In the blink of an eye, your life changed. Suddenly, you must live with serious injuries as a result of someone else’s negligence—and that means you need a personal injury lawyer to help you file your claim and fight for the compensation you deserve. Many people, however, have no idea how to start looking for a personal injury attorney. How do you find a personal injury lawyer to help you with the legal process? Where do you even start looking?
Step One: Make a List of What You Need
Before you start looking for a personal injury attorney, make sure you know exactly what you need from your attorney. Consider these key elements:
- An attorney with extensive experience in the industry. Consider how long an attorney has been practicing or how many years of combined experience the partners in the practice have. An experienced attorney has more contacts, both within the legal industry and within other industries that can help you with your recovery. Not only that, the more experience an attorney has, the greater the understanding they have of the finer points of the law.
- An attorney who has dealt with injuries like yours in the past. Ideally, you would like to work with an attorney who has seen circumstances and cases like yours before. You want an attorney who specializes in personal injury law, not a family lawyer or criminal attorney. Ideally, you want an attorney who has seen circumstances very similar to yours in the past: if you suffered injuries in a car accident, you may have different needs and face different challenges than someone who was injured in a slip and fall accident or who suffered abuse in a nursing home.
- An attorney who charges reasonable fees. With a little research, you can learn more about what an attorney requires in terms of payment. Your financial situation may vary. After a serious injury, however, many people find themselves struggling to pay their bills or to keep up with their finances. You may want an attorney who will provide a free initial consultation or one who will take out their fees on a contingent fee basis, charging you when the insurance company settles your claim instead of asking for payment up front.
- An attorney in your geographic area. You do not want to have to travel extensive distances to meet with an attorney, especially if you still suffer from ongoing pain after your injuries. Look for an attorney within your general geographic area. In some cases, you may need an attorney who can travel to talk with you in a location convenient for you, whether that means meeting you in a hospital room or in the comfort of your home.
- An attorney who provides clear advice and compassionate service. You do not just want an attorney who will deal with the legal challenges for you. You want an attorney who will provide clear, compassionate advice that will help you move through the claims process and protect yourself legally and financially. You may, for example, need advice about how to handle interactions with the insurance company or what to expect if your claim goes to court. A compassionate lawyer will walk you through the claims process and ensure that they answer your questions.
Step Two: Start Looking
Where do you turn for recommendations for a lawyer? You have several options.
- Do a basic Google search. Include your geographic location as well as your type of injury. Often, a simple search will turn up many lawyers in your area with expertise in exactly the area you need them to have it most. This search can provide you with a wide range of potential lawyers that you may struggle to narrow down, but it provides a starting point.
- Ask friends and family for recommendations. Do you have friends or family members who have dealt with personal injury cases in the past? In this arena, you would rather not know people who can give you great recommendations—but those recommendations can give you a good idea of what to expect from potential lawyers. If you can get a personal recommendation from someone you know, you may have a better understanding of exactly what a lawyer offers, what it might cost, and what you can expect when you work with that firm.
- Search a legal database. Avvo, for example, provides a large database of lawyers that you can search by location. It will highlight lawyers that practice in your geographic area, then give a star rating based on what they offer, their case results, and their client reviews or testimonials. Justia breaks attorneys down based on the type of law they practice, then offers ratings and reviews to help you decide on the best attorney for you.
- Talk to your existing attorney. You may already have an attorney who handles other issues for you and your family: the family lawyer who handled your divorce or drew up your will or the criminal attorney who helped you deal with a traffic ticket, for example. Those lawyers probably focus on a specific type of law and, therefore, may lack the experience they need to deal with a personal injury case. At the same time, however, they probably have contacts with other lawyers in your area and can make a recommendation about a personal injury attorney who will offer the services and support you need.
