How to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

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If you have been injured, it is hard to think straight. You are in pain, angry that it happened, and often scared of how to cover the finances. The emotions get more vital if you believe that the injury occurred because of someone else’s negligence. Before you call a personal injury lawyer in Cumming, GA, you should know what to look for in a top-notch attorney. This process requires knowing the right questions to ask, where to find attorneys, and warning signs to look out for. Only after you understand the process are you ready to hire a lawyer.

Questions to Ask

The first part of knowing what to look for is understanding what questions to ask. Many types of attorneys handle personal injury cases. Therefore, you want to make sure you hire someone who is experienced in your situation.

What is your level of experience?

There are seven main categories of personal injury:

  • Car Accident
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Slip and Fall
  • Animal Bite
  • Defamation
  • Assault and Battery
  • Product Liability

These categories have many subcategories beneath them. Therefore, you want to ask the law firm how much experience they have handling similar cases. For example, you do not want an attorney that mainly handles car accidents if you suffered a surgical injury. The more experience they have, the easier it will be for them to fight your case. They will have connections to the correct experts and know what questions to ask while investigating your position.

In addition to case experience, you will also want to know familiar they are in the courtroom. Very rarely do civil cases go to trial; however, it does occasionally happen. Therefore, you want to make sure that the person handling your claim has been in a courtroom and knows how it works. Winning a civil case is about convincing the judge and jury of the facts of the case and having the ability to dispute the allegations from the defending lawyers. It can be intimidating, and you want someone who has the confidence and skill to handle everything that comes your way. Hire an attorney that feels so confident in your case that they will take it to trial if it means giving you what you deserve.

Who will work my case?

Law firms are generally comprised of several lawyers. You want to make sure you know who will be working on your case and talk to them directly as much as possible. In addition, you will want to know who will be assisting them with the investigating. Many lawyers have secretaries and paralegals that will help, but others will outsource jobs to other individuals. While this does help keep legal fees lower, it may make you uneasy. Keep an open line of communication and make sure you understand every step of the process.

How do you charge?

Speaking of legal fees, lawyers have various ways of charging clients. One of the main types of agreements is a contingency fee. This payment arrangement means the lawyer will only receive money if you win a settlement of some sort. If the law firm you are considering takes this type of payment agreement, make sure you understand what their cut is before you sign. However, you can also find attorneys that will charge either a flat rate for their services or hourly rates. So again, think about what type of arrangement you want, and make sure you completely understand how they charge.

Charges are accrued in a variety of methods. One of the items you are paying for is the lawyer’s time on the case. However, that is only a small portion of the cost of filing a lawsuit. A few of the other fees include:

  • Court filing
  • Calling in expert witnesses
  • Gathering of information
  • Administrative fees

When working with your lawyer, you can discuss how those fees will be paid. Many will work the payments into the settlement, which means the defending party will be required to cover your attorney’s fees. Read over your contract with the law firm and determine if legal fees are “off the top” or not. If this is the case, you will have the legal costs subtracted from the settlement before being paid. This style of agreement is generally the best for you if you are on a contingency arrangement, as you will receive more money. Otherwise, your lawyer will receive their contingency fee before having the court costs removed.

Finally, you will want to understand how legal fees are covered if you lose your case. Talk to your lawyer about all of the situations that could arise during the investigation and make sure you are comfortable with the costs.

What are my chances of winning?

A tricky question to ask, and one that has unknown answers, is what chances you have to win your case. While they cannot answer specifically how much you may win, they should be able to have a good feeling on how strong your case is from the start. The main reason to ask this question is to weed out attorneys who give you high promises that cannot be achieved. You want to look for lawyers that can provide you the good and the bad scenarios with your case and keep settlement amounts reasonable. It is important to remember that most law firms will not be willing to take a lawsuit if they do not believe it is strong enough to win.

Finding Lawyers

Now that you know what questions you will need to ask and why you need to know where to find law firms who can handle your case. There are thousands of lawyers available, and referrals are the best route to go. Thankfully, there are a few avenues for locating referrals.

