If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury caused by another person’s negligent behavior, you will need to make a claim with your insurance company so that you can pay for medical bills and cover for any unpaid absence from work.
As insurance companies have access to the best attorneys in the business, it’s fairly easy for them to defend a personal injury claim in order to pay nil or minimum compensation. As a result, it becomes all the more necessary for you to hire a competent and experienced personal injury attorney who will be able to fight it out in court and ensure that you get your due compensation for the physical and mental suffering you’ve had to undergo due to the accident.
Here are nine expert tips that will help you choose a seasoned yet affordable personal injury lawyer.
Don’t settle for the cheapest attorney
There are hundreds of law firms out there claiming to specialize in personal injury lawsuits for a small fee; however, when it comes to hiring an attorney, cheap is frequently not the best. An inexperienced injury lawyer may charge you a few hundred dollars less than an experienced one, but they will also be in a hurry to settle your claim for whatever the insurance company offers as they won’t have the expertise, time or interest to fight it out for you and get you what you rightfully deserve.
This is because substandard small-time law firms bank upon the quantity and not the quality of the injury cases they represent, which leaves them with little time or patience to go all the way and take the pains to prepare your case for a jury trial. Most would prefer to settle out of court to save time and effort, thus justifying the low fees.
Moreover, if you took the time to research and compare, you will find that the fees charged by a skilled injury lawyer are not as high as you thought. So, before you hire a lawyer just because they’re cheap, consider if it’s worth the lost compensation.
Check lawyer ratings provided by trusted and reputable resources
Online reviews notwithstanding, you can check a lawyer’s ratings based on what their peers have to say about their work. Several online resources, such as the highly respected Martindale-Hubbell Bar Registry and SuperLawyers.com, offer insight into a lawyer’s experience and expertise in the niche of personal injury claims.
By going through the profile of a lawyer on these websites, you’ll get information that will help you determine if they are a good fit for your case. Remember that these are peer reviews and ratings are compiled based on a polling system.
Once you have identified a personal injury attorney you’d like to hire, contact their office for a consultation.
Avoid falling for the law firm that contacted you after an injury
Why? You may wonder. If a lawyer took the time to reach out to you to help you get compensation for an injury that disrupted your life, you might as well hire them to represent you in court.
Of late, it has become a norm for some lawyers to send solicitation letters to injury victims expressing their interest in representing the victim. They obtain your name and contact information from the accident reports prepared by the local police department. And most will not stop at one—they will keep sending reminders, because, again, their survival depends on volumes rather than a strong reputation and recommendations that can get them regular clientele.
Experts recommend that you steer clear of such solicitations and do your own research to find a dependable and skilled injury attorney.
Compare lawyer fees
First thing first, remember that most personal injury attorneys will offer you a free first consultation, so if you come across an advertisement that says you will not be billed any fees if no compensation is received or if you’re offered a free initial consultation, don’t get carried away by the offer, which has become a norm in injury cases.
What you need to do, however, is to ask how much indeed the law firm will charge for their services and if there are any hidden fees or charges that you’ll have to shell out later. Injury lawyers generally bill a percentage of the compensation granted to a client and this rate is revealed at the very beginning. Ask all the right questions to know what you’re getting into.
Understand contingent fees and litigation charges before committing
Contingent fee means that the lawyer won’t charge you anything if you receive no compensation. But if you do, they will bill a percentage (usually a third) of the total amount released by the insurance company. This is easy to understand. However, what most injury victims fail to understand is that there are other charges the law firm may bill during the course of the case.
These are essentially litigation expenses incurred by the law firm, such as witness fees, payment to obtain medical documents and doctor’s reports, case filing fee and any other costs associated with processing the case. Some, not all, lawyers would bill these fees and charges to the client irrespective of the outcome of the case. You may have to pay litigation fees as and when they occur or when the case ends.
Litigation costs can run into thousands of dollars, so whenever you sign up with a law firm, ask what all charges you can expect to be billed during the course of the trial.
Determine if the law firm has the resources to represent serious injury cases
Of course, it can be hard for a layperson to determine if a law firm specializing in injury cases is all that it claims to be. This is why you need to check credible resources, seek recommendations and read up about a law firm’s history and experience in representing injury victims.
Also consider if the law firm has the financial resources to take on an accident case that may require them to pay high expert witness fees or hire several experts in order to reconstruct an accident. If a lawyer does not have the funds to prepare your case, they will most likely compromise on some aspects that could get you a larger compensation or they will ask you to bear the expenses, both of which will result in financial loss to you, the client.
Cases involving serious personal injuries should always be represented by a reputable law firm, such as NapoliLaw.com, that has the monies and the staff to fight the case properly.
Check the lawyer’s experience in handling injury cases
Is the lawyer you have shortlisted an expert in the type of injury case you have. For instance, a lawyer who has extensive experience in medical negligence cases may have limited experience in representing road accident victims.
Your lawyer’s lack of experience can seriously jeopardize your case as the insurance company will build their case based on how competent and willing your lawyer is to fight them out in jury trial. As stated before, insurance companies have the resources to hire top-notch lawyers who have years of experience defending specific types of personal injury claims. A lawyer who has no niche experience in representing, say, a road accident victim who has sustained a catastrophic injury will not be able to handle the case half as well as a specialist.
When seeking the services of a lawyer, ask if they have actual experience trying injury cases or if they’re just the face of the actual lawyer who will take your case to court.
Check if the lawyer has the necessary certification and licenses
Most reputable lawyers today have a certification awarded by the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA), which is a recognized organization that offers civil trial lawyer certification to lawyers with significant experience in trying and preparing civil cases.
This certification is not easy to obtain as the lawyer must have relevant experience and also pass an examination conducted by the NBTA to be board-certified as a civil trial lawyer. If it matters to you that your personal injury attorney has the qualification, experience and accreditation to represent your case, find out if they are board certified.
Consider if the law firm or lawyer is affiliated with creditable professional associations
Many injury lawyers are members of organizations that are devoted to the cause of fighting for injury victims, whether it’s an injury resulting from medical malpractice, injury at work or injury caused by a third person in an accident. These organizations and associations are essentially the hub of top-notch lawyers known for being successful in the field of injury-related litigation.
It is possible that the lawyer you shortlisted is not part of any such professional group. Consider if that’s important to you and if that will impact your opinion of the lawyer. For a fruitful association it’s extremely important for you to believe in the abilities of your lawyer.