If you are injured and believe someone else is to blame, your first step should be to find the best possible personal injury attorney to represent your needs. Start by finding an attorney who is licensed to practice Personal Injury Law in your state. A quick Internet search will direct you to your state’s Bar Association, which licenses and monitors all attorneys. In most states a lawyer can receive accreditation as a “Personal Injury Lawyer,” so start by downloading a list of those attorneys in your area. Some attorneys may note specialties such as “Brain Injury Law,” for example. This may not refer to a State Bar licensing but ratheran area of experience or interest.
Many people choose an attorney based on who has the funniest commercials or biggest billboards. Abundant advertising is not a guarantee of competent legal services and attention to your needs, just proof of a large advertising budget.
Once you have a list from your State Bar’s website of attorneys in your area that are licensed to practice Personal Injury Law, you may be overwhelmed. Typically, large cities have plenty of personal injury attorneys. Start narrowing down the list by contacting firms who can meet with you in person for a free initial consultation within the next few weeks. If an attorney wants to charge a fee to hear your story, consider contacting someone else. If you’re injured, you probably cannot afford to wait two months for an initial consultation.
Seek recommendations for a personal injury lawyer from personal friends or family members. Consider the source of the feedback, though. If your uncle didn’t like his attorney, how meaningful is that if your uncle never likes anyone?
Next, review the attorneys’ websites. Pay particular attention to attorneys’ biographical information. Did they attend a well-respected law school? How long have they been practicing Personal Injury Law? Try internet searches to find comments from past clients about the attorneys, although keep these in perspective: one irate client may not tell the whole story as he rants on and on in a social media posting, while ten satisfied clients of the same attorney may never think to post their praise online. If nothing else, comments from people you don’t know about an attorney can help you with specific questions to ask during your initial consultation.
Once you narrow your list down to five or less attorneys, schedule your consultation appointments. Be prepared for these interviews. Write down in advance questions you want to ask; take notes during the interview on the attorney’s responses. If you take any documents with you, like doctor’s reports or photos of the accident scene, be sure to leave your originals at home and take only copies. Questions to ask your personal injury attorney can include:
- What types of cases has the attorney previously handled (wrongful death, nursing home negligence, medical malpractice, food safety violations, etc.)?
- How many cases has this attorney represented?
- What were the case outcomes?
- What was the compensation amounts for similar personal injury cases?
- Who would work with you, the attorney in your interview or someone else in the firm?
- How many paralegals will work on your case?
- What is the attorney’s fee?
- Did the attorney seem to value you and your time?
Try to meet anyone in the firm that would be part of the legal team representing you and tour the office. It is also important to ask for references from past clients.
Once your interviews are complete, make a list of “pros and cons” for each lawyer. Be sure to note whether you liked the attorney and whether they seemed trustworthy. You will potentially spend a good team of time with your personal injury attorney, and you need to feel comfortable with this person. After making the right preparations and asking the right questions, you can select your personal injury attorney with confidence.