If someone asked you before your accident how to find a personal injury attorney, would you have known the answer? Now that you’re injured and you need an attorney, do you know how to find one? If your answer to either of these questions is no, read on for information about how to find an attorney to help you understand your legal options.
What Type of Attorney Are You Looking For?
When it comes to legal representation, not just any attorney will do. Attorneys specialize in specific areas of law. Just as a heart surgeon would likely not agree to perform brain surgery on you, a criminal defense attorney or a contract lawyer probably wouldn’t be your best source of guidance in your personal injury case. What you need is a personal injury attorney who has experience representing clients who were injured in accidents similar to yours. The aspect of law that your attorney practices isn’t the only thing you should consider, however. As you conduct research into personal injury attorneys, here are some other questions you will want to find answers for:
- Is the attorney licensed to practice law in your state? Your attorney must be licensed in your state to represent you, and should be well-versed in your state’s personal injury laws and how those laws may impact your case.
- Is the attorney’s office close enough to you for you to conveniently meet with them when you need to? While many attorneys will handle a good deal of correspondence over the telephone or through email, there will be times when you will need to meet face-to-face or when your attorney may need you to come to court.
- Does this attorney have trial experience? The majority of personal injury cases are resolved before they ever reach the courtroom, but, just in case, you want an attorney who is both prepared for and experienced in litigation.
- How much experience does the attorney have with negotiation? Because most personal injury cases are settled out of court, you want to know that your attorney has the skills needed to broker a fair settlement in a negotiation.
- Does this attorney have extensive experience with injury cases and a working knowledge of the medical field? These are the skills that are necessary in order for an attorney to successfully work on a personal injury case.
- Does this attorney have an in-depth knowledge of tort law, specifically in regard to negligence? If your case does end up in court, the outcome will depend on the attorney’s ability to prove the defendant’s negligence.
Looking for an Attorney on the Internet
While you want to be sure you find an attorney who practices law in your state and has an office nearby, much of your research into finding that attorney can be done online. Here are some helpful tips to get you started:
- A simple search for personal injury attorneys in your area typically will produce a number of attorney websites, as well as review sites where you can read about how others who have used this attorney before have rated their experience.
- When you visit an attorney’s website, you may find additional client reviews as well as examples of settlements and awards that the attorney’s firm has helped its clients receive. It is important to remember when you are looking at examples of client settlements and awards that each case has its own special circumstances. The examples won’t tell you how much compensation you might receive in your case, but it will give you an idea about the attorney’s past success in settlements and litigation.
- Be sure to check your state’s bar website for any disciplinary actions against that particular attorney. An attorney who has faced disciplinary actions by the state is not necessarily the one you want to hire. Information about disciplinary actions against attorneys licensed to practice in Florida can be found here.
About Free Consultations
An initial consultation, also known as a case review, is a service that most personal injury attorneys offer to prospective clients. It is a time for you to discuss the details of your case and receive guidance about your legal options. It is also a time for you to ask questions, for the attorney to determine if they can be of service to you, and for you to decide if you wish to retain the services of this attorney. Many lawyers provide these initial consultations for free, but when you’re setting up a consultation appointment you should ask if there is a fee. Time is limited during an initial consultation, so it is important for you to be prepared. You should gather any documents or other information pertaining to your case to show the attorney. These should include any records of expenses you’ve incurred due to your injury, such as:
- All medical bills you’ve received and documentation from every provider you saw, including paramedics, the emergency room, the hospital, surgical centers, diagnostic centers, primary care provider, specialists, physical therapists, or psychologists.
- Any documentation that evaluates your prognosis and the need for future medical treatment.
- Expenses for rehabilitation or adaptive or accessibility items for yourself or your home, like a wheelchair or wheelchair ramps.
- An accounting of any time you’ve missed at work due to your injury.
- Pay stubs showing your earnings before the accident and proof of any benefits that you used —such as vacation or sick time—to deal with your injury.
- A journal of the pain you’re enduring and how your injuries have impacted your quality of life.
- Any repair bills you’ve received for your car or other property that was damaged in the accident.
