Being injured in an accident because of the actions of someone else can leave you with devastating injuries and both financial and non-economic losses. The law recognizes the rights of negligence victims to recover compensation for their losses by filing personal injury lawsuits. Personal injury claims are civil actions through which you might be able to hold the negligent actor accountable and recover compensation for your resulting losses. There are many different types of personal injury cases, including motor vehicle collisions, slip-and-fall accidents, dog bites, defective products, wrongful death, and others.
If you have been injured in any of these or another type of accident that was caused by another person or entity, you should speak with a personal injury lawyer to learn about your rights and options. However, you need to understand what to look for in a good personal injury lawyer. Here are five top things from Victimslawyer.com to look for when you consult personal injury attorneys about your case.
Five Things to Look For in a Personal Injury Lawyer
While you might see advertisements for personal injury attorneys on television, social media, and billboards, advertisements are not good indicators of an attorney’s competence. Reputable personal injury lawyers share key qualities. If you think that you might have a viable personal injury case based on someone else’s negligence, you need to look for a lawyer with these five qualities.
1. Extensive Legal Knowledge About Personal Injury Law and a Focused Practice
While California allows people to become attorneys by participating in the law study program through a judge’s chambers or a law firm, most personal injury lawyers instead complete several years of law school following their undergraduate education. Regardless of whether a lawyer completed the law study program or graduated from law school, all practicing attorneys must pass the bar exam to become licensed to practice law.
Having a license to practice law does not mean that a lawyer will have extensive knowledge about personal injury law. Some lawyers instead focus on different areas of practice, such as family law, criminal defense, probate law, and others. You would not want to hire a divorce lawyer to handle your personal injury case just like you wouldn’t want to hire a personal injury attorney to handle your divorce.
A competent personal injury attorney should be highly knowledgeable about personal injury law and keep current with case law and changes in the statutes as they occur. When you interview an attorney, observe whether he or she can clearly explain how the law applies to your case under its facts. Ask about the lawyer’s participation in continuing education in tort law and his or her memberships in different professional organizations to evaluate his or her legal knowledge.
You should also ask about the lawyer’s practice to determine whether or not he or she has a general practice or one that focuses on personal injury cases. A general practitioner handles many different types of legal matters. An attorney who focuses on personal injury cases might be better able to concentrate fully on your case.
2. Experience Handling Personal Injury Matters
Another key characteristic to look for is a prospective lawyer’s experience handling personal injury cases. While a lawyer who recently graduated from law school and became licensed might be a great attorney, you should choose someone who has experience handling personal injury cases. You don’t want to hire a lawyer who will be learning on the job while representing you.
Ask the following questions to evaluate an attorney’s experience:
- When were you first licensed to practice law?
- How many personal injury cases have you handled?
- Have you handled a case similar to mine? If so, what was the outcome?
- How many years have you practiced personal injury law?
3. Knowledge of Medical Topics
Personal injury lawyers are not doctors and can’t give you medical advice. However, a good attorney should know medical concepts and be able to intelligently explain things about the prognosis of your injuries, estimated medical costs, and other related matters. A good lawyer might also be able to refer you to a good doctor for treatment. Being able to understand medical concepts is also critical if your case goes to trial so your attorney can cross-examine any medical experts the defense might call and conduct a direct examination of your medical experts about your prognosis and the extent and severity of your injuries.
4. Strong Track Record
While most personal injury cases end with settlements outside of court (source), you want to make sure that the attorney you hire to represent you has trial experience and a record of success. An attorney who has taken cases to trial will be prepared to litigate on your behalf in case the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement. Attorneys with strong track records are also likelier to secure fair settlements for their clients. When an insurance company knows that a lawyer is unafraid to take cases to trial and has a winning record, it might be likelier to extend a fair settlement offer instead of risking a loss at trial.
Ask the following questions to assess your lawyer’s track record:
- How many cases have you litigated at trial?
- What were the results of the cases you took to trial?
- How much have you recovered for your clients through settlements or trials?
You can also check the attorney’s website to see if he or she is a member of the Million Dollar Advocate’s Forum or the Multi-Million Dollar Advocate’s Forum (see LinkedIn). These professional organizations are reserved for personal injury lawyers who have recovered more than one million dollars for a client in a single case. While a lawyer’s past results are not a guarantee that you will obtain a similar outcome, they can still indicate that a lawyer is competent and skilled.
5. Honest and Dedicated
When you meet with a lawyer, pay attention to how he or she communicates with you about your case. In many cases, the best attorneys are people who will honestly talk to you about your case and its viability. You don’t want to hire a lawyer who tries to sugarcoat things or who guarantees that you will win. Instead, a lawyer should discuss both the pros and cons of your case and talk about how to address the cons. Your attorney should be honest about whether you have a realistic chance of winning if your case goes to trial and explain how taking certain actions might affect your case.
Your lawyer should also be dedicated to your case and treat your injuries and losses seriously. He or she should be compassionate and understanding about how you have been affected by your accident and injuries. Once you hire a lawyer, pay attention to how he or she reacts when confronted with obstacles that might arise. Finally, a good attorney should not pressure you into doing something that makes you uncomfortable.
When you have been injured because of someone else’s negligent or wrongful actions, finding a great personal injury attorney is important. You can start by getting referrals from family members or friends who have worked with personal injury attorneys or from lawyers who practice in other areas of the law. You can also check online directories of attorneys. Once you have narrowed down your list, consult a few lawyers. Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations, allowing you to interview several so that you choose a lawyer who has the right characteristics and that you trust to handle your case. By asking questions and paying attention to these five top characteristics to watch for, you can find a strong legal representative who will be prepared to advocate for you.
Last Updated: May 30, 2022