Choosing the Right Attorney for You (emphasis on YOU)

Choosing the right attorney can be difficult. Of course I would prefer that you hire me as your personal injury attorney if you’re injured, but here are 10 tips for making your decision.  I’m confident that after reviewing these tips, I’m the right attorney for your case.

Here is a hypothetical for you.  You’ve been seriously injured in an auto accident. You’ve got a broken arm, an out-of-whack disc in your back, and numerous cuts and bruises. The other driver ran through a red light, so he’s at fault.

You’re constantly bombarded with advertisements about how attorneys have collected tons of money for clients who’ve been injured in car crashes. But are they the right attorney for you?

How much an attorney forks over for advertising doesn’t necessarily mean he/she is a good or bad attorney. Here are 10 tips on how to find the right personal injury lawyer when you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence.

TIP #1: Know when to contact a personal injury attorney.

Auto accident injuries run the gamut from minor to serious. Medical negligence and product liability cases, on the other hand, usually tend to be more serious.  If you think your injury may warrant legal action, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it is to take a case to trial. As time goes on, witnesses and evidence may be hard to locate, and even worse, the defendant may have fled the country (This unfortunately happened to one of my clients because she waited so long to hire an attorney.  Luckily, we tracked the defendant down.).

TIP #2: Find a law firm that specializes in your specific issue.

It’s important that a client find an attorney who has dealt with the specific issues related to your case. If a client has a spinal cord injury, he should seek an attorney who has handled that issue.  Likewise, you wouldn’t hire a chiropractor to fix your sore tooth.

TIP #3: Get referrals.

Friends and family are the perfect place to get referrals. If you have used an attorney in the past for a will or for some other reason, ask them for a referral. Keep in mind that a lawyer who refers clients typically earns a referral fee for this, amounting to about one-third of the personal injury attorney’s contingency fee.

TIP #4: Do your research — beyond the ads.

While some upstanding, reliable attorneys fork over big bucks for advertising blitzes, other reputable attorneys don’t spend a dime on marketing. Consumers shouldn’t make a decision simply based on clever advertising. To find a reputable attorney, check an attorney’s record on the website of the state bar association, and contact a lawyer referral service operated by a local or state bar association.

TIP #5: Make sure you know which attorney will oversee your case.

Oftentimes, the firm’s lead attorney may not be handling many cases, particularly smaller ones.  A personal injury attorney typically collects about one-third of a personal injury settlement or judgment involving an auto accident and about 40% for product liability and medical malpractice cases.  That’s why it’s so important that a client meet the attorney who’ll be assigned to the case so that there are no surprises.  When it comes to trial, you want to make sure you have the lawyer of your choice.

TIP #6: Interview the attorney.

Consumers should ask an attorney an array of questions to learn more about him or her.  Ask a lot of questions to find out if this attorney has the skills and experience that match your needs.

TIP #7: Ask whether the attorney leans toward settlements or trials.

Before you hire a personal injury attorney, you’ll want to ask whether he or she tends to go to trial or settle cases out of court.  Most cases are settled out of court.  However, the very best attorneys are never afraid to file a lawsuit when the other side starts to play hardball.

TIP #8: Find out whether the attorney is a sole practitioner or has a large staff.

Some clients are more comfortable with larger firms, while others prefer a sole practitioner. Each type of firm has its pros and cons. Solo practitioners say they’re readily available to serve their clients, and client matters won’t get lost in the shuffle. But lawyers at bigger law firms argue that a large staff ensures clients’ needs are met, even if some attorneys are busy with other cases.

TIP #9: Inquire upfront about costs.

Auto insurance companies won’t cover the cost for hiring an attorney to file a lawsuit after an injury.  In most cases, attorneys who handle personal injury cases do so on a contingency basis. This means the lawyer doesn’t get paid unless the client wins.

Still, some lawyers (not me) do ask for upfront costs, regardless of a loss. That’s why it’s critical that consumers are clear about costs from the outset.  Especially remember to ask about copying fees, etc.  While we do not charge for each page we copy, some firms do.

TIP #10: Be leery of promises.

A thorough attorney will spend a great deal of time investigating your case and won’t make predictions about an expected payout or settlement.  If a personal injury attorney is promising you a lot of money, you might want to be skeptical.  I have recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars for my clients, and I haven’t promised any of them how much money they would recover.

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