Choosing an attorney to handle your personal injury claim can be tricky but there are several steps you can follow to help you make the right decision.
Talk to Friends or Family members who have been represented by attorneys.
The best way to pick an attorney is the same way you would go about choosing a doctor, electrician or mechanic. Talk to people you know who have used an attorney and ask if they were happy with their representation. Ask the person if the attorney was accessible and open to answering the client's questions
Research the Attorney's education and experience
It's now easier than ever to research an attorney's education and experience. Most attorneys have detailed biographies on their Websites. Additionally, Martindale-Hubbell conducts peer review ratings of attorneys based on an attorney's knowledge and ethics.
Schedule an office conference or in home visit an attorney
Once you have narrowed your choice to a few attorneys, schedule an office conference with each attorney or ask that the attorney visit the Hospital or your home for a consultation. The initial consultation should be free. If it's not, don't schedule the appointment. Also, your consultation should be with the attorney who will be handling your claim. Do not meet with a paralegal or office assistant. If the attorney is too busy to meet with you personally, then he/she is going to be too busy to work on your claim or answer any questions. I recommend meeting with at least two different law firms so that you can decide which attorney makes you feel the most comfortable.
Questions to ask during your initial visit with the attorney
Ask about your attorney's experience in handling claims similar to yours. Although the attorney should not give an opinion on the value of your claim at the initial meeting, he/she should be able to give examples of how similar cases have settled. Ask the attorney to explain the claim process to you. If he/she cannot describe it in terms you understand, then that is an indications that they are not a very good communicator or don't know the law.
Negotiate your fee!
The first thing to understand is how personal injury attorneys get paid. No money is every paid by the client to the attorney. The attorney's fee is taken as a percentage of the gross recovery of the case once it settles. In Florida, if the case settles before filing suit, the maximum amount the attorney can charge is 33%. If the attorney and client refuse any pre-settlement offers from the Defendant and suit is filed, then the maximum fee is 40%. Once the fee is deducted from the gross recovery, the costs of investigating and prosecuting the claim are then deducted from the remainder. These costs are usually minimal if the case is settled presuit, but can be quite high if a suit is filed due to the cost of expert witness testimony.
The important thing to remember is that these fees are negotiable!. How much you can negotiate on the fee depends to a large extent on the facts of the case. For example, if you're involved in a serious car collision that is clearly the fault of another driver and you suffer serious injuries requiring extended hospitalization, you should never enter into a standard 33% / 40% contract. Under those circumstances, you are in a strong position to negotiate a fee for the work the attorney will need to do to collect the insurance funds. However, if your car accident claim involves an injury that is not as serious it may be harder to find an attorney willing to significantly alter their fees, but there is no harm in asking. Additionally, please understand that it is very difficult to negotiate a lower fee in medical malpractice, nursing home, product liability and slip and fall claims. These claims are much more difficult to handle and the uncertainty of recovery requires the attorney to charge the standard contingency fee.
Additional resources provided by the author
If you're a Florida resident, I strongly suggest that you visit the Florida Bar's website and read some of the helpful pamphlets they have prepared on a number of issues, including attorney's fees. The pamphlets can be accessed at the Link provide below.
Our Rating is calculated using information the lawyer has included on
their profile in addition to the information we collect from state
bar associations and other organizations that license legal
professionals. Attorneys who claim their profiles and provide Avvo
with more information tend to have a higher rating than those who do
What determines Avvo Rating?
Experience & background
Years licensed, work experience, education
Legal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awards
Legal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagements
This lawyer was disciplined by a state licensing authority in .
Disciplinary information may not be comprehensive, or updated. We recommend that you always check a lawyer's disciplinary status with their respective state bar association before hiring them.