Having sustained an injury because of another party’s negligence, you want to find the best St. Petersburg personal injury attorney to help you recover the compensation you deserve. Choosing the right attorney will be one of the most crucial decisions you make. It can have a significant effect on the chances of your personal injury case ending in a favorable outcome.
It’s easy to find the names of a whole lot of St. Petersburg-area attorneys online. But, which of those is the right attorney for your case? Below you will find tips to help narrow your search to the best personal injury lawyers, as well as information on the types of questions you should ask of a potential attorney when you meet for an initial consultation.
Reach out for Referrals
Before 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 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 own reputations by referring someone to a poor 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. Even so, 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 Reviews
Law firm websites often have a client testimonial page. While these offer good information, they only offer positive information about the firm 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 lawyers’s overall level of professional excellence; client reviews include ratings between one and five stars. Clients who leave reviews on avvo.com can also leave comments about their experience. Additional information available on each profile includes years of experience, status with the state licensing authority, and if and when an attorney was sanctioned or disciplined.
Research Peer Reviews
Some clients might be too busy to do extensive research to find the best lawyer to hire for a personal injury suit. 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 navel gazing and self recognition. 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. In some cases, the peer review process is confidential, allowing peers to offer completely honest comments and ratings without fear of offending someone or associating their name with a bad egg.
You can find peer endorsements on avvo.com’s attorney profiles, but you other trusted sources have been offering peer review information 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 owns avvo.com in addition to other legal information websites. They maintain an online registry including more than one million attorneys who practice in the United States. The site offers a special AV designation for attorneys whose peers have rated them 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 each award cycles. 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, peer recommendations for the same practice area, and independent research.
Research Honors and Awards
Get a complete picture of the lawyer(s) who you are considering by 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 includes the cream of the crop in their strict peer review process, and other associations and organizations present awards to shine a spotlight on exception lawyers who demonstrate excellence in their profession. Prestigious national awards include the National Law Journal’s Lawyer of the Year Award, recognizing 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 St. Petersburg attorneys.
Schedule an Initial Consultation
Most personal injury law firms offer free consultations to prospective clients to discuss the details of their case and determine their eligibility for compensation. Once you have narrowed your list, schedule a consultation with the attorney of your choice. 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 this attorney prior to meeting, 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 individual 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 in a timely manner?
- 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 about 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 Experience
Most 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, they might dispute the claim, or multiple parties have been named, making the lawsuit a bit messy. Although it’s unlikely your case will go to trial, you need an attorney who can fight and advocate for you in the courtroom if it does. Some personal injury attorneys don’t have the experience or the skills to successfully secure a verdict for their client. 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 trial.
Ask About Available Resources
Some accident injury cases are clear, making it difficult for the defense to deny liability or negligence. Even in these situations, the defense will try to shift blame to avoid some liability and reduce payments. Other cases pose significant challenges because of multiple parties, shoddy 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 version of the story. Investigation includes menial tasks like getting police reports, medical records and other documents, but with more challenging cases, investigation might include interviewing experts, securing expert analysis, 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 specialist on their payrolls and other firms use a third party for these services. Small start-up or boutique firms might not have the financial capability to take on a massive investigation or they might request that you pay out-of-pocket. Experienced lawyers who have been building their business for years are more likely to have the resources to carry out the best investigation.
Ask About Attorney Fees
The industry standard among personal injury law firms is to handle cases on a contingent fee basis. This benefits accident victims who have mounting medical bills and expenses related to their injury. When an attorney takes a case on contingency, clients typically do not pay attorney fees up front 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. If an attorney hesitates to discuss fees with you, tread carefully as you proceed. This might suggest that you have made a poor choice and should revisit other options for St. Petersburg personal injury attorneys.
When a person has sustained a severe injury because of another party’s carelessness, the aftermath may last a lifetime. In addition to physical pain, possible disability, and amassing medical costs, victims might miss days, weeks, or even months of work. Lost wages add 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 Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA have represented numerous clients recovering millions of dollars in damages; we understand your struggles and 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.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL, 33712