Hiring the right lawyer can make a huge difference in the outcome of your personal injury claim, which makes picking the right lawyer a critical decision. Most attorneys who focus on personal injury law represent only one side of these kinds of cases – the plaintiff (the individual who was injured) or the defendant (the person or entity alleged to have caused the injury). Personal referrals and word of mouth are usually the best place to begin when you’re looking for an attorney. Web resources are also a good starting point for creating an initial list of candidates to consider.
Whittling It Down
Regardless of where you found your prospects, you’ll want to trim down that list to three or four using the following criteria:
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> Biographical Information – Learn about the lawyer’s background. Does it seem like he has expertise in your type of personal injury claim? His profile should give you a picture of the nature of cases he usually handles (and which side). If you can’t seem to tell, call the office directly and inquire. Explore these lawyers’ websites and see what other information is there. The more informed you are, the better you will be able to decide.
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> Professional Associations – See if the attorney belongs to any trial lawyers’ associations, whether local, state or national.
> Location – If you have a working relationship with a lawyer whose practice is based in another area, ask for names of some good local prospects.
> Professional Standing – Visit the lawyer’s website or call your state bar association to know if the lawyer you’re interested in is in good standing.
Conflicts of Interest
Does the lawyer represent anyone connected with any of the parties you are intending to use, or anyone who could have an interest in how the case plays out? After narrowing down your list of candidates, inquire about a consultation . You don’t have to cross a lawyer off your list simply because he doesn’t have the time for an appointment with you on short notice. Remember, good personal injury lawyers are usually busy.
Most personal injury claim scenarios allow you to hire an attorney on a “contingency fee” basis. This means that the lawyer will be get a portion of any court award or settlement you receive – typically around a third – and if you don’t receive anything, neither does your lawyer does get paid legal fees. In any case, it’s a must that you read the contract before affixing your signature, and understand that you may still have to pay for some “costs” (separate from legal fees) like photocopying fees, expert witness fees, court stenographer fees, and the rest.