The majority of personal injury cases are based on negligence, meaning that when you’re hurt, you have to prove that you got hurt because of someone else’s carelessness.
This means that even though you’re the injured party, if you file a lawsuit, you have to show evidence that backs up your claim regarding the other party’s negligence.
If there’s no evidence of negligence, sometimes a doctrine called res ipsa loquitur may be used.
This is used when there’s an accident that you can show wouldn’t normally happen unless someone was negligent and that the injury was caused by something under the control of the defendant. Under this doctrine, you also have to show you didn’t contribute to the accident.
A good personal injury attorney can be invaluable in situations either where you can prove negligence, or you need to show res ipsa loquitur.
Situations where people commonly hire personal injury lawyers include:
- You sustain long-term, permanent injuries that will require care or medical expenses
- Your injuries are severe
- An insurance company is refusing to compensate you for your claim
People are often hesitant to work with personal injury lawyers; however, because they aren’t sure where to start or what to expect. The following are important things to keep in mind as far as hiring a good personal injury lawyer.
Where to Begin
Sometimes people assume that a personal injury lawyer can work on any kind of case, but many of these attorneys tend to specialize in certain areas.
For example, they may specialize in either representing plaintiffs or defendants.
They might also have other areas of specialty beyond this, so you need to ask before you go too far into anything with potential candidates.
A few initial considerations include:
- A personal injury lawyer’s website will usually include a bio that should tell you about their education and general experience as well as what they specialize in. You should be able to determine what types of cases they most often handle fairly quickly.
- Does the attorney belong to any trial lawyers associations at the local, state, or national levels? If you can’t find this on their website, email or call to ask.
- Once you get in contact with attorneys you’re thinking about hiring, you’ll need to make sure there are no conflicts of interest that could impact the case.
- Are there any special considerations that would make things better or easier for you? For example, would you like to work with a bilingual lawyer? How far away is the lawyer’s office, and how difficult or easy will it be for you to get there?
- How eager does the attorney appear once you make contact? Good lawyers are busy, and while you want to be a priority if they seem too eager it could be a red flag.
If you have no place to start as far as a good personal injury lawyer, there are referral services you may find helpful.
For example, most local bar associations have referral services so you can contact them in your area, and they will help you find someone who might be a good fit for your needs.
What To Watch For
If you’re in the process of talking to attorneys of you’ve just hired one, there are some potential signs of problems to watch for, aside from seeming too eager.
First, if a lawyer guarantees you a certain outcome, it’s a violation of their ethical duty. A lawyer can tell you if you have a good case and that they’ll work hard for you, but if they make a guarantee, it’s a problem.
If your lawyer is insisting on a settlement and doesn’t give the idea of a trial any of their time, it’s another possible issue. Not all cases will or should go to trial, but a good lawyer doesn’t take it off the table.
If an attorney is pushing you toward a settlement, they might be trying to make the most possible money with the least amount of work.
Vague communication is not good either. Lawyers should be able to answer your questions, and they should keep you updated on your case. A lack of communication is actually a fairly common issue clients have with their attorneys. No, they might not be able to stay in constant contact with you, but they should be reachable in a reasonable way.
Know Your Goals
Often people will go into the lawyer search without really understanding what they want out of it. To maximize your relationship with a personal injury lawyer, you need to have an idea of the details of your case and what you want before you meet anyone.
For example, you might want a settlement that’s easy and has as few associated costs as possible.
On the other hand, you might want as much money as you can get, and you don’t care how long it takes your lawyer to make that happen.
If you don’t know what you want, you’re more likely to be unhappy with the outcome, and it may be through no fault of your attorney.
Finally, something else to be aware of is that almost all personal injury lawyers are paid on a contingency fee basis. This means your lawyer is paid a percentage of the settlement or court award you receive.
Most lawyers charge one-third, and if you don’t get anything, neither does your lawyer.
While this is pretty standard across all personal injury cases, you should watch for what is described as costs associated with your case. These aren’t the same as fees, and this can become an issue when they add up.
Overall, searching for a personal injury lawyer can be intimidating in the beginning, but if you go into it with some background information it’s an easier process. Do a little research on personal injury cases in general and then work to find someone in line with your needs and expectations.