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How to Find & Choose the Best Personal Injury Lawyer

How to Find & Choose the Best Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or a family member was hurt in an accident and you’ve never hired a personal injury lawyer, it can be a daunting task. There are so many who claim to be the best, it’s hard to know who to choose and what to look for. This article is the definitive guide to finding and choosing the best personal injury lawyer for your specific case. There’s a lot to consider when finding and choosing an attorney, so buckle up and let’s get started.

What is a Personal Injury Law Firm?

A personal injury law firm represents victims of accidents in their claim against an insurance company or against the individual or company that was responsible for their injury. Typically, personal injury law firms are comprised of two or more lawyers who focus on personal injury law, also known broadly as “tort law”- derived from a Latin term torquere, which translates to "twisted or wrong."

Although most State Bar Associations don’t recognize personal injury law as a certified specialty like family, criminal or workers’ compensation law, many attorneys focus their entire careers on this area of practice.

How do Personal Injury Lawyers Work?

After retaining a personal injury lawyer, it’s their responsibility to represent your interests in filing your claim, and pursuing compensation. The best personal injury attorneys will do the following:

  • Help you get medical attention from excellent doctors, physical therapists and medical professionals,
  • Research your case to see what comparable cases have settled for,
  • Negotiate with the insurance company and defendant,
  • Negotiate a settlement that will compensate your injuries and any after care needed,
  • Represent you at trial if a settlement can’t be reached,
  • Communicate with your regularly so you’re not lost in the progress of your case.

Personal injury attorneys also forward the cost of consultants, doctors, a legal team, physical therapists, accident recreation specialists and other professionals who help them build your case against your potential settlement or award. This means that although you won’t be expected to pay an invoice while you’re proceeding through your case, the attorney’s office is recording every expense to be reimbursed and deducted from your settlement or award.

How Much do Personal Injury Lawyers Charge?

All personal injury lawyers work off of “contingency”, which is a fancy word to say that they are compensated based on what your case settles for or what’s awarded at trial. Usually this is 33% if the case settles, or up to 45% if your case goes to trial. Additionally, lawyers are reimbursed for any costs and fees associated with your case that they paid for (see above). This means (generally) that if your case settles for a million dollars, $333,333 plus costs and fees go to your attorney. If you win $1,000,000 through a verdict at trial, $450,000 plus costs and fees go to your attorney. Sometimes attorneys will also be awarded legal costs from the defendant, in which case the costs & fees of your case would not come from your award or settlement. *Some State Bar associations also have guidelines or limitations on how much of a contingency fee can be charged which is usually somewhere on the State Bar's website, check with your local State Bar association for more information.

The fees may sound exorbitant, but your lawyer is taking a lot of financial risk in taking your case. Essentially, they have to front every penny of cost with no guarantee they’ll get that money back. If your case goes to verdict and they lose they get $0, yet they’ve spent tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing your case. Sometimes, you can negotiate the attorneys fees under certain circumstances, which is the topic of another in-depth article. Additionally, some attorneys may voluntarily reduce their contingency fee depending on the circumstances of your settlement or award.

Are Personal Injury Lawyers Worth it?

A good personal injury attorney is often worth far more than the cost. This means that the worst case scenario is that even when you consider the cost of their contingency fee, hiring personal injury lawyer will usually pay for themselves and you don’t have to handle the stress of dealing with other lawyers, claims agents and the time consuming negotiation process. Given this information, and knowing that your dealing with the added stress of healing and dealing with financial burdens, there’s really no good reason NOT to retain a qualified injury attorney.

Do I Have a Personal Injury Case?

This is an extremely tough question to answer, and would border on publishing legal advice if we answered that in this article. However, there are some guidelines you can follow to determine if you have a case and that you have a better than average chance of winning an award by filing an injury claim. In a personal injury case, you may think that you’re going to go after the person or company that harmed you, however that’s often not the case. Usually, you are pursuing compensation from the liable party’s insurance company.

