Choosing an accident attorney can be quite a challenge simply because there are so many options available. Some lawyers have their faces and names on buses and billboards, while others do little advertising. Some work out of glamorous high-rises, while others operate out of small offices. Every law firm is different, and when you’ve been in an accident, choosing the right lawyer may be overwhelming. Here’s how to find and select the right accident lawyer and advocate.
Use Your Personal and Professional Networks
If you’ve had previous experience with contract disputes, a divorce, or another civil matter, ask that lawyer for a recommendation. If you and the attorney enjoyed a good business relationship, they’ll likely be glad to provide a referral to one of the area’s accident attorneys.
Friends and family are other great places to start. If these people had positive experiences with a particular lawyer, request a consultation. However, if your friends and relatives haven’t used an accident lawyer in the past, but they’ve sought legal help for other matters, ask them to request a recommendation from that attorney.
Check the Lawyer’s Ratings
No matter where you find an accident lawyer, ensure the attorney is in good standing with the local and state bar associations. Some bar associations have referral lists that potential clients can access without a fee. Online rating sites will give you an idea of a particular attorney’s reputation, skill, and experience. Once you’ve received recommendations and checked each attorney’s ratings, narrow your list to a few likely candidates.
Comparison Factors for Accident Attorneys
Every accident case is different, as is each lawyer/client relationship. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing an accident attorney.
- Professional experience: Injury lawyers have varying levels of experience. A more experienced lawyer will have a heavier caseload and might not be easily accessible. However, these attorneys typically have good working relationships with insurance claims adjusters, and they may be more willing to go to trial if necessary.
- Significant resources: A catastrophic injury arising from an accident is an extremely complicated and expensive event. An attorney focused on accident cases should have the funding to pay for medical witnesses, accident reconstruction teams, and other industry personnel.
- Education: A lawyer’s position within their graduating class may have nothing to do with the quality of the representation they provide; it’s their experience with similar cases that really counts.
- Presentation and location: Having an office in a fancy, the luxurious building doesn’t guarantee quality representation. Focus less on external trappings and more on finding a lawyer who will protect your interests.
Initial Contact With a Lawyer
Choosing an accident lawyer is a highly personal effort. Recommendations and advertisements may be useful, but in the end, you’ll have to trust your judgment and have confidence in the lawyer’s abilities. Accident lawyers often offer free consultations that give clients a feel for how the lawyer will handle their case. Attorney/client relationships are often long-lasting, and they begin with the initial consultation. Don’t underestimate its importance.
Assess the Attorney’s Qualities
Once you’ve had consultations with the attorneys on your list, it’s time to assess their qualities. For instance, if the lawyer (or their staff) didn’t answer your call immediately, or if you were placed on hold for an extended period, it may indicate that the firm is overwhelmed or staffing is inadequate.
If the receptionist taking your call is insincere or rude, it will leave a terrible first impression. It’s important to feel welcomed and valued as a client, especially when you’re calling for status updates. You shouldn’t be dismissed or made to feel as if you’re a bother.
Look For A Clean, Well-Run Office
When evaluating accident lawyers, check to see if their offices are organized and clean. A disorganized, cluttered office shows problems within the firm itself. Disorganization leads to lost documents and files, missed appearances and deadlines, and poorly handled cases.
Be Wary of a Long Wait
Like doctors’ offices, sometimes you’ll have to wait to see your attorney. However, a team member should greet you professionally and give an estimate of how long the wait will be. Sometimes, meetings run a bit late, which isn’t always a bad thing. After all, you could be the next one to get a little extra time with the lawyer.
Expect the Attorney’s Undivided Attention
If the lawyer can’t give you just a few minutes of their time at the first meeting, the chances are high that your injury case will be handled similarly. If the meeting is constantly interrupted, consider taking your case elsewhere. Accidents often have life-long consequences, and it’s crucial to find a lawyer who will give each case the attention and time it deserves.
Get Your Questions Answered
You shouldn’t walk out of the initial consultation with any unanswered questions. Although it might be unrealistic to expect your lawyer to give a precise valuation of your case, consider discussing:
- The case’s strengths and weaknesses
- An approximate settlement timeline
- The chances that the case will go to court
- An estimated settlement amount that’s based on the documentation you provide
Some accident lawyers delegate most of the work to paralegals and other attorneys. When choosing a lawyer, be sure to find out just who will work on your case.
Find Out How Many Trials They’ve Gone Through
Most accident cases are settled outside the courtroom, with approximately four percent of cases resolved via trials. An attorney’s trial numbers depend on the nature of those cases and the firm’s focus. Some firms tend to work on complex, high-value cases that are nearly always handled in court, such as medical malpractice lawsuits. However, accident claims are more likely to be handled out of court, especially if you’ve been seriously injured. Here, the best question to ask is, “How often do you get the policy limit for your clients?” In simple terms, you should hire a lawyer who will work to get every dollar you deserve.
Choosing an accident lawyer is a vital decision that should only be made after the above factors have been carefully considered. You owe it to your family and yourself to find out just what a skilled accident attorney can do to help.