Choosing a personal injury attorney is not a decision to be taken lightly. After a serious accident, victims and their families have one opportunity to secure justice from the responsible party or more likely, their insurance provider. When injuries are substantial, it is imperative that victims choose an attorney with the skills, experience and resources necessary to help them recover maximum, full and fair compensation.
In a personal injury claim, such as a car accident, slip and fall, dog bite or defective product claim, accident victims can recover damages for medical care and treatment expenses, lost earnings or loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering and other associated damages. When a family member is killed due to the negligence of another, loved ones may choose to pursue a wrongful death claim for final medical expenses, funeral costs, lost anticipated earnings the decedent would have provided and loss of love, care and companionship.
In almost all states, personal injury and wrongful death cases are handled on a contingency basis. Unlike other legal services, where lawyers are paid hourly, in personal injury cases, attorneys are paid a percentage of the total recovery as a result of the lawsuit. For accident victims, this means there are no upfront fees, no retainers and nothing out of pocket. Typically, the lawyer covers all costs related to cases, which would include items such as filing fees and hiring expert witnesses. Once you decide to hire a lawyer, this should all be outlined in a document called a “contingency fee agreement.”
The aftermath of an accident resulting in a serious injury or a loved one’s death may be traumatic. It is normal to feel overwhelmed. While meeting with lawyers may not seem important at the time, it is important to begin protecting legal rights as soon as possible. In some situations, such as a trucking accident, evidence may be destroyed soon after an accident and witnesses may quickly disappear. A lawyer can ensure witness statements and evidence such as tire skid marks and damaged vehicles are preserved for inspection.
When looking for an attorney, keep in mind that any lawyer can claim to be a personal injury lawyer. However, accident and injury litigation is a very specialized field of law and not all attorneys are capable of getting the same results. Ask the attorney you are considering hiring about other similar cases they have handle and what kind of results they have obtained. Although it is impossible to predict the value of a case, the attorney should be able to give you an idea of how much your case may be worth. Choosing the right attorney can be the difference between maximum compensation and a denied claim which, of course, yields no damages at all.
Do your homework and research before signing any representation agreements. Once you find an attorney you like, ask how involved they will be in your case. Some attorneys only meet with clients for the sign-up appointment and then refer the case to someone else. Ask if they will be prepared to take the case to trial if a fair settlement cannot be reached. Some attorneys are only willing to settle cases because they cannot afford the cost of going to trial. Ask the lawyer you are considering hiring to see testimonials from former clients and read online reviews on websites like Yelp.com, Avvo.com and Lawyers.com. Finally, consider how comfortable you are with the attorney. Do you feel confident he or she is capable of handling your case and negotiating a fair settlement?
Following an accident, it is best to find a lawyer as soon as possible. Accident victims should not provide recorded statements or any other information to insurance companies until they have obtained the advice of a lawyer.