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7 Tips for Finding a Personal Injury Attorney After an Accident

By Aaron Crowe

Attorney and clientsBeing in a car accident is traumatic by itself. Dealing with the aftermath — such as seeking treatment for your injuries, filing an insurance claim and getting legal advice — can add to the stress.

At a time when you may not know what to do next, it can be difficult to decide if you need a personal injury attorney.

If your car suffers damage in an accident but you don’t, your insurance company should work on your behalf to get you reimbursed, and you probably won’t need a lawyer. But if you’re injured in a car accident, an early consultation with a lawyer may be the right move. An attorney could help you win a larger settlement that goes toward your medical bills following an accident.

Here are seven tips to help you find a personal injury attorney after you’ve been hurt in a car accident.

  1. Act fast.

The longer you wait to contact an attorney, the harder it gets to take a case to trial. Much of your initial decision may rest on how helpful the other driver is.

If the other driver in your accident is immediately cooperative, you might not need to hire an attorney. But if that person is unhelpful, you may need legal help to get all relevant information.

Many lawyers offer free initial consultations in these types of cases, and consumers should avoid lawyers who don’t, says Andrew Vines, a personal injury attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“In that consultation, the lawyer can discuss your case and let you know whether you have a valid claim that can and should be pursued,” Vines says.

  1. Do your research.

You may see late-night TV commercials or an ad on the side of a bus for attorneys who claim to collect large payments for people injured in car crashes. Such advertising doesn’t necessarily mean an attorney is good or bad at their job, but their claims should be checked out.

You can research an attorney’s record online at your state bar association or through an online directory at the American Bar Association. Your local or state bar association may also have a lawyer referral service.

Friends and family can also offer referrals, or ask an attorney you’ve worked with in the past.

  1. Find a specialist.

If you have a specific type of injury, such as a broken back, then a law firm that specializes in your injury can be helpful.

“If you have sensitive injuries or a unique situation, make sure the attorney has been involved in a case like yours before,” says Hamilton Lindley, a personal injury lawyer in Waco, Texas. .

At the very least, find a lawyer who specializes in vehicle accidents, says Lawrence J. Buckfire, a personal injury lawyer in Michigan.

“There are a number of complicated insurance issues involved in auto accident cases, and you need an attorney who has experience and extensive knowledge on those issues,” Buckfire says.

  1. Interview lawyers.

Talk with your attorney to determine if his skills and experience match your needs, and ask for professional references.

To find the best lawyer, Buckfire recommends asking these questions:

  • How long have you been handling car accident cases?
  • What percentage of your practice is devoted to car accident cases?
  • Which attorney in your office will be handling my case?
  • Has that attorney won substantial verdicts in car accident cases?

“Most importantly, you need to feel comfortable with the attorney you work with because the process can take a long time,” Buckfire says.

  1. Seek trial experience.

Ask how many cases your attorney takes to trial each year versus making settlements.

“While the goal of most cases should be to settle them for a fair amount without the need to go to court, a lawyer with experience in taking cases to court can often do a better job of recovering fair value for your case than a lawyer without trial experience,” Vines says.

A lawyer who has taken cases to trial knows how juries value cases, Vines says. That lawyer would know how to negotiate a settlement.

  1. Avoid promises.

In the initial consultation, you want a lawyer who will be straightforward with you about the litigation process and pros and cons of pursuing a case, Vines says. But don’t listen to promises that you’ll be rich or that you’ll even win the case, he warns.

Compensation or full financial recovery in cases is never guaranteed.

“Any lawyer who makes a promise about what you can recover should be avoided,” Vines adds.

  1. Know your costs.

Your auto insurance company won’t pay for you to hire an attorney to file a lawsuit after an injury.

Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning they don’t get paid unless the client wins. Payment varies by state, but in general lawyers collect one-third of a personal injury settlement or judgment. You shouldn’t pay anything if the case is lost.

Some lawyers may ask for upfront costs, regardless if they lose the case.