Friends and Family

The age of technology has made finding referrals easier than in the past. However, friends and family are the best places to start. Talk to your coworkers, family members, and friends who have been represented in the past. You can also reach out to your acquaintances on social media for suggestions on where to start. Once you have names from several people, you can begin the interview process. Remember that different people have a variety of opinions, so always meet with the firm and ask your questions before making a decision. Trust your gut and make sure you are comfortable with explaining your situation.

Nolo Directory

Online searches have been made easier with directories, such as Nolo. These sites offer comprehensive profiles that will allow you to narrow down your choices, and there are chatbots where you can connect with people in real-time. Some of the information you can find on Nolo include:

  • Experience
  • Education
  • How they charge
  • Licenses
  • Bar standing

In many instances, while you are searching, you can receive referrals to a law firm from other lawyers. Networking is necessary for any industry, so attorneys will have good suggestions when you are looking for specific assistance.

Bar Association Referrals

Your local bar association should also have a list of available lawyers based on their specialty. While this is a great way to start a list, you will want to use other directories to get a better feel on how well they work with clients. The bar association will simply know if they are currently in good standing, not whether they have the experience to handle specific cases. The bar association is better used as a cross-reference for the list you are creating through friends, family, and Nolo.

If you choose to go through a referral service, find out what qualifications they use to include names and if they have any screening processes. Once you obtain names, do in-depth research to determine their philosophies and work ethic. Find out how aggressive they are in handling cases and how many hours they put into each investigation.

Selecting the Best Lawyer

Finally, you are ready to begin the interview process and select the best lawyer to handle your case. With each meeting, take a notepad and a folder with all of your documentation. You want to make sure you have anything that may assist with your case, including:

  • Police reports
  • Medical records
  • All bills
  • Proof of income loss
  • Correspondence with insurance companies

Most law firms will offer a free 30-minute consultation free of charge. Therefore, you want to pack as much as you can into that first appointment. With the number of companies that offer the first meeting at no charge, you should question the attorneys that require you to pay just to talk to them. When you are consulting with a lawyer, always take notes and ask if they are welcome to the conversation to be recorded so you can reflect on the discussion later.

In the selection process, discuss your settlement goals. Your attorney should be willing to explain how to decide a reasonable amount and what hurdles you will face. The best lawyers can assist you in determining what you want (i.e., fast settlement, regardless of amount) and consult you on how to make that happen. Of course, not everyone is after the same end goal, so make sure the person you hire is listening to your wants and needs.

What to Watch For

There are a few things to watch for when you are interviewing lawyers.

  1. Avoids giving references – Lawyers should be eager to provide you with references to back up their claims. Avoidance often sets off red flags of a poor track record. Personal injury cases are not always easy wins, but you want an attorney who is confident and dedicated to their work and knows how to communicate the odds of success.
  2. Poor communication – Ideal attorneys will follow up with you after your consultation. If a law firm is hard to communicate with, they will not be a good choice. You want someone who has someone on staff to talk to at all times, even if they are out of the office.
  3. Unclear billing – Take caution with any law firm that is not clear about their billing practices. You should feel comfortable asking for a breakdown of their costs and fully understanding how they operate. Anytime you begin to see questionable items or errors, consider seeking a second opinion.
  4. No empathy – You want an attorney that is enthusiastic about their work but also empathetic to your cause. When interviewing the lawyer, make sure you feel like they care about you and not just making money. In addition, watch how they interact with you and their fellow staff members. Attorneys should have respect for other people and the legal system. If you suspect any illegal behavior or feel uncomfortable with how they talk to others, change counsel immediately.

Hiring a lawyer should be taken with deep consideration and research. You have suffered an injury that was not your fault, and you deserve fair treatment. When you take time to select the best attorney for your personal injury case, you have a better chance of hiring someone who is honest, passionate, and trustworthy. Their counsel is invaluable to your situation. However, the final selection will also rely on your comfort. After finding the attorney that you want to work your case with, create a clear contract that offers milestones. Always keep in touch to know how the investigation is progressing and what you need to do to keep it on track.

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