First: Do I Need A Lawyer?
Before you look for the right lawyer, you must first commit to the reality that you need a lawyer. When do you need a lawyer? If you believe that someone else is responsible for injuring you, then you need, at the very least, some advice from a lawyer. Many lawyers, including me, provide free, initial consultations. If nothing else, you can get advice from a lawyer as to whether it makes sense to retain legal counsel. It is important to keep in mind that when you are injured, you are the only one protecting your rights. Conversely, the person that injured you usually has a team of insurance adjusters that begin to work on the claim right away. The responsible party and their insurance company are directly adverse to you, and they rarely, if ever, have your best interests at heart. Why not error on the side of caution and seek out the advice of a lawyer.
Second: How To Start Your Search.
You have committed to seeking out the advice of a lawyer, so how do you start? The search for the right lawyer should begin close to home. That is, you should ask friends and family about their experiences. Ask them who they like, who they dislike, and why. You can trust the opinions of your friends and family members far more than that advertisement on T.V. or a billboard. Even if your friend or family member only knows of a good divorce lawyer, you can call that lawyer's office and ask for a referral to a good personal injury lawyer. If your friends and family do not know, then resort to the internet. Most personal injuries can be found online. These days you will find everything from profile pictures to information regarding a lawyer's involvement in the community and professional associations. Look for the lawyers who possess good leadership qualities and hold positions that require peer endorsement, such as board positions and speaking engagements.
Third: But There Are So Many Different Kinds of Lawyers.
Many lawyers focus their practice to specific areas of law. As you can imagine, it is hard to be successful and skilled in all areas of the law... so the saying goes, "Jack of all trades, master of none." You want to find a lawyer who focuses their practice on your particular need. As a clear example, you should not bother meeting with the lawyer that exclusively practices bankruptcy to handle your personal injury claim. Most personal injury lawyers will handle any type of personal injury claim, which makes it easier. Even so, you should also consider what experience the lawyer has with regard to your particular injury. For example, traumatic brain injuries are extremely complex injuries. It is to your advantage to retain a lawyer that routinely handles brain injury cases, as they will already possess the knowledge to understand the ins and outs of your injury and will already have established connections with the doctors and other experts that will be involved in your claim.
Fourth: This Lawyer Looks Right, Now What?
Once you find a lawyer that looks right, you need to setup the initial consultation. Call the lawyer's office, explain your situation, and setup the appointment. Even the best lawyers provide free consultations. Even so, some lawyers will require you pay a fee. To save time, ask about the cost of the consultation when you schedule the appointment. When possible you should bring all of your important documents with you to the initial consultation. This includes police reports, medical records, insurance correspondence, etc. These documents will assist the attorney in understanding your claim, as well as allow the attorney to confirm whether they have a conflict of interest. Additionally, it also shows the attorney that you are organized and serious about your claim.
Fifth: Question Your Prospective Lawyer.
Even though the lawyer will be asking most of the questions during the initial consultation, you should be prepared to ask questions too. Prepare questions in advance that pertain to the lawyer's experience; use the internet to research the attorney's background to help tailor your questions. Ask the lawyer about how they expect the claim will proceed if you retain them. Also ask about the attorney's trial experience. Although very few personal injury cases actually go to trial, you need to be sure that your lawyer will go to trial if needed. You do not want a lawyer that advises you to take a "lowball" settlement offer because they are afraid of the courtroom. If you have a more complex injury or theory of why someone is responsible, you should also enquire into the lawyer's experience with the particular facts of your case. You can be sure that the lawyer is using this consultation to evaluate you and your claim. There is no reason why you should not be doing the same of the
Sixth: Should I Sign The Retainer Agreement?
You should never feel rushed to sign a retainer agreement. Even though you probably have a good feel as to whether the lawyer is right for you, it is okay to sleep on it. If you are not comfortable with the lawyer, you should continue your search. Within the retainer agreement you should consider the attorney's fee. Most personal injury lawyers charge a 33% to 40% contingency fee. That is, the lawyer will be paid a fee based on a percentage of what the lawyer recovers for you. If the lawyer does not recover any money for you, then the lawyer is not entitled to a fee. The attorney's fee is different than costs, which include things like expert witness fees, copy charges, etc. The attorney will likely agree to advance the costs as necessary for the case, but you will be responsible for those costs in the end. Be sure to thoroughly discuss the fee agreement with the lawyer before you sign it.
Seventh: Is It Ever Too Soon To Meet With A Lawyer?
No. It is never too soon to meet with a lawyer. If you were injured, you should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible. Important evidence needs to be preserved as soon as possible, and the lawyer will be able to assist you with properly preserving the right evidence. In addition, the insurance adjusters will want to take your statement. Because you statement can be used against you at a later date, it is advisable to consult with a lawyer before making any statements to the insurance company. Most importantly, there may be a statute of limitation that prevents you from bringing a claim for your damages after a certain period of time. The sooner you consult with a lawyer, the less likely you are to miss the deadline and forever be barred from recovering for your injuries.
Eighth: Focus On Your Recovery.
Now that you have found the right personal injury lawyer, you can rest assured that your rights are being protected. This is an opportunity to reduce your stress and focus on recovering from your injuries. Be sure to keep your lawyer apprised of your recovery and any changes in your injuries, income, insurance, residence, or other significant matters. Most importantly, let your lawyer worry about your claim, while you worry about recovering the best you can. Even though your life may never be the same because of an injury, you will be far better off by letting your lawyer stress about the claim while you focus on making the best of your future, regardless of the outcome of your claim.