Reach out for ReferralsBefore spending too much time on research, reach out to your contacts for a referral. Your family and close friends might have had to hire a personal injury lawyer in recent years, and they will most likely speak openly about their attorney. You can also call on professionals with whom you've already cultivated a relationship. Accountants, law enforcement, and attorneys in different practice areas might offer a referral to a reputable personal injury attorney. Take referrals from other lawyers seriously; as a group, attorneys don't like risking their reputations by referring someone to a bad lawyer. Referrals from other lawyers indicate a strong reputation in the legal community. A personal referral isn't the only way to find the best St. Petersburg attorney, but it's certainly a reliable one. Once you get a name or two, you should still do some research to make sure the recommended lawyer is the right fit for you.
Read Online Client ReviewsLaw firm websites often have a client testimonial page. While these selected reviews offer good information, they are always positive and often do not specify which attorney represented them. For the most useful client reviews, you need to find objective sources. One trusted site, avvo.com, maintains a directory of most of the lawyers in the United States, including those in Florida. On avvo.com, you can search for attorneys by their name, state, city, legal topic, and practice areas. The site assigns a score between 1 and 10 to indicate a lawyer's overall level of professional excellence. Clients can give attorneys a star rating between one and five stars. Clients can also leave comments about their experiences with a particular lawyer they hired. Avvo.com also includes information on attorneys' profiles such as years of experience, status with the state bar, and any disciplinary actions.
Research Peer ReviewsSome clients might be too busy to do extensive research to find the best lawyer to hire for a personal injury lawsuit. If you find yourself in that situation, you should rely on peer reviews to help you make your choice. Peer reviews in any industry sometimes get criticized as a form of self-glorification. In the legal profession, a strong reputation is key to a successful practice, so attorneys tend to only recommend and review peers who they know are excellent lawyers. On some websites, the peer review process is confidential which allows attorneys to offer completely honest comments and ratings without the fear of offending someone. You can find peer endorsements on avvo.com's attorney profiles, but other trusted sources have been offering peer reviews since before the turn of the century. The following three legal websites provide peer review information in some form to give you an idea of a lawyer's reputation within the legal community:
- Martindale-Hubbell In addition to legal information, Martindale-Hubbell maintains an online registry including more than one million attorneys practicing law in the United States. Their site offers a special AV designation for attorneys who have been by their peers as demonstrating the highest level of professional excellence.
- The Best Lawyers in America is published each year with the best attorneys in the United States in 57 practice areas. Those who make the list have been nominated by peers. Attorneys who have been recognized on the list confidentially vote on nominees. Once a lawyer has been nominated and included in Best Lawyers, they receive the privilege of an automatic nomination for the following year.
- Super Lawyers is another directory of practicing lawyers, but it only includes an elite selection of the top 5 percent from each state. Attorneys are chosen as Super Lawyers based on their peer evaluations. Super Lawyers also uses independent research to further select and highlight Super Lawyers in different practice areas.
Research Honors and AwardsTo round out your research on finding the best attorney in St. Petersburg, FL, consider learning about any honors or awards they have received. Best Lawyers recognizes outstanding firms and attorneys with the Lawyer of the Year and Law Firm of the Year Awards. Super Lawyers only include the top lawyers in their fields with a strict peer review process. However, some other associations and organizations present awards to exceptional lawyers who demonstrate excellence in their professions. For example, prestigious national awards like the National Law Journal's Lawyer of the Year Award recognize one attorney who has gone above and beyond in their discipline. Other coveted awards come from the American Bar Association (ABA), which presents a wide variety of awards to lawyers with different levels of experience across all legal practice areas. Florida associations and organizations also recognize personal injury attorneys in St. Petersburg and throughout the state. The Florida Bar Association presents four prestigious awards for service and excellence each year: Medal of Honor, the Goldstein Award, the Curran Award, and the Doyal Award. If the personal injury attorney you are considering has been recognized with one or more of these awards or honors, they are likely one of the best attorneys in St. Petersburg.
Schedule an Initial ConsultationMost personal injury law firms offer free consultations to prospective clients to discuss the details of their cases and determine their eligibility for compensation. Once you have narrowed your list to a few attorneys, schedule a consultation to meet with them. This first meeting is as much an opportunity for you to ask questions and interview your potential lawyer as it is for the lawyer to learn about your case and decide if they want to represent you. If you have spent some time researching before your consultation, you should have some strong background information about the firm and the attorney. Use this meeting to inquire about things you couldn't find on the internet such as the attorney's approach to client service, their experience, and specifics related to your case. Below are some example questions you can use to evaluate a lawyer during your initial consultation:
- Who will be working on my case? Will you be handling things personally or passing me off to a junior associate?
