If you suffered preventable injuries because of someone else’s careless conduct, you probably have the right to receive compensation from the at-fault party or an insurance company. A personal injury attorney can handle the process of getting you the money you need to pay your expenses and move forward with your life.
Choosing the right personal injury lawyer for your case is easier than you imagine. Following the steps below, you can find a lawyer with the skills, knowledge, experience, and resources to secure the maximum compensation available.
Step One: Know What You Need
The first step in choosing a personal injury lawyer is to identify the qualities of the lawyer you need. There’s a lawyer for every way the law touches our lives. In every small-to-mid-size city in America, you’ll find tax lawyers, business lawyers, municipal lawyers, real estate lawyers, criminal defense lawyers, divorce lawyers, and so on.
People like you who have suffered injuries because of someone else’s careless or reckless actions need a personal injury lawyer. That’s the type of lawyer who handles getting money for an injured person. Your search should focus only on personal injury lawyers—don’t trust any other kind of lawyer to handle the job.
The ideal personal injury lawyer for your case should have the following qualities:
- Significant experience handling personal injury cases similar to yours—the same type of accidents or injuries, for example
- A demonstrated track record of getting favorable results in cases like yours through settlement and at trial
- A top-notch team of lawyers and legal professionals
- A strong reputation among fellow lawyers and former clients
- An established presence in the community where you suffered your injury
- 24/7 availability to respond to your inquiries
Your case is important, and you deserve the highest quality legal representation. Don’t settle for anything less than these qualities in any lawyer you consider.
Step Two: Cast Your Net on the Internet and Elsewhere
Now that you know what you need in a lawyer, the next step is to cast your net into the vast ocean of legal talent to find candidates for the job. The simplest way to do that is to do a Google search for a personal injury lawyer in the location where you suffered your injury. Depending on the number of hits you get, broaden or narrow that search until you have a list of three to six candidates who fit the ideal criteria.
For example, if a search for “Personal Injury Lawyer in Peoria” doesn’t turn up enough candidates (though it should), you might try “Personal Injury Lawyer Chicagoland.” If (more likely) you get too many hits for your initial search, you could narrow it by specifying your type of accident or injury, such as “Car Accident Lawyer in Peoria” or “Brain Injury Lawyer in Wheaton.” You get the idea.
The goal is to sort through your results to identify those lawyers or firms that appear to have the qualities you need. In larger metro areas like Chicago, where you could have hundreds or even thousands of lawyers, you can be picky about the characteristics you want and still find plenty who may fit the bill.
Aside from the internet, you might also ask your family, friends, or work colleagues to recommend a personal injury lawyer. The best recommendations are the ones you get first-hand from someone who hired a lawyer for their own personal injury case. But any word-of-mouth endorsement of a lawyer can be helpful, especially if you get the name of someone you’ve also identified from your internet search.
Step Three: Do a Free Case Evaluation
All reputable personal injury lawyers offer a free case evaluation for people in your situation. A legal professional with meet with you in person, virtually, or by phone at your convenience to learn about your case and give you an initial read on your options for obtaining compensation. You’ll never have to pay for this meeting, even if you decide not to hire a lawyer.
Take full advantage of free case evaluations offered by the lawyers you’ve identified as candidates. This is your risk-free opportunity to get a feel for the lawyer and law firm that might handle your case. You have nothing to lose and (potentially) lots to gain by hearing what they say about your claim and their abilities.
Treat a free case evaluation as a part job interview and part information gathering session. Use it to learn about your options and to decide if this lawyer is the one you want to trust with your legal and financial future. Be ready to share details about what happened to you, including any documentation of your accident or injuries the lawyer may find helpful in assessing your situation. And don’t worry—everything you discuss with lawyers in a free consultation will remain strictly confidential, even if you decide not to hire them.
It also often helps to go into a free case evaluation with a list of questions for the lawyer. The purpose of asking questions is twofold: to get valuable answers that explain your rights and options and to get a feel for the lawyer’s professionalism, mindset, personality, and work ethic.
Questions you might want to ask could include:
- What’s your experience and track record with cases like mine?
- Would you be comfortable taking my case to trial if it became necessary?
