonials for their attorneys, and they often choose to do so because they appreciated the help they received. Reading testimonials, or even watching testimonial videos, can also give you a better idea of the experience that you may have with that lawyer or law firm.
Do you want an attorney who is all-business? The testimonials may state they were focused and efficient.
Do you want personalized and dedicated attention? Many clients write about how an attorney made them feel throughout the process.
Taking the time to read a lawyer’s testimonials from former clients can give you a good or bad feeling about how they may be able to help you.
Likewise, make sure to read online reviews. Reading reviews of former clients may sometimes be one of the best ways to anticipate your own experience.
Don’t let a few bad reviews turn you off of a good lawyer. Look at the substance. Did the reviewer seem like someone with an ax to grind, unreasonable expectations, or even a disgruntled employee or a competitor posting a fake review? Make sure to see if the law firm responds to reviews as posted. If so, what do you think of the response? Do they seem like they care about the opinions of their clients?
Step 4: Screen Your Candidates
After talking to friends and family for referrals, conducting a Google search, and using legal web directories to find different attorneys in your area, carefully research each option and narrow your list down to a few top candidates. Contact these attorneys and discuss your situation with their team, making sure to ask any questions you have about the lawyer, their team, and your case in particular.
You should prepare the questions you want to ask ahead of time, as you don’t want to get off track and forget any of them during the conversation. You’ll want to discuss what happened to you and how the law firm is prepared to help you. Some common questions for such a meeting may include:
- Have you handled a case like mine before? If so, did you succeed?
- Do you focus on one area of law or handle many types of cases?
- How long do I have to take legal action?
- How long does a case like mine usually take to resolve? Is there a range?
- How will my case be assigned, and who will work with me?
- How quickly does your office return calls/emails to keep me updated about the status of my case?
- What is the fee arrangement for handling this type of case?
- Do you think I have a good chance at a successful case?
To provide the best possible answers to your questions, give the lawyer’s team as much information about your case as possible. It helps if you can gather information and documentation before the discussion so you can provide specifics about your accident and injuries. If possible, you should have essential documents and information available. Materials such as medical records, information about witnesses to the accident, photos taken from the scene, police reports, and other vital data can help make the conversation as productive as possible.
Taking the time to discuss your case and your concerns with a law firm can give you a feeling of whether or not they will make a good fit with you. During the conversation, if the representative of the law firm talks fast, skips over important issues, or tries to rush you off the phone, that may signal what you can expect throughout your case. An attorney who takes the time to carefully explain your rights and options and shows empathy and patience will likely provide you responsive, personalized representation.
Selecting the right lawyer is a personal choice—and also a critical choice. Make sure that your initial consultations are entirely free and that you’re under no obligation to hire the lawyer or firm. Make sure the legal team has taken the time to answer your questions and evaluate your potential claim. Don’t let anyone waste your time by simply telling you what you want to hear—look for an honest assessment of your case.
Step 5: Understand the Costs Involved
One of the biggest hesitations injured accident victims may have about hiring a lawyer is the potential cost. After all, you’ve heard about law firms charging hundreds of dollars per hour or even $100 for a short phone call! You don’t want to worry about money every time you pick up the phone with a question for your attorney. Instead, you need to find a lawyer who meets your needs with a fee structure for which you are comfortable.
Some lawyers fee arrangements that can be confusing, and you should always feel free to keep asking questions until you fully understand what the lawyer expects of you financially. You need a lawyer whose fee arrangement fits in with your financial situation in the wake of an injury—not to make things more stressful!
If you are looking for the most cost-effective way to hire an attorney, seek out a firm that takes cases on a contingency fee basis. This type of agreement means you do not pay anything unless the firm succeeds in getting compensation for you. Under a contingency fee agreement, all of the work the attorney does to prepare and process your insurance claim is free. Pursuing a lawsuit is free. You will pay absolutely nothing unless you have a successful resolution.
When you do receive compensation, part of your payment will cover your attorney’s fees and costs. Your written contingency fee agreement should concisely outline how much of your payment will go to your lawyer. And, you should ensure you are comfortable with that amount. At no time should you need to pay anything out of pocket or pay upfront.
Contingency fee arrangements benefit everyone in the situation. You don’t have to worry about affording an attorney. You can pursue an injury claim, even if you don’t have the money to put toward it. Also, your attorney only gets paid if you do, so your interests align with your attorney’s, which marks a sign of your attorney’s confidence in your case. Attorneys are unlikely to take bad situations on contingency because there’s nothing in it for them.
Step 6: Hire the Best Attorney for You
Imagine that you enjoy your conversation with the first law firm and feel comfortable with their credentials, experience, and the overall demeanor of their staff. If you are satisfied that they are the right match for you, and they have answered all your questions and addressed all your concerns, move forward with confidence, and hire them. On the other hand, you may have lingering questions or concerns. If you do not move forward initially, keep notes of any questions or concerns that arise so you can have a productive discussion when you follow up with them.
Even if you don’t have a perfect experience on the very first conversation, remember that discussions can get off track, and legal professionals – just like anyone else – may not give you every detail or answer every question. That doesn’t mean that they don’t care or aren’t knowledgeable; it may have been merely an oversight. Ultimately, if you feel a secure connection with a law firm, trust your research and your instincts, and move forward with representation.
By following the above steps, you should narrow down your options to the personal injury lawyer with whom you believe is the best choice for you and your case. When you select a law firm that agrees to take your case, you will sign a contract. The contract should set out the terms of representation as well as the fee structure that you initially discussed. Carefully read this agreement and feel free to ask any questions about the terms of the contract as any lawyer will tell you. Never sign a contract that you don’t feel comfortable with or fully understand. Once you execute the agreement, your new personal injury lawyer and their team can begin working on getting you the compensation you deserve.
Schedule a Free Case Review with an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer in West Palm Beach
To discuss your case with a personal injury attorney in West Palm Beach, contact Donaldson & Weston. Our lawyers offer free consultations and accept car accident claims on a contingency fee basis. Call our office at 561-299-3999 or send us a message on our Contact Page to set up a case evaluation.