How To Choose Personal Injury Lawyers
If you have been injured in an auto accident, hiring a personal injury attorney can help you get the most for your auto insurance claim.
It's possible to negotiate a personal injury settlement without the aid of a personal injury attorney, but many auto insurance companies will offer lower settlement amounts to persons not working with a personal injury attorney.
Find Personal Injury Lawyers
You can always search for attorneys online and in your local yellow pages, but don't forget that lawyers depend on referrals for the majority of their business; therefore, be sure to check with your family, friends, colleagues, and even lawyers you've used in the past for referrals.
Another option is to use the referral service of a local bar association. While some referral services only list attorneys with various qualifications and levels of expertise, other services are not so discriminatory. For this reason, be sure to inquire about the referral service’s screening process.
Schedule the Initial Consultation
Once you have a particular lawyer in mind, the next step is to schedule an initial consultation.
The majority of personal injury attorneys do not charge a fee for this initial consultation, but be sure to ask about any fees prior to meeting an attorney. Generally speaking, an attorney who charges for an initial consultation will also charge a retainer fee, and is typically not worth meeting.
Ask the Personal Injury Attorney the Right Questions
When you meet with a personal injury attorney for the first time, be prepared to present all related documentation, such as the official police report and any correspondence with your insurance company.
In addition to discussing the details of your particular case, asking the following general questions will help you to determine if a lawyer is right for you:
- What is your educational background?
- Have you taken any continuing education courses in the past few years?
- How long have you been in practice?
- How many personal injury claims have you successfully settled?
- Do you typically represent the injured persons or the insurance company, in a personal injury case?
- Would you be the sole attorney assigned to my case, or do you have an associate with whom you would share the case?
- Do you anticipate my case going to trial?
- What is your experience as a trial attorney?
- If I wish to avoid going to trial by accepting a lower settlement than you think we can recover, will you honor that wish?
- If I wish to reject a settlement offer you think is fair, will you go to trial for a larger amount?
- Will you accept my case on a contingency fee basis?
- Do you charge a retainer fee?
- Are there any additional fees or potential expenses I should be made aware of?
Red Flags: When Not to Work With a Certain Lawyer
Every situation is different, you probably do not want to be represented by an attorney who typically represents insurance companies, but by an attorney with consistent experience representing injured persons. Additionally, you typically do not want to be represented by a lawyer who asks for payment up front, be it the form of a retainer fee or the rejection of a contingency fee.
And finally, you do not want to be represented by a lawyer who refuses to honor your wishes, or refuses to sign a retainer agreement in the first place. The retainer agreement is the written financial agreement between client and attorney. A well-written retainer agreement will include the following points:
- Attorney rendered services.
- Required client actions.
- Legal fees and related expenses.
- Payment schedule.
- Process of dissolving an inharmonious professional relationship.
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