How to Hire the Right Personal Injury Lawyer

June 19, 2022 by Lewis
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Hiring a personal injury lawyer is one of those things you hope you never have to do, but when you’re in an accident that wasn’t your fault, a personal injury lawyer can be your best ally. However, it’s unlikely you have a trusted attorney on standby — just in case you need them — so how can you ensure the law firm you choose to represent you is one you can trust to look after your best interests?

Why It’s Important to Hire the Right Lawyer

You may have heard horror stories about people not doing due diligence when hiring a lawyer — and paying the price as a result. In criminal law, hiring the best lawyer is crucial, and it can make the difference between walking out of the courthouse or getting a lengthy jail sentence. Where personal injury claims are concerned, the stakes aren’t so high, but choosing the wrong lawyer still has a huge impact.

The biggest benefit of hiring the right lawyer is getting the compensation you deserve. Many lawyers fight for their clients and tirelessly negotiate to ensure the settlement offer is fair. Unfortunately, others are only interested in adding another “win” to their tally and will encourage you to settle quickly, even if you could be entitled to much more.

This can cause massive problems down the line. For example, if your injury leaves you needing treatment or rehabilitation for the rest of your life, your personal injury settlement should cover those costs. If your lawyer negotiates a subpar offer that won’t cover those expenses and you accept it, you can’t rewind the clock and push for additional compensation.

This makes picking the right lawyer crucial, but what should you look for? When speaking to a prospective personal injury lawyer, ask these questions before making a decision.

1. How Much Do You Charge?

One of the crucial questions to ask a prospective lawyer to handle your personal injury case is how much they charge for their services.

Price is often a concern for accident victims — when you’re facing hefty medical bills and time off work, hiring a personal injury lawyer might be at the bottom of your list of priorities.

Fortunately, many attorneys operate on a contingency basis, which means you’ll only ever have to pay legal fees if they win your case. The fees will typically be a percentage of the settlement agreed upon. This incentivizes them to secure the maximum possible payout for you while ensuring you won’t have to find the cash to pay an attorney up front, but you should still be cautious.

Working on a contingency fee agreement doesn’t automatically mean your lawyer will have your best interests in mind. They may still encourage you to settle early so they can take their cut of the settlement, even if more work and more challenging negotiations would yield a more substantial payout.

The fee percentage also shouldn’t be the sole determining factor when choosing a lawyer. It may be worth choosing a lawyer who takes a larger percentage of your total settlement if they have more experience working on your type of case or if they’re easy to work with.

The attorney-client relationship should be one of trust, and claims can take time, so you don’t want to be stuck for months or years dealing with a person who fails to put you at ease and won’t answer your calls. Bear in mind that a more experienced lawyer may be able to secure a significant settlement, which means you’ll have more money at the end of your claim than if you chose a less-experienced attorney who charges lower fees.

2. Which Areas of the Law Do You Specialize In?

You wouldn’t go to a general practitioner if you needed life-altering brain surgery. Yet, it’s surprising how many people choose lawyers who dabble in multiple areas of the law instead of speaking to a specialist. Just because your friend’s uncle’s lawyer negotiated an excellent divorce settlement does not mean they’re equipped to navigate the complexities of personal injury law and secure you a fair settlement.

Make sure you ask a prospective lawyer how long they’ve been practicing and where they specialize. You should feel confident that your lawyer has knowledge of personal injury law in your state and experience handling various cases.

3. Have You Handled Cases Like Mine Before?

Personal injury cases can be complicated. Claiming compensation for a slip and fall accident at a restaurant is entirely different from being in a truck accident where multiple parties could be liable, and each blames the other. In these scenarios, having an experienced attorney can make a big difference to the outcome of your case.

Every accident is unique, of course — two people could sustain head injuries in two separate accidents, and one could fully recover while the other needs lifelong rehabilitation — but there will always be an overlap.

Asking a lawyer about their experience working on cases where the facts are similar to yours can be a great indicator of whether or not they have the ability to achieve a successful outcome.

4. How Likely Is It I Will Succeed and How Much Compensation Will I Get?

This is a bit of a trick question, and the answer can be a huge indicator of whether or not you can trust a lawyer to handle your case. You might think that the correct answer to this question is, “We guarantee you’ll get compensation,” but in reality, no lawyer can ever guarantee a specific outcome. They can (and should) draw from their experience working on similar claims — using language such as, “In previous cases, we’ve secured clients between $X and $Y.”

However, they should also explain that the likelihood of success and amount of compensation depends on several factors, including who’s liable, your injuries, how they impact your life, and how stubborn the other party’s insurance company is.

Suppose a prospective lawyer guarantees a successful outcome and fails to back up any projected settlement with experience. In that case, it may be an attempt to persuade you to choose them, and they may not be able to make good on their promise.

5. What Happens if I Don’t Get a Fair Settlement?

The final question you should ask before hiring a personal injury lawyer is what you can expect to happen if settlement negotiations don’t go your way. This can happen for several reasons. An insurance company may be particularly stubborn and refuse to budge on a low offer even if you are entitled to significantly more, or you may decide that you want to take your case to court. Only a small percentage of personal injury cases go to trial, as many settle before that stage, but it’s important to know where you’ll stand.

Not all lawyers are willing — or qualified — to advocate for clients in court, so you want to check if your lawyer is prepared to do this or whether they will hand you over to another firm. Some attorneys will try your case for a higher contingency fee, so ask this question in advance to factor this into your decision on who to hire.

After being in an accident that wasn’t your fault, acting fast gives you an advantage and lets you get the ball rolling on your claim. Still, it’s not a decision you should rush. By doing due diligence and asking these questions, you can ensure you pick a lawyer you can trust and who is capable of securing the best possible result.

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