Top 10 Tips for Hiring an Accident Attorney
If you have been in an accident of any sort from a car accident to slipping and falling at the grocery store, hiring an accident attorney may be your best option for recovering damages for your losses. Read on for the top 10 tips for hiring an accident attorney.
- Contact the local bar association: Bar associations are professional organizations for attorneys and usually offer an attorney referral service by specialties, including auto accident law.
- Look for local experts on the subject: You want an attorney who is an expert in his field. Search for articles written by local accident attorneys in scholarly journals or for an attorney who is active in professional organizations or gives lectures in your area. The more passionate a lawyer is about his or her field, the more likely it is he will be a part of some of these professional organizations; thus, they can be a good starting place for individuals looking for a dedicated lawyer.
- Ask about the attorney’s reputation: You can check the Better Business Bureau or online review sites to see what experience others have had with the attorney. You may also want to consider getting references from past clients.
- Consider the attorney’s case experience: There are many different types of accidents, and each different incident has a different set of elements you need to prove to recover your damages. For example, a car accident has different liability rules than if someone assaulted and injured you, or than if you got hurt while visiting a store. You want an attorney who specializes in the specific type of accident you experienced.
- Ask about past results and verdicts: Your attorney should be able to give you a rough idea of the results his or her past clients have experienced. If he or she has won the majority of cases, he or she should be able to tell you that.
- Understand there are no guarantees: Although past performance may be an indicator of how competent your attorney is, it is not necessarily an indicator of the recovery you can expect. Every situation is different, with different levels of injury to the plaintiff and different levels of culpability of the defendant. Your monetary recovery will come down to exactly what happened in your particular accident and what your losses were.
- Ask about the fee structure and court costs: Many accident attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, which means they do not get paid unless you win your case. Find out if your attorney plans to charge that way, or whether you will have to pay hourly. You should also remember that, even if your attorney works for a contingency fee, you may have to foot the bill for court fees and costs and/or for investigators who work on proving your case. Find out before you sign a contract with an attorney exactly what fees and costs you will be responsible for throughout the process.
- Tell your attorney your story: You need to be completely honest and up front with your lawyer, even if there are some details that seem they may hurt your case. Your attorney is required to keep all information you share confidential, and he or she can help you to determine what your likely chances of recovery are only if you are completely honest with him or her.
- Understand what your attorney will do for you: Your attorney is your advocate in court. He or she will file the lawsuit or defend it on your behalf. Since many cases settle out of court, which means they never get to trial, a big part of what your attorney may do involves negotiating a settlement offer and advising you on whether to accept a lump sum settlement payment or to take your chances in front of the jury.
- Act quickly after your accident: There are statutes of limitations in every jurisdiction. If you do not complete certain things – such as filing notice of an accident or notice of your intent to sue – within a given time frame, your right to recover damages may be limited or you may be able to recover nothing at all. Contact an accident attorney as soon as possible after you are injured, so he or she can advise you of the deadlines to protect your rights.