When you suffer an injury caused by another person or entity, you will go through a range of emotions. Somewhere among the pain, the anger, the sorrow, and the regret, you will start thinking about a lawyer. You will have expenses and losses related to the injury, and you want the person who caused them to pay. It isn’t a question or revenge; it’s an issue of compensation.
How to Find a Good Personal Injury Lawyer
You are no doubt bombarded with television and billboard ads for personal injury lawyers, claiming high win rates and 24/7 service. Remember, though, these are commercials, and those attorneys may not be the right ones for you. You want an attorney who will work hard for you and has experience in the kind of injury that you experienced.
Lawyers Who Concentrate in Personal Injury Cases
Lawyers generally don’t “specialize” the way that doctors do. This lack of specialization is not because they don’t have knowledge and experience in particular kinds of cases. Instead, the Canons of Ethics generally prohibit claims of specializing because there are no boards to certify those specializations as there are in medicine (e.g., “board-certified surgeon’’).
There are a few exceptions to this today, such as elder law and tax law specialists, but mostly you will look for a law firm that concentrates at least a portion of its practice on the kind of injury you experienced.
Look for Relevant Experience
Personal injury lawyers handle a remarkably diverse range of claims that can include:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents – Cars, Trucks, Motorcycles
- Uninsured Motorist -no insurance company involved
- Boating Accidents -not the same as land-based law
- Common Carrier Accidents – Any public transportation
- Bicycle and Pedestrian Accidents
- Traumatic Brain Injuries, Spinal Cord & Neck Injuries
- Industrial Accidents
- Medical Malpractice & Medication Errors -particular types of claims and experts required
- Nursing Home Negligence
- Premises Liability or Slip-and-Fall Cases
- Dog Bites – varies significantly by state law
- Product Liability
- Worker’s Comp
- Wrongful Death
Not every personal injury lawyer takes all of those claims. Some don’t handle workers’ compensation or medical malpractice cases, for example. Look for a lawyer who handles claims as close to yours as possible.
You probably don’t have a case that is as strange as those cases. You are much more likely to have been in a car accident or a slip-and-fall case. But whatever your claim is, you want to be sure that the attorney you retain has experience in suits just like it or as nearly like it as possible. A medical malpractice attorney may not be as good at handling common carrier accident cases. Likewise, a Worker’s Comp specialist may not be as comfortable with a dog bite case. Look for attorneys who list your type of case on their website and consult with some of those lawyers.
Most personal injury lawyers will give you a free initial consultation and evaluation of your case. You will sit down and explain the circumstances and the injuries and damages you have suffered, and the attorney will then decide if the law firm will take your case. The firm must first run a conflicts check, ensuring that there is no conflict of interest from a current or prior representation that would prevent them from taking your case. The Canons of Ethics do not permit a lawyer to take on a matter that represents an adversarial interest to a case or client they currently have or have had in the recent past.
The other reason a firm may reject your case after an initial consultation is that they don’t believe the recovery will justify their expenses in representing you. This conclusion could be because your damages are relatively small or because you were to some greater or lesser extent responsible for the injury. In either case, if the law firm does not expect to make money from your case, they are unlikely to take it.
Personal injury lawyers usually charge on a contingency fee basis. This fee arrangement means that you will not pay an hourly fee but instead will, according to a contract, pay your attorney a percentage of the award or settlement that you receive in this case. Usually, the law firm’s share is between 20 and 40 percent and the firm will also deduct any out-of-pocket costs that it had to pay for your case from the settlement. You still will not have to pay anything out of pocket.
Make Sure You’re Comfortable Talking With Your Attorney
You’re going to spend a lot of time with this lawyer, talking about the facts and progress of your case. You must be comfortable talking with the attorney and the law firm staff. You need to know that they understand your case, and you need to be sure that you know what they need from you.
Does the Firm Seem Professional?
You will want to know that the firm you choose will present your case to the court and the other side professionally. The attorney you choose should be polite and respectful to you and all the parties in the case. The firm should keep its promises and perform its duties on time and be well prepared to do so. Most of all, the firm itself should follow all applicable laws and ethical rules and not engage in any improper conduct.