- Are you available via phone or email to answer questions and respond to concerns? Will you respond to me promptly?
- How often should I expect updates on my case?
- Can you provide me with examples of past cases like mine?
- Can you share examples of past settlements and verdicts you secured for clients?
- How many cases are you currently working on and how many do you settle or litigate each year?
- How many clients have you represented during your career?
- What strategies do you plan to pursue with my case?
- What challenges or problems do you see with my case?
Ask About Courtroom ExperienceMost personal injury lawsuits end in a settlement agreement before going to trial, but sometimes litigation is necessary. The liable party might be unwilling to make a fair settlement offer, or they might dispute the claim, or multiple parties have been named in the lawsuit making the lawsuit a bit messy. Even if your case gets settled without going to trial, you still need an attorney who can fight and advocate for you in the courtroom. Lawyers who have reputations for taking cases to trial are taken more seriously by insurance companies. Some personal injury attorneys don't have the experience or the skills to successfully secure a verdict for their clients. Ask your potential lawyer about their courtroom record and how often they have gone to trial. Ask about successes, but you should also ask about failures—why couldn't they secure a verdict and what did they learn from the case? Your ultimate goal is to see that your potential lawyer has honed his litigation skills and will aggressively pursue the best outcome for your case, even if it means going to trial. Lawyers with litigation experience also have stronger professional networks which include judges, defense attorneys, and expert witnesses. These relationships might benefit you in settlement negotiations or during a trial.
Ask About Available ResourcesIn some accident injury cases, how and why the accident happened and who is responsible for your injuries are abundantly clear. This will make it difficult for the defense to deny liability. Even in these situations, the defense will try to shift the blame to avoid some liability and reduce payments. Other cases pose significant challenges because of multiple parties, lack of evidence, difficult witnesses, and other struggles. Determining liability, constructing a strong case, and placing an accurate economic value on a claim requires a thorough investigation beyond the police's version of the story. The investigation includes getting police reports, medical records, and other documents. With more challenging cases, the investigation might include consulting with experts, reconstructing the accident, tracking down witnesses, and taking witness statements. No matter what level of investigation your case requires, these services are not free. The best personal injury lawyers have ample financial resources to conduct a thorough investigation. Some law firms have investigators and specialists on their payroll or use third parties for these services. Small, start-ups or boutique firms might not have the financial capability to take on a massive investigation. Law firms without the resources to handle a complex case might request that you pay out-of-pocket for these expenses. Experienced lawyers who have been building their businesses for years are more likely to have the resources to carry out the best investigation and get the best possible outcome.
Ask About Attorney FeesThe industry standard among personal injury law firms is to handle cases on a contingency fee basis. This benefits accident victims who have mounting medical bills and expenses related to their injuries. When an attorney takes a case on contingency, clients typically do not pay attorney fees upfront or out-of-pocket. Your lawyer will keep track of the work they do for you and the hours they spend on your case but usually deduct a percentage from any compensation you receive to collect attorney fees. The best St. Petersburg attorneys will discuss their fee structure candidly during a free consultation. An attorney who hesitates to discuss fees with you would be considered a red flag. This might suggest that you have made a poor choice and should revisit other options for a personal injury attorney in St. Petersburg. When a person has sustained a severe injury because of another person's carelessness, the aftermath may last a lifetime. In addition to physical pain, possible disability, and mounting medical costs, victims might miss days, weeks, or even months of work. Lost income adds to the financial stress of coping with a serious injury. Hiring the best St. Petersburg lawyer gives victims the best chance to prevail in a personal injury lawsuit, go on with life, and get back on solid financial ground. The compassionate and skilled legal team at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA has represented numerous clients recovering millions of dollars in damages. We understand your struggles and we are here to help. Our attorneys have exceptional avvo.com ratings, have been recognized as Super Lawyers, and have been designated as Florida's Legal Elite by Florida Trend. If you live in the St. Petersburg area, contact us at (833) 552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) or online. In addition to St. Petersburg, we also serve clients from our Clearwater, Sarasota, and New Port Richey offices. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 1663 1st Ave S. St. Petersburg, FL, 33712 (727) 472-3909