- Who in your office would handle my case if I hired you?
- How often do you communicate with clients like me, and how do you like to do it (by phone, text, email, etc.)?
- What do you think of my case?
- How much money do you think I might get?
- What other information might you need from me to help you evaluate my options?
Remember, this is just an initial case evaluation, so you can’t necessarily expect definite answers to some of these questions, especially when predicting your case’s outcome.
Lawyers can never guarantee results, and it’s sometimes difficult to foresee the path a personal injury claim will take. Instead, pay attention to how the lawyers you meet approach your questions and whether they give you clear, honest, straightforward answers (even if that means admitting they don’t know something or can’t see into the future).
A Note on Talking About a Lawyer’s Fees
It would help if you also planned to talk about the lawyer’s fees during the free case evaluation. Any lawyer you consider should be willing to represent you on a contingent fee basis. And the lawyer should be upfront with you about the terms and conditions of that arrangement.
A lawyer who works on a contingent fee basis does not charge upfront fees or hourly rates. Instead, the lawyer works in exchange for a percentage of the money recovered for the client. The lawyer’s fee, in other words, is contingent on getting you results. If you don’t get paid, neither does the lawyer.
Personal injury lawyers must spell out the terms and conditions of a contingent fee in a written agreement with their client. Any lawyer you meet within a free case evaluation should be willing to let you read their standard fee agreement and explain how the arrangement would work if you hired them. You should never feel confused about how a lawyer you might hire would be paid.
Beware of any personal injury lawyer who does not want to represent you on a contingent fee basis. A lawyer who wants you to pay a large upfront retainer or proposes to bill you by the hour for their time either does not believe you have a strong case or does not trust their own abilities to get you results.
Step Four: Choose the Lawyer Who Feels Like the Best Fit
After doing a handful of free case evaluations, you’ll likely begin to recognize variations in the personal and professional qualities of the personal injury lawyers you meet. Three lawyers with the same qualifications to handle your case may leave three distinct impressions on you. That’s just human nature.
So, trust your gut when making a final selection from the candidates you’ve met. A personal injury lawyer gets involved with sensitive aspects of your life, like your medical conditions and finances. Choose the one you expect you’ll feel most comfortable sharing information with and who sense you can trust to protect your interests and get you the results you need. Look for a lawyer who’s easy to talk to and understand. So long as a lawyer meets the abovementioned criteria, you can’t go wrong by following your instincts at this stage.
Considerations While You Search for a Personal Injury Lawyer
The sooner you hire a personal injury lawyer to handle your claim, the better your chances of protecting your rights and securing the money you need to pay for medical care and other expenses. In the meantime, remember that your actions (particularly those you take before hiring a lawyer) can significantly impact your rights. Keep these two considerations in mind as you go about your lawyer search.
Prioritize Your Health and Well-being
Don’t wait to get medical treatment for your personal injuries. Seek immediate care after any accident and follow your doctor’s orders. Prioritizing your health and well-being helps to put you in the right mindset to select a top personal injury lawyer. It also safeguards your rights by creating medical records that provide valuable evidence of your condition and future needs.
Beware of Insurance Tactics
Until a personal lawyer represents you, insurance companies may seek to talk with you directly about your accident and injuries. Beware of these interactions. Insurers who may be liable for your losses will seek any justification to refuse to pay you what they owe.
For example, an insurance adjuster may pester you to give a recorded statement about what happened to you. Be careful. Insurers want you to talk to them on a recorded line so they can ask you loaded questions that trick you into saying things that undermine your claim. Never agree to give a recorded statement to an insurance company representing someone else. And even if your own insurer wants a statement, they should be willing to delay it until you have a lawyer representing you.
Insurers also sometimes offer quick settlements to people who don’t have personal injury lawyers representing them. They hope you’ll say yes to the money before you learn how much more a lawyer could get you. Don’t agree to a quick settlement, and don’t sign anything an insurance company sends you without first consulting an attorney.
Start Your Search for a Personal Injury Lawyer Today
You can find the right personal injury lawyer for your case by following the steps above. Just don’t wait to get started. A lawyer may need to take quick action to meet deadlines and preserve your rights. To start your search, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in your area today for a free consultation.