Factors to Consider When Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
When you are injured in a car accident, whom you choose to hire, as your car accident lawyer, is a decision that should not be made lightly. Yet with so many law firms in Seattle alone, how do you know who you can trust to handle your case and obtain the maximum compensation for your injuries?
Before you settle on an attorney and a law firm, there are several factors you should consider.
Reputation is Key—it is best to choose a car accident lawyer who has built a solid reputation in his chosen field of law. Ask friends and family members whom they recommend and begin compiling a list of possible attorneys. Check on their trial experience and look to see how successful they have been in the past. How many cases have they won? Did they obtain large settlements for their clients? What do past clients have to say about them? All of these questions can help you choose an attorney with a proven track record.
Specific Experience—even if an attorney has a great reputation, if he is not experienced in handling your type of case, then keep looking. It is important to choose an attorney who has had success handling cases just like yours. If you have been involved in a car accident, be sure your attorney practices car accident law first and foremost.
Fees are a Priority—filing a lawsuit can take time and be expensive for many injured clients. That’s why many attorneys offer their services on a contingency basis. This means that you do not pay unless your attorney recovers money for you. Be sure you understand exactly what percentage you will owe and how your attorney’s fees are calculated. This will prevent unnecessary surprises when your case is settled.
Personalities—it is also important to consider the personality of your attorney and how easily you can discuss your case with him or her. If your attorney doesn’t return phone calls promptly or seems too busy to meet with you, then he may not have time to devote to your case. The right attorney will be able to give you the personalized 1:1 attention you need.
When To Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident and When Not To
There three distinct scenarios after a car accident that may arise. depending on which you find yourself in will help determine whether you should hire an auto insurance lawyer or not.
The simplest, most clear-cut claims really don’t require an attorney’s assistance
In simple claims, typically:
- there is clarity of liability (for example, the other guy was clearly at fault and acknowledges it); and/or
- the injuries are minor with low medical bills and other expenses; and/or
- there are no extenuating circumstances requiring investigation, such as previously existing injuries to the same body parts, complicated scenarios in the accident, uncertainties about coverage, or questions about the statute of limitations (the legal deadline for filing a lawsuit against the responsible party). You may not know these things right away. That’s why many injured claimants start out handling their own claim, only to hire the services of an attorney later.
For simple claims, you may be able to work through the insurance claims process on your own. Click here for tips on how to get the best car accident settlement and how to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer.
It would be prudent to at least seek advice from an auto accident attorney when:
- Liability is not clear or is shared between or among the parties.
- You have no idea how to evaluate what your car accident claim is worth.
- The adjuster has asked you to provide medical records from prior to the accident.
- The adjuster has made you an offer and you think your claim is worth a great deal more.
- The adjuster is offering a structured settlement rather than a lump sum payment.
- You are not confident in your ability to negotiate a settlement on your own behalf.
- You have a claim of lost wages that is difficult to prove—for example, you are a consultant, a business owner, a salesperson, etc.
- You don’t know how to get a pain and suffering settlement without a lawyer.
It is imperative that you consult an auto accident attorney when:
- There are extenuating circumstances that make your claim more valuable and you don’t know how to prove your loss (for example, you’re a caregiver and can no longer take care of your husband or sick mother).
- The insurance company has denied your claim, you believe they are incorrect in their denial, and they will not reconsider.
- The insurance company’s settlement offer is too low.
- You are seriously injured with significant medical bills with or without residual disability.
- You are moderately injured with residual disability and will incur future medical bills.
- The injured party is a minor with more than slight injuries.
- Liability is being disputed and you believe you are not responsible or are only partially responsible for the accident.
- It’s been almost a year since your accident, you’re not close to settling your claim, and you don’t know what the statute of limitations is in your state.
- The circumstances surrounding the accident are complex and may require expert investigation.
- The other party to the accident has served you with a lawsuit.
Things You Need To Know Before Hiring An Auto Accident Lawyer
Approximately 660,000 drivers in America are using a cell phone or manipulating another electronic device while on the road at any given moment. So the likelihood of a car accident, while it may not be your fault, is particularly high.
And in the event that you do end up in a car accident, it’s important to know a thing or two about legal services beforehand. So to help you prepare, here are four things you absolutely need to know before you hire an auto accident lawyer.
