After you decide you probably need help from a car accident lawyer after you suffered injuries in a crash, how do you find the right one? Where do you even start to search? How can you be confident in a lawyer’s abilities and trustworthiness?
The following are some tips for finding the right lawyer to handle your car accident case. Remember that anyone can pay for a fancy and professional-looking website, so you should take additional action to ensure you find a lawyer who is fully qualified to provide the help and representation you need.
Research Lawyers Online
Even if you have personal referrals, conducting an online search never hurts. There are many online directories and services that can help you narrow down the millions of results that pop up when Googling “car accident lawyer.” These directories often provide additional inside information about an attorney or law firm, such as client reviews. Client reviews can tell you a lot about what to expect from your experience with a particular attorney.
Some of the many resources you may want to use include:
- Your State Bar’s Find a Lawyer function
- Super Lawyers
If you want to narrow your search even more, you can utilize an online legal directory that focuses on personal injury lawyers, which is the kind of attorney you need after a car accident. Some of those directories include the following:
- National Academy of Personal Injury Lawyers
- Find a Car Accident Attorney
- Find a Personal Injury Attorney
- Personal Injury Warriors
These can be great resources to help you create your short list of attorneys who you may be interested in. Make sure to pay attention to a lawyer’s experience and client reviews on these sites.
Ask Your Family and Friends
Even with the rise of the internet, word of mouth in your trusted community is still an important way to get information and recommendations for any type of professional services—and a lawyer is no different! If you have someone you know and trust who had a lawyer represent them in the past, this is a great place to start, but is not always a guarantee.
With so many lawyers advertising online, on billboards, and on television, the regulations regarding ethical advertising have become more relaxed in many states. You are right to be unsure of which ads you can trust and which you can’t, and confirmation from a friend or family member can help narrow down your options at least.
If you can’t think of anyone close to you who has dealt with a car accident claim in the past, consider asking others in the community, such as a co-worker, a neighbor, a medical professional, or a pastor. If you would like a lawyer who speaks Spanish or another language, seek out someone who speaks that language to see if they can recommend anyone.
Word of mouth can help in two ways—it can let you know who had a positive experience with a particular attorney and who had a negative experience with an attorney they would not recommend. However, understand that you shouldn’t blindly take any recommendation you get. Some people may have a friend or relative who is a lawyer who they recommend, even though that lawyer does not have the experience needed to handle your case.
You may also get recommendations for lawyers who don’t focus on car accident and injury cases, and that may not be the right person for the job. While you can always start with personal referrals, you should still use discretion when interviewing and choosing an attorney.
Pick up the Phone
Once you have a list of three to five possible candidates, it’s time to contact them directly. Almost every law firm these days has an option to fill out an online form to get more information. While this seems convenient to most people, calling a law firm can often give you a much better idea of how the firm works. For example, talking to someone on the phone can let you know whether the firm is all-business or takes a more friendly and personable approach. Did you feel like your call was welcome? If not, you may not ever feel welcome contacting the office—even if you are a client! You can’t get this type of feedback from an online communication.
Also, calling a law firm can often result in quicker responses to your questions. This brings us to our next point—always prepare a checklist of important questions ahead of time. It’s easy to forget certain questions or issues to address once you’re on the phone, so it’s wise to have the list in front of you and write down the answers for each firm as you go. This can help you compare and contrast answers later on.
The following are some important questions you may want to ask a potential attorney for your car accident claim.
Do you have past clients that have left feedback or reviews? An attorney that has been practicing for a while, should have a long string of (hopefully) happy clients. Make sure to ask about the firm’s history and look to see what others have said.
How familiar are you with this jurisdiction? Even if a lawyer is licensed in a particular state, they may not be familiar with the courts and the civil justice system in your specific area. For instance, if your car accident happened near your home in Houston, you want a car accident lawyer who has handled cases in the Harris County District Courts. If you are near Dallas, you want a legal representative who has tried or settled cases in Dallas County District Courts. This goes for all states in all parts of the country. Alternatively, if you are speaking to a national law firm such as ours, make sure that the attorney has trusted partners with which they work in all jurisdictions to make sure that you are well represented.
