Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
Having a lawyer on your side can make a big difference. Find out how.
Hiring a car accident lawyer involves finding suitable candidates, choosing the right one and entering into a fair agreement for representation. Then, the work on the case begins. Do you know what your lawyer should be doing on your behalf?
Finding Car Accident Lawyers
Here's the order you might want to follow to find a car accident lawyer that might be suitable for your case.
Lawyers who have represented you well in the past.
If you have hired a lawyer before and he or she did a good job for you, consider that same lawyer for your car accident case. If your former lawyer does not handle car accident cases, ask them to recommend a lawyer who might be a good fit. This is a way of getting an "insider referral" since lawyers usually know local lawyers who are outstanding in each major area of the law.
Friends, relatives and colleagues who have hired a car accident lawyer.
If someone you know has hired a car accident lawyer, ask whether your friend was satisfied with the representation. If so, consider that lawyer.
Use this site to find a car accident lawyer in your area.
Once you have a list of at least 3 candidates for your case, do your homework. Check out the lawyer's website. Look for past experience and credentials. Of course, ask around to try to learn the lawyer's reputation.
Now you're ready to call the lawyers that you are considering. Most lawyers -- the smart ones -- will talk to you on the telephone about your case and give you some initial information about themselves and about your car accident case. If you like what you hear during the phone conversation, make an appointment to go in to meet with the lawyer. Make sure that this initial consultation is free.
Here are some questions to ask the lawyer:
- How much experience do you have with car accident cases?
- What percentage of your work is car accident cases?
- How recently did you handle a car accident case?
- What experience do you have with neck injury (or whatever type of injury you have) cases?
- What experience do you have with accidents that are similar to mine?
- What results have you gotten in cases like mine?
- What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
- Will you personally handle my case?
- How can I reach you?
- What are the steps in the process of handling my case?
- How long do you expect my case to take?
- Can you tell at this point the probable settlement value or at least a range? If not, tell me how that will be determined.
- What will you expect from me as the case progresses?
- Explain the retainer agreement that you want me to sign. Will I have to pay the out-of-pocket costs of my case? Is your legal fee based on the gross recovery or the net recovery?
- Can I fire you if I am not satisfied with your work? If I do, what are my obligations to you?
Choosing "The Right Lawyer"
Now that you've met with the candidates and done your homework, how do you decide which lawyer to hire?
- Experience, experience, experience.
- Prior successes in your type of case.
- Someone that you feel comfortable with. Can she explain things clearly? Did he answer all of your questions?
- Someone who cares. When you met, did you feel like just another prospect or was the lawyer genuinely interested in you and your case? Contrary to one of the popular lawyer joke themes, not all lawyers are simply mercenaries out to make a fee.
The Fee Agreement
Traditionally, lawyers propose to handle car accident cases on a contingent fee basis, where you pay a certain percentage of your recovery but don't pay any legal fee if you don't recover.
Final Tips on Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
Here are some final thoughts on hiring a car accident lawyer.
If you are definitely going to hire a lawyer to represent you, hire one early in the process, within a week or two of your injury. This gives your lawyer time to investigate while the facts are fresh and to help you make important initial decisions that will affect your case such as which health care providers to consult.
Although car accident cases are routinely handled on a contingent fee basis, consider hiring a car accident lawyer for an hourly fee if you have a very valuable case with significant damages and no liability issue. This is especially true if there is a high probability that the case will settle. You will probably end up ahead. To protect yourself against unforseen occurrences, put a cap on the amount of the hourly charges, probably at the level of a typical contingent fee. In other words, propose an agreement that you will pay your lawyer based on his usual hourly rate but in no event will you pay more than 1/3 (for example) of the total recovery.
The better your case, the more likely that lawyers will bend to your wishes and requests. If you have a case that will probably resolve for, say, $300,000, you will probably receive a different reaction than if you have a case that will probably resolve for $5,000.
If your lawyer is not doing all that you expect, speak up. Talk to your lawyer about whatever problem you see. Maybe there is a good reason why something is being done, or not being done. Discuss the sitation with your lawyer. If you remain convinced that your lawyer is not doing all that is necessary, get rid of that lawyer and find another one. (Be aware, though, that depending on the law of your state, you may owe a fee to the lawyer that you discharge.)