If you’ve been seriously injured in a car accident or a slip and fall on someone else’s property or have otherwise been injured through someone else’s negligence, you probably know it’s important to talk with an experienced local personal injury lawyer. But, choosing a personal injury attorney can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have much experience with lawyers and the legal system.
If you or a loved one has a possible personal injury claim, but you don’t know where to turn, these tips will help you choose the right Pompano Beach personal injury lawyer for you.
Why Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
To choose the best personal injury lawyer for you, you’ll need to understand what qualities and credentials you’re looking for, and how to assess them. That starts with understanding what the right personal injury attorney can do for you. Some of the core benefits of hiring a personal injury attorney include:
- The attorney can assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case and give you a general idea of what to expect as the case progresses
- The law firm will take charge of technical and procedural matters like managing deadlines and making sure discovery materials are provided in a timely manner
- The attorney will handle negotiations with the insurance company and any other parties, protecting you from innocent mistakes that could hurt your case
- The law firm will investigate and build a case, including identifying and speaking with witnesses, securing physical evidence, and working with experts
- The law firm will typically front the cost of outside investigators, expert witnesses, and others to ensure that your case isn’t hampered by lack of resources
- If it turns out the be the best option in your case, the attorney can argue your case before a jury
You’re probably beginning to see how understanding these services will help shape your attorney search. Here’s how to gather the information you need to make the right choice for you.
How to Find Personal Injury Attorneys
There are many ways to identify possibilities when you’re looking for a personal injury attorney. Some examples include:
- Asking friends or family members for a referral
- Asking an attorney you have used in another practice area, such as your estate planning lawyer, for a referral
- Google personal injury attorneys in your area and look at their websites
- Check attorney directory sites like Avvo or general business listing sites like Yelp!
These steps will help you find some options to investigate further, but the process doesn’t end here. The information you gather, such as what your friend has to say about his experience with the attorney, and ratings on listing sites is just a starting point. Much of the most important information will come directly from the attorney and law firm staff–and not just in what they say.
Making the Most of Your Free Consultation
Nearly all personal injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation consultations. In fact, you should think twice about considering one who doesn’t. Unfortunately, most people don’t take full advantage of the free consultation. Of course, you’ll want to learn more about the strength or weakness of your case and your options for pursuing compensation. But, a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer also offers an opportunity to find out whether the attorney is right for you.
Here are some questions that will help you decide:
1. What percentage of your practice is personal injury cases?
One hazard of asking friends and family for attorney recommendations is that the lawyer who did a great job with your neighbor’s divorce may not be the right choice for a significant personal injury case. While many general practice attorneys are willing to take on personal injury cases if and when they “walk in the door,” experience counts in litigation. It’s generally better to work with an attorney who does a lot of personal injury work. Attorneys who are very experienced with personal injury claims will generally be better able to assess the strength and potential value of your case, more prepared for the tactics insurance companies will use against you, more likely to have a solid network of experts to turn to, and generally better prepared to build the best possible case on your behalf.
2. How many cases like mine have you handled?
If your case is a fairly standard car accident claim, the answer will likely be “a great many.” This question becomes important, though, if there’s something unique about your case. For example, a car accident case and boating accident case may seem similar on the surface. But, many boating accident cases fall under federal maritime law rather than state negligence law, requiring an entirely different body of knowledge. While no two cases are identical, it’s beneficial if your attorney has experience with the issues underlying your particular claim.
3. How many cases have you taken to trial?
This may come as a surprise, but many lawyers don’t like to go to court. Instead, they negotiate for the best settlement offer they can get and accept it. Unfortunately, that sometimes means leaving money on the table–money that should have gone to the injured person or surviving family members. Most personal injury cases do settle, and there are many good reasons to settle. But, in some cases, the best way to pursue fair compensation is to argue the case to a jury. You want a personal injury lawyer who is ready, willing and able to take that step if it’s in your best interest.
The fact that most cases never reach the trial stage renders the often-asked question “What percentage of cases have you won?” largely irrelevant. A good settlement is a “win” for the client, but there’s no official winner or loser in a settled case.
4. Who will be my point of contact?
Different law firms are structured differently. In some cases, your personal injury attorney will be your main point of contact. In others, the attorney’s secretary or a specific paralegal will be your designated point person. And, in still others, there’s no consistent point of contact. Poor communication is one of the most common complaints in law firm reviews. It’s important that you know exactly what to expect in terms of how to contact someone who can answer any questions you have, how long you should expect to wait for a return call, and how the law firm will typically communicate with you. If you’re not comfortable with the answers to those questions or you get vague responses that still leave you feeling unsure how you would proceed if you had questions or concerns, you may want to consider another firm.
Learn by Observation
While you can elicit some important information directly from the attorney and staff, it’s also important to take note of how representatives of the firm interact with you and how comfortable you feel. As your case progresses, you’ll have to talk to your attorney and perhaps other staff members about personal and sometimes painful issues, such as details of your medical condition and how your day-to-day life has been impacted. And, you’ll be dependent on your lawyer and firm staff for important information.
Take careful note of things like:
- How you are treated when you arrive at the office
- Whether you feel comfortable speaking up to raise questions and ask for clarification, or feel intimidated or otherwise uncomfortable with the attorney
- Whether the attorney answers your questions directly and in a way you can understand, or brushes them aside or talks over your head
- Whether the attorney listens to your goals and concerns
If you have a good case that fits the firm’s practice, they have a powerful incentive to treat you well during this initial meeting, when you’re deciding whether to retain them. If this experience isn’t a good one, you can probably expect more of the same (or worse).
Remember that your free consultation is just an information-gathering session. You’re gathering information about your options and assessing how much faith you have in the attorney and law firm staff and how comfortable you’ll be working with them. The attorney is gathering information about your case to assess whether you likely have a valid claim, what obstacles they may be to recovering compensation, and approximately how much the case might be worth.
At this stage, either of you can simply say, “I don’t think this is a good fit.” Or, you can say you need time to think about how to proceed and will get back in touch if you want to move forward. If you aren’t comfortable with the first attorney you speak with or just aren’t sure, you can always arrange a free consultation with another firm to help weigh your options. In short, it’s not a decision you should make lightly. Finding the right fit can impact everything from your stress level as the case progresses to the amount of compensation you receive.
Schedule Your Free Consultation with a Personal Injury Lawyer
The attorneys at LJW Legal are experienced in a wide range of personal injury cases, including motor vehicle accident cases, boating accident claims, and premises liability issues. Our team is also knowledgeable about related areas of law, such as medical malpractice, wrongful death, and product liability.
If you’ve been injured through someone else’s negligence or have lost a loved one, schedule your free consultation right now to learn more about how we can help you move forward.