Each court in each jurisdiction will have its own procedures in addition to state or nationwide procedural rules. Judges in each courtroom have their own way of doing things, and it helps when your lawyer has connections and knows people in a particular court. This can only help ensure that your case goes as smoothly as possible without any unnecessary hiccups or delays.
Who will handle my case? When you’re asking questions, you want answers that are relevant to the specific person who will be assigned to your case. Often, the person on the phone is not that attorney, but they should have a working knowledge of the attorney’s practices and experience. You also want to make sure you will have a licensed lawyer available to help handle your, and that the firm will not rely solely on support staff to handle every aspect of your case.
What is your experience with this type of case? How many car accident claims has the attorney handled in your area? Have they worked with the insurance companies in question before? What types of settlements have they obtained for car accident victims? Are they willing to file a lawsuit and go to trial on your behalf?
Can I get an overview of the firm? You should learn about the age and size of the firm, the resources available for car accident cases, their network of doctors and experts, and any other relevant information. Has the firm been recognized for any awards for their work or leadership in car accident or personal injury cases? Learning more about the way a firm operates and its reputation can help give you a feeling about whether you can trust them with your claim.
How do your fees work? Most car accident lawyers handle cases on a contingency fee arrangement, though the specifics of fee agreements can vary from firm to firm. What percentage does the firm take? Are expenses billed upfront or from a settlement? Do fees increase if the case goes to court? Discuss the particular fees and expenses of a firm and make sure you clearly understand your obligations before you sign an agreement.
What is your communication style with clients? Does the lawyer regularly communicate with clients about developments in the case? Do they usually communicate by phone, email, text, or any of the above? While you’re on the phone for your initial interview, notice their communication style. Do they listen closely to what you’re saying? Do they thoroughly answer each question until you’re satisfied? Do they make you feel comfortable opening up about the personal details of your case? Communication is a key component of any attorney-client relationship.
Have you had any past problems with clients or the Bar? Before you call, you should already do your research on the State Bar site to determine whether the lawyer has had any censures or disciplinary action in the past, as well as to make sure they are currently in good standing. However, it never hurts to ask an attorney (or the staff member on the phone) about their history directly.
How long do you think my case will take? While no attorney can give you an absolute timeline for a car accident claim, they can tell you how long they anticipate it will take. Ask if they currently have a lot of pending cases that need their attention right now, meaning they might not be able to devote proper time to yours to ensure a prompt resolution.
What’s will my role be in the case? Each attorney involves clients in different ways in their cases. You want to be clear what will be expected of you during the process, especially if you are recovering from serious injuries.
Trust Your Gut
Even if you get a good referral for an attorney and they answer all of your questions as you would expect, you may simply have an “off” feeling about the firm. On the other hand, your friend may have disliked an attorney’s demeanor, but you feel like you connected with their approach on the phone. Ultimately, this is YOUR choice and you should always listen to your gut instincts.
Beware of attorneys who simply focus on the monetary end-result of your claim. You want someone who cares about you as a person—not just the money in your (and their!) pockets. In addition, if a lawyer only focuses on the strengths of your case, there is probably something they aren’t telling you. Every case has its potential weaknesses, and your lawyer should be just as upfront about the weaknesses as they are about the strengths.
You have enough stress when dealing with car accident injuries—you shouldn’t have to also worry whether your attorney has your best interests in mind.
How a Skilled Car Accident Attorneys Can Help You!
If you were seriously injured in a car accident, speak to an experienced car accident attorney as soon as you can. A good attorney will know how to handle insurance companies who are only looking out for their bottom line and get clients the compensation they deserve. If the insurance company refuses to provide an adequate settlement offer, make sure your attorney won’t hesitate to take your case to trial to get you the compensation to which you are entitled under the law.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.