Step Three: Do Your Research
Once you have found a few lawyers to choose from, take the time to do some basic research about those lawyers. You do not just want to hire the first lawyer you find; instead, take the time to find a lawyer who will meet your specific needs. Check some of these areas:
Look at client testimonials on the lawyer’s website. Typically, these reviews will give a positive view of the attorney, since the attorney can choose which reviews he desires on the site. They can, however, give you an idea of what the attorney prioritizes. Do those reviews focus on compassionate service, or do they note that the attorney offers dedication and determination? Do those testimonials match up with what you want from your attorney?
Check the attorney out on Avvo or Justia. If an attorney does not have a listing in large, popular legal directories, consider why. Is the attorney too new? Does he lack the experience necessary to fight for your case? Look at the lawyer’s profile on those websites and carefully consider what expertise he brings to the table.
Look for online reviews of the attorney. Once you move off of the attorney’s website and away from legal databases, you will have the opportunity to see what real clients have to say about the attorney in question. Take a look at the attorney’s Facebook page or other social media profiles, and visit their Google business profile to better understand what reviews other clients have written about them. Often, this will allow you to learn a great deal about the attorney’s services. Keep some of these things in mind as you check out reviews:
- Anyone can write a review online. While an attorney can petition Facebook or Google to have those reviews removed, if they cannot prove that the individual did not use their services, the review may stand. Make sure to actually read reviews and look for the information the review provides, not just look at star ratings.
- Look at overall ratings and numbers, then check both the highest and the lowest reviews. What do those high reviews have in common? When someone issues a low star rating, what do they have to say about the attorney?
- Take a look at those reviews through the lens of what you want from your attorney. If you want someone who gets results, you might not care about compassionate service. If, on the other hand, caring and compassion rate high on your list of things you want from your attorney, make sure you look for that information in your review.
- Consider making note of reviews you do not understand or that do not make sense to you. If an attorney otherwise meets your needs, consider asking about those odd reviews when you contact the firm.
Step Four: Talk to an Attorney
Once you have narrowed down the list of attorneys that meet your needs, you may want to contact some of the lawyers directly. Before you make that first contact, however, prepare. Those contacts can offer the most important details that will ultimately help you select the right attorney for you.
Prepare a list of questions. What do you need to know from the attorney you choose? Questions may include:
- What do your results look like?
- Do you have significant past cases you would like to mention?
- What services do you provide?
- What do your fees look like?
- Have you handled injury cases like mine in the past? This is particularly important if the lawyer’s website lists a specific type of personal injury law, but has no evidence of past cases in that area.
- Do you typically take cases to court, or do you usually have satisfactory resolutions out of court?
Ask to speak to past clients. Often, speaking to past clients can give you a better idea of exactly what to expect from the attorney. Most skilled attorneys have a list of past clients who indicated a willingness to speak with future clients and offer them information about their services. You may want to prepare a list of questions for those clients, like:
- What did you like about working with the attorney?
- What did you dislike about working with the attorney?
- Did you discover anything unexpected as you were working with the attorney?
- What should I expect from this process?
- Were there any unexpected fees in your legal process?
Speaking with past clients can also help offer you reassurance about the claims process. Past clients have often gone through the same struggles you face right now, from the legal fight to the injury recovery process, and they can often offer advice and reassurance that will make it easier for you to handle the battles to come.
Step Five: Make Your Choice
Once you have narrowed down a list of potential personal injury attorneys and spoken with the ones at the top of your list personally, you can make a decision about the right personal injury attorney to handle your claim. Many people lean heavily toward the least expensive attorney on their list. This strategy, however, will not always provide the high-quality attorney you need for your claim. You need an experienced attorney who will fight on your behalf and who understands all the details of the law, not just an attorney who offers inexpensive representation. Remember, an experienced attorney can provide a number of benefits to your case, including, in many cases, increasing the compensation offered by the insurance company. Whether you need to go to court to fight for your claim or you can settle out of court, you want a lawyer on your side who will go the distance with you.
Ideally, you want to make your decision about a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your injury. Not only does it become more difficult to find evidence related to your injury the longer you wait, but the sooner you select an attorney, the sooner you can start processing your claim. As a result, you can often get the funds you need in your hands faster after an accident.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765