After an accident, you may want to consider hiring a personal injury attorney. While insurance companies handle the majority of injury claims, an attorney working directly for your cause can often be more helpful than typical insurance settlements.
When to Hire a Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer can be a benefit for a variety of reasons. If you have sustained injuries that could lead to long term health issues, if you feel your insurance company is unfair and unhelpful, or if the other involved party is uninsured (or underinsured), you should seek professional legal guidance beginning with a consultation. However, if you have received only minor injuries, hiring a lawyer would likely be unnecessary, and a good lawyer would not accept the case.
A good lawyer will not charge a fee for a consultation. This will provide you with an opportunity to obtain legal advice about your specific situation. If the lawyer believes you have a strong case, you should expect him to take it on by means of a contingency fee. This means he is willing to work for free until the settlement is received, a sure sign he believes in your cause.
Experience and Reputation
Before selecting a lawyer to consult with, do your research. It is of utmost importance that your attorney have experience handling personal injury cases (and have success doing so). Beyond basic online reviews, which can sometimes be misleading, friends and family can often be the best reference to finding a good lawyer in your area.
A common practice in certain parts of the country, law firms will directly contact accident victims hoping to secure new clients. This is known as “ambulance chasing,” and you should be extremely cautious when dealing with any of these overzealous attorneys.
When meeting with a lawyer, there are a few specific questions to keep in mind. In addition to inquiring about his rate of success in the field, you should ask about any issues he has had with the local bar association.
Communication and Honesty
When you hire a lawyer, you should expect exactly that—a lawyer. If the lawyer attempts to pass you off to a paralegal, this is a sign that he is not truly committed to your cause. Your attorney should be present, knowledgeable, and engaged in all communications. In addition to in person meetings, you should be able to personally contact your lawyer via phone and email when needed.
In addition to open communication, honesty in what to expect when moving forward with your case is key. You should never be mislead. As with all cases before a court, nothing can be guaranteed. This is why paying fees contingent on outcome is so important. The lawyer should be confident in handling your case, but he should not promise any particular result.
When meeting with the lawyer to determine the contingency fee, you should also inquire about expenses. Most firms do not include expenses within their fee, and these will be tacked onto the bill at the conclusion of the case. Expenses can include anything from filing fees to witness compensation.
Patience is Key
The legal process can often be tedious and time consuming. Be sure to ask the lawyer how long he expects the entire process to take and beware of promises of quick settlements. This ultimately relies on honest communication, and you should be able to trust that your lawyer is willing to put in the appropriate amount of time and energy to best serve you.
Columbus attorney, Jami Oliver, is available for consultation regarding your personal injury claim. Visit her website for case results, more areas of practice, and contact information, www.joliverlawoffices.com.