Initial Consultations Are Typically Free
There are people out there who won’t reach out to a lawyer at all because they believe it will be too expensive. But a good car accident attorney will typically offer a free initial consultation in which they’ll discuss the basic information surrounding your case and whether or not you actually have a case that needs representation.
Never Underestimate Experience
Experience is arguably the most important factor to consider in your decision to hire an auto accident lawyer. The vast majority of good lawyers will limit their practice to one or two specific types of law, such as DUI laws or personal injury. When you’re hiring a lawyer for a car accident, make sure they have adequate experience in that field.
Ambulance Chasers Are Bad News
This practice isn’t ethical, and in many cases it’s not legal, either. If a lawyer approaches you at the scene of your accident and offers their services, don’t take advantage of that. Ambulance chasing is intensely frowned upon in the legal community.
Know What You’re Paying for
An initial consultation might be free, but any services rendered afterward are not. Before you enter into any sort of contract with your personal injury lawyer, make sure you’re 100% aware of the fees you’ll be paying. A good lawyer will be honest and up-front with you about those matters.
What to Expect During Your Consultation
During the initial consultation, your attorney will ask you all about the accident. How did it happen in detail? What were your injuries? What was the damage to your car? Were there witnesses? Use this opportunity to get to know your attorney and be as truthful and thorough as possible.
Ask these questions of any lawyer you sit down with:
- How much do you charge? Many charge by the hour while others work on a contingency basis which means they are only paid if you win your case.
- What is your area of expertise? Just because they’re personal injury lawyers doesn’t mean they handle your type of case daily. Some specialize in medical malpractice mostly, while others focus mainly on auto accident cases. Make sure you choose wisely.
- Who will be working on my case? Many law firms employ a team of experts who work on all cases to ensure the most successful outcome. This could range from a few lawyers to some paralegals to support staff members.
- What is my case worth? This can be difficult to assess exactly, but an experienced lawyer should be able to give you a ballpark figure based on your injuries and the details of the accident.
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
The United States Department of Transportation reports many car accidents every year with a significant number of injuries and fatalities in each State. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, about 395,785 cases of car crashes occurred in 2016. The statistics are alarming, considering the number of injuries.
Due to the high number of car accidents and injuries, the State of Florida is keen on prosecuting these cases. Therefore, it is essential to seek the help of an experienced and competent car accident attorney in Florida.
An attorney with vast legal background concerning car accident will help you get the legal help you need. But how do you find the right attorney to handle your case? Also, how do you make certain your case is worth pursuing?
It’s important to ask these questions before hiring a car accident lawyer. Keep reading for four key questions to ask before hiring a car accident lawyer.
Should You Pursue The Case?
One of the main reasons for pursuing a car accident case is to get compensation for your injuries and damages. But in some instances, you may not have a good case for compensation. For example, in Florida, you can’t be compensated if you share in the responsibility for causing the accident.
A trustworthy lawyer should be able to advise on the merits of your case, and he should do that free of charge. He will review your case, weigh options, and give you proper guidance. Less competent lawyers may push you to pursue the case in courts just to ensure they get their payment.
How Long Has the Attorney Practiced Personal Injury in Your State?
Laws covering personal injuries are very complex because they also cover other types of injuries which may be either intentional or unintentional. The laws not only cover auto accidents but also medical negligence, slip and fall, product liability, and medical malpractice.
Furthermore, these laws vary from state to state, meaning lawyers can only handle accident cases which occur within the states where they operate. That’s why you need to hire a car accident lawyer who operates in your state if that’s where the accident occurred.
The lawyer should also have a long history of practicing in your state. That way, he will be able to navigate through the complex personal injury laws of your state to ensure you get favorable results.
Does the Attorney Specialize in Car Accidents?
Not all attorneys can handle car accident cases, some specialize in other branches of law. So before you hire an attorney, try to find out about their background in car accidents.
When you are dealing with a law firm, ensure the attorney assigned to you has significant experience in handling personal injury cases, particularly those that arise from car accidents.
What Kind of Damages Can You Claim?
They are many damages that result from car accidents and you should be compensated for all of them. These damages include lost income, out-of-pocket expenses, medical bills, property damage, etc. There are also non-tangible losses such as emotional distress, physical impairment, pain and suffering, and more.
A good attorney should be able to ensure you get maximum compensation. He should have the capacity to investigate your case and get all the details including how the accident has impacted your life.
He should then come up with a strategy to pursue your case in a manner that addresses all your damages.