How To Evaluate A California Personal Injury Attorney
There are thousands of personal injury attorneys out there, so if you ever find yourself in need of legal representation, how do you know which one you should call? Choosing the right personal injury attorney can make a huge difference in your case and affect your ability to recover compensation, so this is not a decision to take lightly. Instead of hiring the first attorney that you find, take the time to evaluate a handful of attorneys to determine which one is the right fit. Here’s how:
Tap into your network
Begin by reaching out to friends and family to ask for recommendations. Even if your loved ones have never filed a personal injury lawsuit, they may still know of someone who is highly respected in the community. Besides your friends and family, you should also ask any attorneys that you have worked with in the past for their recommendations. It doesn’t matter what kind of law these attorneys practice—criminal defense, family law, business, etc.—they should be able to give you a short list of personal injury attorneys that they would recommend.
Do online research
Once you have created a list of names based on recommendations, it’s time to do online research. Begin by visiting online review sites that specialize in rating attorneys such as Avvo and Martindale. On these websites, you will be able to read reviews written by former clients so you can get a better idea of what it’s like to work with each attorney on your list. It’s important to note that it will be hard to find an attorney who only has positive reviews. If the attorney has a couple negative reviews, this shouldn’t be reason enough to cross him off of your list. However, if the majority of his reviews are negative, move on to the next one.
In addition to reading reviews, you can also see each attorney’s accomplishments and work experience. Look for personal injury attorneys that have won prestigious awards and belong to local legal associations.
Next, visit each attorney’s website. You should be able to determine what practice areas the attorney specializes in just by looking at the website. Cross every attorney off of your list who does not typically represent clients in cases similar to yours. For example, if you would like to file a medical malpractice claim, don’t work with an attorney who mainly handles car accident cases.
You can learn a lot about a lawyer online, so use this information to help you narrow down your list of potential attorneys.
Now that you’ve narrowed your options down to a short list of attorneys, get in touch with each lawyer on your list to schedule a consultation. Personal injury attorneys typically offer free initial consultations, so meeting with the people on your list shouldn’t cost you anything. You don’t have to commit to working with an attorney in order to schedule a consultation regarding your case. In fact, the consultation is where you both will learn more about each other to determine if you should work together.
Attend the consultations
Be prepared to ask questions during the consultation to learn more about the attorney that you are meeting with. At this point, you should have already looked at his website to learn how much experience he has handling cases like yours. Therefore, the next thing you will need to discuss is how these cases are resolved. Does he usually settle outside of the courtroom? About 95% of personal injury cases are resolved in pretrial negotiations, so this is not unusual. However, it’s important to work with an attorney who is comfortable taking your case to trial in the rare event that it does make it that far. Talk to each attorney on your list about his trial experience. Find out how many cases he’s tried in court and the outcome of these cases.
Use this time to learn more about what it’s like to work with the law firm. Who will handle your case if you decide to hire the firm? Is it the person you are meeting with or someone else in the office? How often will you be updated on the status of your case? How many cases does each legal professional handle at once? If you expect a lot of personal attention from your attorney, don’t choose a lawyer that handles dozens of cases or doesn’t actually communicate with the client himself.
Finally, you should discuss fees. Most personal injury attorneys will work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they won’t be paid unless they are able to recover compensation on your behalf. Be sure that you ask the attorney who will pay for expert witnesses or other resources needed during the investigation and trial. If you will be responsible for paying for these additional expenses, this is something you need to know about upfront.
Pay attention to your comfort level during the consultation. If you feel uncomfortable talking to the attorney or don’t think that he’s listening to what you have to say, trust your gut and cross him off of the list. It can take months and sometimes years for an attorney to reach a settlement or trial verdict in a personal injury case, so you shouldn’t work with someone you can’t stand to be around.
Take detailed notes during each consultation so you can go back and review them later after you have met with every attorney on your list. The answers to these questions should be enough to help you decide which attorney is the right fit for your case.
If you have been injured, it’s imperative that you seek legal representation as soon as possible. Contact Carpenter & Zuckerman today to schedule a free consultation with our team of experienced personal injury attorneys.
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