What to Consider When Choosing a Personal Injury Lawyer
You recently sustained serious injuries in an accident. It seems your life has changed in the blink of an eye; you’re in a great deal of pain, medical bills are mounting, and you can no longer work. Furthermore, you believe the accident was the result of negligence. To whom do you turn? Read on to learn what a personal injury lawyer can offer to your claim.
An attorney, you may think. But deciding you need an attorney is the just beginning of an important process—choosing not just any attorney, but the RIGHT attorney.
Finding the right attorney is more complicated than it seems; there are more factors, considerations, and concerns than one may think. What’s more, failure to appropriately weigh your options can have long-lasting, disastrous consequences.
To make the process easier, here are important factors that you should consider when searching for the right personal injury lawyer for you.
For many people, just the word “attorney” evokes images of mountainous legal bills; after all, maybe you have heard that the average attorney bills between $100 to $300 per hour.
But that’s not true of personal injury lawyers, who work for a contingency fee. Although it sounds complex, the idea is actually quite simple. Rather than billing an hourly rate, the lawyer takes a percentage of the client’s award if the suit is successful. The client only pays the lawyer if he or she receives compensation via settlement or the court, and even then, clients rarely pay any expenses out of pocket.
This can save you tremendous out-of-pocket costs, while potentially giving you access to higher-quality representation.
In the past, lawyers would perform a variety of different legal services and dabble in a multitude of practice areas. It wasn’t uncommon for a single lawyer to draft wills, handle criminal cases, and also review contracts in his or her spare time. However, the “jack of all trades” lawyer is quickly becoming an anachronism.
Today, lawyers tend to focus their practice on just one or two areas of law, allowing them to become uniquely adept at handling cases within that practice area. This trend has changed the legal industry and how law firms are structured.
For you, the client, it has become increasingly important to find a lawyer that has extensive experience handling cases like yours. For example, if you were injured in a large truck accident, it would be to your benefit to hire a lawyer with a practice focused on large truck accident litigation.
In the personal injury context, the investigatory and discovery processes have grown more technical and intricate as technology has progressed. Hiring a firm with the right experience ensures they have the resources and acumen to handle your case effectively from the initial consultation through trial.
Size Matters, Sometimes
In terms of law firms, bigger doesn’t always mean better. Hiring a smaller firm may be advantageous in some cases, while at other times a larger firm is necessary to handle the complexities of large-scale litigation. To make an informed decision, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of both.
Any firm with less than 20 lawyers is considered small. Because they employ fewer lawyers, these firms tend to practice in only a few different areas. Although they may have fewer resources than larger firms, clients often find small firm representation more personalized and attentive. Attorneys at smaller firms are often easier to reach and have more time to spend on your case.
However, smaller firms may lack the horsepower to handle more complicated cases. Some cases require extensive discovery and a detailed investigation, requiring considerable resources and technological acumen; a small firm with only a few lawyers and a limited budget may not be up to the task.
A firm is considered large if it has over 100 employees or multiple locations. One obvious benefit of a large firm is resources. They can afford a team of lawyers to handle a single case. If a case requires extensive, sophisticated discovery they have the technological know-how to match.
On the flip side, larger firms often lack that personal touch. It may be more difficult to contact your lawyer, or you may have to schedule an appointment weeks in advance. Furthermore, because larger firms often handle many cases at once, you may get a one-size-fits-all approach.
Choosing a personal injury attorney can be an agonizing experience. After all you have gone through—the pain and suffering, mental anguish, reduced quality of life—it’s critical to make the right choice for both yourself and your family.
Although all the above criteria are valuable and should be utilized, at the end of the day it comes down to comfort. You should always feel you can speak candidly and openly with your lawyer. The attorney-client relationship is ultimately about trust—can you trust this person to fight for your rights and those of your family?
In this regard, the best way to evaluate a lawyer is through one-on-one interaction. Thankfully, many lawyers offer free initial consultations that you can easily set up with one phone call. Treat your first meeting with a prospective attorney like you would a job interview: Make sure your lawyer displays experience in your case area, trustworthiness, and dedication, and communicates in a way that works for you.