Most problems in life are an annoyance, but they’re nothing that your go-to professional can’t fix. If your dishwasher breaks down, a quick call to your insurer and you’ll have an engineer out in no time. Got a headache? Simply stop by your local drugstore and grab some pain relief. A disastrous DIY haircut? Good thing you’ve got your trusted hairdresser on speed dial!
But many of us don’t have a lawyer on standby on the off chance we might end up in an accident, whether at work, on the road, or at our favorite restaurant.
So if you are in an accident that wasn’t your fault and you’re wondering if you might be entitled to claim compensation, how do you make sure you pick a lawyer who’s right for you?
A quick Google search and you’ll find long lists of attorneys claiming to be the best, but you need to dig a little deeper to ensure you choose a firm that has your best interests at heart during what is likely to be a lengthy process.
Are They Qualified to Take On Your Case?
Just as you probably wouldn’t want a family doctor to perform intricate surgery instead of a specialist, you don’t want to hire a lawyer who specializes in divorce law to take on your personal injury claim.
But that also doesn’t mean that the first personal injury firm you come across will be equipped to get you justice and compensation.
Personal injury lawyers will usually take on a range of cases, from slips and falls to wrongful death claims, but they will often have particular expertise in one or two areas.
Put it this way: If you’re injured in a truck accident, and multiple parties are at fault and blaming each other, who would you rather handle your case — the firm that has successfully settled hundreds of workers’ compensation claims or the lawyer who has secured multiple six and seven-figure payouts in truck accident compensation claims?
You also need to ensure the firm you hire is qualified to practice in your state. The terms “lawyer” and “attorney” are often used interchangeably, but there is a crucial difference. Any individual with a law degree can call themselves a lawyer and offer legal advice, but to be considered an attorney, they must pass the bar exam in each state they wish to practice.
You might receive a recommendation from your friend for a great lawyer in Boston, but if you’re in San Antonio, you’ll want to hire a personal injury lawyer in Texas. This way, you can be confident that not only will your attorney know the unique laws and requirements in your state but also that they’re qualified to represent you in court.
How Much Do They Charge?
Knowing how much a personal injury attorney charges is crucial before signing any paperwork. The last thing you want is to be hit by a massive upfront cost before your case gets off the ground, especially if you’re already facing growing medical expenses and worrying about making ends meet while you’re struck off work with debilitating injuries.
Many personal injury lawyers work on contingency, which means you won’t pay any fees until you receive a settlement. However, you shouldn’t agree to hire the first personal injury lawyer you come across who works on this basis.
A law firm’s fee is usually taken as a percentage, so ask how much they will take if your claim is successful. You should consider this alongside their experience of working on cases similar to yours, their success rate, and their expertise. For example, you may find a firm offering lower fees than anyone else, but with a little bit of online research, you might discover that they’ve only been established for a couple of years and don’t have any results or testimonials.
More experienced lawyers who have successfully negotiated large settlements can command higher fees, but you will likely receive a higher payout by working with a more expensive attorney compared to a fresh-out-of-law-school grad — even after they take their cut.
Will They Fight to Get You the Compensation You Deserve?
This might seem like a surprising question to consider — you’d expect any lawyer you hire to fight your corner and recover the maximum possible compensation you’re entitled to.
Unfortunately, some law firms favor a quick resolution and will take on your case only to pressure you to accept a settlement as early in the process as possible.
Initially, a fast claim might not seem like such a bad thing — you avoid long, drawn-out negotiations and receive a settlement so you can pay your medical bills and move forward with your recovery.
However, that often means settling for far less than your claim is worth. It could even leave you at a disadvantage over the long term — if you settle early and your injuries get worse, requiring additional treatment, you will not be able to claim further compensation.
Insurance companies will often low-ball claimants in the early stages, hoping to entice them with a check, but there’s a reason the biggest payouts take time to negotiate: evidence.
The stronger your evidence, and the more of it you have, the better your chances at securing a fair and substantial settlement. But evidence takes time to gather. Your lawyer might need to hire an expert to reconstruct your accident to support your account of what happened, speak to witnesses, get a written opinion from a medical expert who is qualified to comment on the long-term impact of your injuries, and gather other evidence, such as crash reports and surveillance footage.
If the attorney you’re thinking about hiring promises a fast claim or isn’t willing to take these steps to gather the evidence that will prove vital for your case, you should consider it a red flag and look for someone else. By doing your due diligence and asking these questions before picking a lawyer, you can ensure you make the right choice — and when you receive the payout you deserve, you’ll be glad you did.