The first thing you think about after you’ve been in a car accident probably isn’t “Should I get a lawyer?” In truth, though, it should be.
Sometimes, it’s a no-brainer.
Here are some times when you definitely want to talk to an experienced automobile accident attorney:
- When you’ve been injured and needed medical treatment
- When your vehicle has sustained substantial damage
- When you were at fault, or at least partially at fault
- When another driver was at fault or at least partially at fault
- When conditions on the road were such that you couldn’t have avoided the crash
Legal representation is usually a good idea, no matter what your situation was. Yes, your insurance company can sometimes provide a fair settlement for your car repair and treatment for minor injuries. But to receive truly fair compensation, it is worth having a law firm represent you.
When you’re an accident victim, you want the best possible representation. An accident law firm with extensive experience representing a wide variety of clients should be your objective. But how do you find the perfect law firm? Here’s a quick guide:
1. Begin a preliminary search.
After your accident, it may take you some time to get your wits about you. But once you do, begin the process of looking for your legal representation by gathering a list of potential law firms. Ask friends and family members who have been in your shoes. Search online, and pay particular attention to testimonials from actual clients. Were they easy to communicate with? Did they respond to your questions? Did they listen to you before trying to assess your needs? Those are the characteristics that make good lawyers great.
2. Gather information.
An experienced car accident attorney will want to know everything there is to know during your initial consultation. He or she should ask about the accident scene, your medical care, vehicle repair costs that you may be looking at, what the police report says, what type of accident you were in, property damage that was a result of the accident and more. The more information you can pull together before meeting with your auto accident lawyers, the more successful you are likely to be.
3. Ask questions.
An experienced car accident lawyer won’t be put off by questions – in fact, they will expect questions. Here are a few things you should ask – and as you do, take note of not just the answers, but the way questions are answered. This is a person to whom you are entrusting your future in many ways, especially if you suffered severe injuries and you need reimbursement for medical costs and other expenses related to your accident claim.
How long have you been involved in the practice of personal injury law? An attorney right out of law school may not be fully prepared to get witness statements, gather the incredible amount of information needed to proceed and act in your best interest. Having an experienced lawyer is invaluable.
From what school did you get your law degree? What year did you complete your JD? It’s a fact – some law schools are better than others. Also, as we said above, an experienced attorney will most likely perform better than someone who graduated last year.
How many car crash lawsuits do you settle each year, and how many cases do you take to trial? This again points to a level of experience that will be necessary, especially if you’ve suffered major injuries, like a traumatic brain injury, or your crash was due to negligent behavior by another responsible party.
“What is your experience dealing with accident claim cases?” You’ll want to know how many accident lawsuits your potential lawyers have been involved with, and what their success rate has been.
Have you handled other cases like mine? It’s worth asking if they’ve litigated any cases similar to yours. If you were in a front-end collision, has the attorney dealt with head-on crashes before? How about a rear-end collision? If you were struck by a drunk driver, is he or she comfortable with the proceedings, evidence and laws that relate to drunk or distracted driving? Does the attorney have experience representing victims who sustained neck or back injuries or other bodily injury that may cause lifelong medical problems?
Are you comfortable dealing with insurance companies? If a lawyer has been able to reject lowball settlement offers and seek a larger settlement that represents more adequate compensation, that’s a good sign. It’s also great if the lawyer understands health insurance and the ins and outs of insurance claims. (It also might be worth talking about insurance laws, since they are countless and can affect your insurance policy and your case.)
Are you board certified, and do you belong to other professional organizations? Have you won awards for your work? Personal injury law firms and lawyers who care will proudly post their credentials.
Have you tried cases that included non-economic damages? These can include things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish and other factors that can be difficult to quantify for the purposes of a settlement or verdict. If you are having a difficult time getting back on your feet, you can be compensated for what you are going through – if you have a thorough attorney.
Who will manage my case? This is a critical question – how your attorney or law firm answers should rightfully determine whether or not to proceed. When you are invited into a lawyer’s office for a “free, no-obligation consultation” (which is something that every legal firm should offer), you’ll want to know for certain that your main contact throughout the draining experience of trying to get compensation for damages will be your lawyer – not a paralegal or receptionist. That’s not to say that these people won’t work just as hard to handle motor vehicle accidents as your attorney will. But when legal questions arise, it will be incredibly frustrating, and possibly even damaging to your case, to deal with an auto insurance company, physical therapy provider or the liable parties themselves without a direct line to your accident injury lawyer. Reputable attorneys will be there for you when you need them, and they will never make you feel bad about reaching out.
What are your fees? Many lawyers work on contingency fee agreements – they take your case with the understanding that they will be paid a percentage of your win. That’s typically a good situation – a contingency fee arrangement assures that the legal process will move as quickly as possible and will be focused on getting the maximum compensation for you.
Do I have an accident injury claim? That seems basic — if you’re talking to attorneys, it’s very likely that you have a claim. But it’s important to know if the lawyer you are interviewing believes you are justified in filing an auto accident claim. Most of the time, the answer will be “yes” – but it should be a well-thought-out “yes.” Injuries sustained in an automobile accident are often eligible for compensation, and it’s worth contracting an auto accident attorney to help you evaluate whether you can benefit from filing a personal injury claim. Keep in mind, too, that many vehicle accident injuries are not immediately visible. In fact, headaches, back, neck, shoulder, and stomach discomfort are often symptoms of even minor car accident and skilled attorneys will want to take their time to look at medical records, asking about quality of life issues, considering the possibility for long-term treatment needed and future expenses before .
What can I expect? Any time you make a legal claim, you are likely to be blindsided by the amount of detail and organization that are involved. During your accident consultation, you should try to prepare yourself for what you are getting into. When you are speaking with an accident injury attorney, ask about things like what you will deal with on a daily basis, the medical expert roster that could be called, the pros and cons of jury awards vs. settlement money, the insurance claim process, and how the lawsuit will impact your daily life, and the daily lives of those you live with, work with and depend on.
What will my role in the legal process be? Will you be responsible for finding witnesses who were at the accident scene while your attorney finds expert witnesses to back your case? Will your case be filed within the time limit your state imposes, and what do you need to do to help move the filing along? Will the claims process be complex or simple?
Finally, inquire about the things that have been weighing on your mind. Topics like insurance coverage, financial liability, potentially being the negligent driver who caused the accident (whether it was a minor fender bender or a minor accident, or a major life-changer, dealing with insurance adjusters, paying for ongoing medical treatment (and other medical expenses like physical therapy), what kind of financial award you can expect — these are the kinds of issues that weigh heavily on the minds of everyone who has ever been in a crash, and they will not be shocking or unexpected to an experienced auto accident attorney.
If you are asking yourself whether you should hire a lawyer to help you after you’ve been in a car accident and experienced car accident injury, the chances are near 100% that it’s time to find the right lawyer. And whether you were in a minor car crash or a major accident with physical injuries; whether you are the at fault driver or you are considering suing a giant business or government entity for negligence; whether you are ready to sue for lots of money or you just want to get some quality of life back while having your future costs taken care of — it’s time to call a personal injury lawyer.
We, at Jainchill & Beckert, LLC, invite you to call us or fill out our no obligation consultation request form. We are ready to listen to your story and be your voice.