As parents, we’re all too familiar with the fact that an accident can happen anytime. We might pick our children up from daycare and find that they’ve tripped and bumped their arm. Or we might be on our way back from work and end up in a car accident or slip on a wet floor while taking our loved ones out for a meal. While the former is nothing that a cuddle can’t solve, the latter can result in severe injuries that leave you out of work and needing medical care.
If you’re in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you might be entitled to claim compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
But unlike with your hairdresser, dog groomer, and babysitter, it’s unlikely that you have the phone number of a local lawyer you trust “just in case” the worst happens.
So how can you ensure you hire the right personal injury lawyer to represent you and get you the compensation you deserve?
Discover the top steps you should take to find a personal injury lawyer you can trust.
Are They Qualified to Handle Your Specific Type of Claim?
Just as you (hopefully!) wouldn’t visit a dog groomer if you wanted a haircut, you wouldn’t want to hire a lawyer who practices divorce law to represent you after a car accident.
When looking at attorneys, it’s vital to research the area of law they specialize in and make sure they have experience winning cases with facts similar to yours.
Many personal injury lawyers focus on specific types of claims, such as automotive claims for truck, car, and motorcycle accidents or work injuries.
Suppose you’re in an accident involving a truck (which can be especially complex). Who would you rather advocate for you — a lawyer who has successfully helped countless clients negotiate six and seven-figure truck accident settlements, or an attorney who has never worked on a truck accident case before?
Where Are They Located?
It sounds like common sense, but when hiring a lawyer, you want someone local. This isn’t just good from a practical standpoint — they’re close by if you need to pop in for a meeting or if they need to drive to the accident scene to conduct an investigation. It’s also vital from a legal standpoint.
Lawyers can only practice in states they’re qualified to. You might find a great personal injury lawyer in New York, but that’s no good if you’re in Georgia. As the law differs in each state, with each having its own statute of limitations and unique rules and exceptions, it’s crucial to hire a lawyer who knows how to navigate the laws where you are.
Combine this with your research into the types of claims an attorney is qualified to handle to find a lawyer equipped to take on your case. For example, if you’re in a truck accident in Texas, you might want to start narrowing your search by looking for a truck accident lawyer in San Antonio. Likewise, if you slip at work in Massachusetts, look for a slip and fall accident lawyer in Boston, Worcester, or wherever your accident happened.
What Fees Do They Charge?
One of the biggest concerns with hiring a lawyer is the cost, especially if you have a family you need to take care of and money’s already tight because you’ve still not recovered enough to return to work.
Fortunately, many lawyers work on a contingency fee arrangement, which means you won’t pay any upfront costs. An attorney will only offer to take on your case if success is likely — which itself is an opportunity to see if your claim is viable. If you hire them and they successfully negotiate a settlement, your legal fees will be taken straight out of your settlement, often as a percentage. You won’t pay a cent if they don’t win your claim.
While you can DIY your claim to keep 100% of your settlement, going it alone has its disadvantages, including having to negotiate with stubborn and savvy insurance companies by yourself instead of instructing an experienced lawyer to do it on your behalf. A lawyer can also hire experts to testify to your damages (the financial losses you’ve suffered) and reconstruct the accident to help prove who’s responsible and help you access medical care and postpone payment until after you receive a settlement.
Before hiring a personal injury lawyer, make sure you understand their fee arrangement — the last thing you want is to be stung by unexpected costs. It’s also worth inquiring about what will happen if you choose to take your case to court if the settlement you’re offered is too low. Sometimes, a lawyer may refer your case to another firm, and they might have a different pricing model. Other times, a lawyer will agree to take your claim to court but charge a higher contingency fee in the event of success.
Do They Promise a Speedy Resolution?
When looking for the right personal injury lawyer, you’ll want to ask how long your claim might take. You might think that a speedy resolution is a good thing, and on the face of it, it is. A quick result means you can get your compensation sooner and begin to move forward, but that doesn’t mean you should.
Ultimately, the law is complicated, and personal injury claims are often time-consuming. Successful claims don’t happen overnight, and it takes time for lawyers to investigate, build a strong case, and negotiate with the responsible party. If a lawyer guarantees you a quick outcome to persuade you to hire them, it might be a sign that they intend to encourage you to settle early, even if you could be entitled to much more compensation.
The aftermath of an accident can be stressful and place you in a vulnerable position, so it’s only natural that fear, uncertainty, and confusion can set in when the time comes to hire a lawyer. Remember that a lawyer is there to help and should reassure you that they’re on your side and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. If you consider these questions when making a decision, you’ll be one step closer to finding the right lawyer for you and getting a fair outcome.