In addition to the accounting of expenses related to your case, you should also provide the attorney with any other documentation about the details of your case. Some items that fall into this category include:
- The police report. A police report isn’t absolute proof of liability and a police report often is not admissible in court because it is “hearsay” based on other people’s descriptions of an accident that the officer likely did not see. However, the report does provide important information like the date, time of day, and exact location of the accident; the name and contact information of the responding officer; a diagram and description of the incident based on the officer’s interviews with witnesses; the officer’s primary assessment of fault and the citations they issued to any of the parties involved; the names of anyone who witnessed the accident; and descriptions of the vehicles and contact information for anyone involved in the incident.
- Any photos of the accident scene that you took, or someone else took for you. Photos are powerful pieces of evidence. Photos you may want to include, if possible, are those that show what the weather or traffic was like at the accident scene and images of any visible injuries you sustained in the accident.
In addition to documentation related to the accident, your injuries, and your expenses, you will also want to bring a list of questions to ask your attorney during your consultation. Some common questions (and why you should ask them) include:
- How much time do I have to file a lawsuit? All states have a statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, which provides a deadline by which you need to file your claim in court. For example, in Florida, the statute of limitations in personal injury lawsuits is generally four years. If you miss the deadline, it’s difficult or impossible to obtain compensation for your injuries.
- What areas of personal injury law do you specialize in? There are some attorneys who prefer to work in a particular area of personal injury law, and not in others. You want to find an attorney who not only specializes in personal injury cases, but also has experience in cases like yours. For example, if your accident was a medical error made by a doctor, you want an attorney who regularly takes medical malpractice cases.
- How many people have you represented who had an accident like mine? Once again, this goes to finding an attorney with specific experience in cases like yours.
- How many cases do you handle at a time? While it is exciting to find an attorney that is in high demand, if your attorney is juggling many cases at once, you may find it difficult to get the personal attention you desire and you may find yourself waiting in line for them to make progress on your case.
- Will you be the only attorney working on my case? Who else will be working with you? Often at personal injury firms, a senior attorney will provide the initial consultation but then pass the case on to attorneys with less experience and only step back in if the case makes it to court. It is good to have an attorney who you have met in person and who is personally familiar with your case working with you for the entire way through the legal process.
- How often will you communicate with me about my case? How will this communication take place—by phone, email, text, or in-person meetings? Who is my point of contact? Nothing is more frustrating than having a question and being shuffled around to several people before someone can provide you with an answer. It is important for you to know who you can contact in order to get the information you need, and to know how and how often you will get updates.
- What is your fee structure and what are my payment options? It is important to avoid any surprises when it comes to lawyer fees and to know ahead of time how you will be billed for your attorney’s time.
- How much trial experience do you have? Do you expect my case to go to trial? Once again, you want an attorney who is able to handle your entire case, even if it involves time in the courtroom. Beware of an attorney who insists that your case will settle before a settlement actually takes place.
- How long do cases like mine generally take to resolve? While your attorney doesn’t have a crystal ball and it’s impossible to know definitively how any case is going to turn out, your attorney should be able to give you an idea of how long resolution may take based on their experience with similar cases.
- Does your firm work with professionals who can help prove my case, like experts in the medical field or accident reconstruction? Personal injury cases can be complex. Your attorney should have a network of experts they can work with to prove your damages in court.
- What is my case worth? One of the many services your attorney should provide is a valuation of your case. This is the monetary amount that they will demand from the at-fault party and/or their insurance company. The value your attorney places on your case should take into account the severity of your injuries, current and future medical expenses, and impacts to your quality of life.
- How confident are you in your ability to win my case? You want an attorney who avoids making absolute guarantees but who is confident in their skills and ability to negotiate a settlement or win your case in court.
- What are the weaknesses in my case? While it is never fun to hear bad news, when it comes to your case, you should know about any potential pitfalls. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to deal with those pitfalls, and should be comfortable discussing them with you.
- Can you provide me with references? A business owner isn’t at all uncomfortable with the notion of asking prospective employees to furnish references who can speak about their ability to do the job. When you’re hiring an attorney to represent your case, you should also feel comfortable about asking for references.
What Comes Next?
Once you’ve attended initial consultations with the attorneys you’re interested in and find a personal injury lawyer who agrees to take your case and that you wish to work with, the attorney will likely give you documents to sign. Be sure you understand these documents completely before you sign them. After that, you should ask your attorney about the next steps in your legal process. Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 727-451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/florida-personal-injury-lawyer/