Published in Personal Injury on January 3, 2019.
Nothing is more critical after an accident than your choice of a personal injury attorney.
A good attorney can construct a solid case for compensation and negotiate a very favorable settlement.
A good personal injury lawyer should also be prepared to go into court and defend your rights, if necessary.
An inexperienced personal injury attorney, by contrast, can be a disaster, costing you time and money. To make sure your search goes as well as possible, we present these tips for hiring a personal injury lawyer.
Obtain Referrals to Personal Injury Lawyers
You might have never met a personal injury attorney so you have no idea where to start.
Start with the phone book. Look at the advertisements in the Yellow Pages and write down the names of any lawyer who says they represent personal injury victims.
You can then supplement this list by:
- Ask friends, family, or colleagues if they have ever used a personal injury lawyer. Someone’s child might have gotten into a car accident or been injured in a slip and fall. Ask if they would recommend their lawyer.
- Contact an attorney referral service and get the name of a personal injury lawyer. The Indianapolis Bar Association offers a referral service.
- Search online. Type in “best personal injury lawyer near me” or “personal injury lawyer and [your city].” Some names should pop up.
Check Each Lawyer’s Website
Every full-time lawyer should now have a website for their firm. Go online and check it out. Pay close attention to the following:
- How much personal injury experience does the lawyer have? Do they only work in the personal injury field, or do they work in other fields, like criminal or family law?
- How long has the lawyer been practicing law? Is he fresh out of law school, or does he have a few years under his belt?
- How professional does the website look? Is the layout neat and the writing clear? A lawyer with a sloppy website might be equally careless when representing you.
- Does the lawyer have helpful information on their website? Are they keeping up with changes in the law?
Cross off the names of any lawyer or law firm that does not have meaningful personal injury experience and a professional website. Chances are, you should still have some names left on your list. If not, go back and get more referrals.
Check a Lawyer’s Disciplinary History
The legal profession is heavily regulated in Indiana.
If a client is upset with how she has been treated, she can complain to the state Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission, which investigates allegations of attorney misconduct.
If a lawyer has violated ethical rules, the Commission will sanction them.
You can check the disciplinary history for any attorney by visiting the Commission’s website. Type in the lawyer’s name and see if any sanctions appear.
Also, analyze how long ago the infraction occurred.
An infraction that is 10 years old might not say much about the lawyer’s current abilities.
Schedule a Consultation with Attorneys
You probably have time to schedule up to 3 or 4 consultations. Look at your list and choose the lawyers who you think will be the best fit.
Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation; others will charge a small fee. Call up the lawyer and ask if you can meet.
They might want more information from you before the meeting and could send you a form to fill out.
Consultations are important.
You want to hire the best personal injury lawyer, and it’s hard to figure out who that is without meeting face-to-face.
A consultation shouldn’t last more than a half hour, and you need to arrive promptly.
Ask the lawyer or the assistant on the phone what you should bring with you on the appointed day.
Draft Questions ahead of Time
A consultation is a chance for you to explain how you were injured. But it also is a chance for you to get answers to any questions you have.
Realize that lawyers are busy, so don’t ask something you can find the answer to by looking online.
(Questions like, “What law school did you attend?” should be answered on the attorney’s bio page on their website. Here is an example)
Instead, ask questions like:
- Have you ever handled a case just like mine? If so, how did the case turn out?
- What is the most realistic outcome for my case? Lawyers can’t promise a result, but they can use their experience to discuss probable outcomes.
- What percentage of cases have you taken to trial? What percentage settle?
You should also discuss how the attorney charges for his or her services. Personal injury lawyers work on contingency, meaning they take a percentage of their client’s settlement or court judgment, up to 40%.
If they lose the case, they get nothing.
You should discuss the details of your consultation.
After meeting with the lawyers on your list, choose the one who is the best “fit” for you.
This is a subjective analysis, but you want someone you feel comfortable with.
Meet with Eskew Law for a Free Consultation
Our Indiana personal injury lawyers are happy to meet with clients to discuss their cases and answer their questions.