Here are the criteria most insurance companies look at when a claim is presented to them:

  • Is the claim valid? In other words, did you suffer a loss to which one of their insured was fully or partially responsible and/or liable for?
  • Did you contribute to your own injury? This concept is called “contributory negligence” and while it won’t necessarily preclude you from receiving a settlement or award, if you are found to have contributed to your own injury or prevented help that could have mitigated your damages your settlement or award could be reduced. However, that shouldn’t prevent you from discussing this in a forthcoming manner with an injury attorney. Depending on the facts of your case, your contribution to your damages may be only 5, 10 or 20%, which would be the “discount” on your award or settlement.
  • What was the cost of medical care? The insurance company’s logic is that if you didn’t get much medical care, generally your damages and potential payout shouldn’t be that high. However, this does not fully account for things like pain & suffering, loss of work, psychological or emotional damage.
  • Was a permanent injury caused? A permanent injury, or injury that has caused persistent problems, requires consistent after care or lifestyle alterations will often be valued higher than injuries that did not.
  • Was there a death that was the result of the incident? If your spouse, child, parent or other close family member was killed as a result of the negligence or irresponsibility of another party you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. This is a highly complex type of case, and it is advisable to find a personal injury lawyer who has successfully handled these cases.

How Do I Find a Qualified Personal Injury Attorney?

Most people start their search for a personal injury lawyer by either asking friends and relatives for a referral, or searching Google. A good referral is often the best way to find a great lawyer because they’ve likely been successful for your friend or family member’s case and the person referring you is endorsing their work and outcome. If you don’t have a referral, you’re likely going to start your search with Google and see who the local attorneys are. Inevitably, you’ll come across the following popular directories which list all attorneys:

PersonalInjuryLaw.Guru - Yes, it’s a shameless plug, but this is the only dedicated personal injury attorney directory that ensures every “Verified Guru” has been licensed for at least 10 years, that 50% or more of their practice is dedicated to personal injury law and that the listed attorney is in good standing with their respective State Bar.

lawyers.com - lawyers.com is an attorney directory that lawyers must pay to be featured on. They list a lot of personal injury lawyers, but they offer no free listings so you won’t get a comprehensive list of local injury law firms.

FindLaw - Similar to lawyers.com, if an attorney wants to be featured on FindLaw, they must pay to be included. FindLaw also has a lot of great research tools people can use regarding the law in your state.

Avvo - Avvo lists any attorney with a free profile, but you won’t be able to tell if you’re seeing a true personal injury lawyer, or a “general practice” attorney who will take nearly any case unless you research them one at a time.

How Do I Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer to Hire?

The best way to choose a personal injury attorney is to develop a list of criteria to help you in your selection process. All personal injury lawyers offer a free initial consultation to learn the details of your case. They think this is their opportunity to interview you about the details of the incident, but we suggest you take this time to make sure they’re qualified and prepared to take your case too.

Before scheduling time to meet with a lawyer, make sure to research them by Googling their name and/or law firm name. Look for any consistent complaints and keep in mind that not everybody can be made happy. Even the best attorneys have unhappy clients. At a minimum, we suggest you interview at least 3 personal injury lawyers to make sure you’re getting different opinions regarding your case. During the meeting, be prepared with all the facts about your case and don’t be shy about asking questions that you can’t read about on their website. Here are the top 5 things you should ask a personal injury lawyer before signing a retainer:

  1. Have they handled a case similar to yours in the past? If so, what was the result?
  2. How much of their practice is dedicated to personal injury? Most attorneys whose practice is 50% or more injury law related are better suited for more complex cases. Generally, they’ve seen countless scenarios and may have a better knowledge of the claims adjusters in a given geography, judges likely to preside over your case, and attitudes of the jury pool.
  3. Am I responsible for any costs of the case that have been advanced? When your attorney hires professionals or consultants for your case, it’s typical that these costs are either advanced or financed by the law firm (whereby a lien is placed on your case by a service provider), and subsequently paid from your settlement or verdict. Sometimes you can negotiate them out of your fees if your claim is unsuccessful, but make sure to get a signed guarantee in writing as the costs can be thousands of dollars or more.
  4. Is their contingency fee negotiable? Depending on the attorney and your case, you may be able to get their contingency fee reduced if you ask. For instance, if your case is very straightforward and can be settled quickly the attorney may tell you they’ll reduce the fee to 25% unless it goes to trial (where costs can skyrocket).
  5. How often will I be updated on my case? If you’ve never hired an attorney, you may not know that one of the most common complaints is that clients can feel lost in their case. They often don’t know what’s going on because the attorney or their staff isn’t updating them regularly. The last thing you want to find out is that you have a deadline for something and your attorney tells you at the last minute.

We hope this article has provided some guidance for finding and hiring a personal injury attorney, and you can start your search on PersonalInjuryGuru.com. Do your due diligence and always research an attorney thoroughly before hiring.

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PersonalInjuryLaw.Guru Staff

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