Wondering what to do when you have been in an accident, a slip and fall, or a workplace injury? If you have already spoken with in insurance provider for your insurer, it may be time to consider a personal injury attorney.
The danger in running right out and hiring a personal injury attorney immediately after injury is that you will have to pay for their services out of whatever payout you ultimately get. So, it is typically wise to first speak with the relevant insurance provider and only then turn to legal alternatives. While speaking to the insurance company will in many situations resolve the issue completely, there may be some situations in which the insurance company either denies your claim entirely or decides to compensate you in a matter that is from your perspective insufficient. In such situations, the premium that you pay out to a personal injury attorney will come back to you in settlement damages many times over.
Now, once you are convinced that you need a personal injury attorney, you have to put forth the effort of first finding the right person for your case. Here are a few tips on selecting the right attorney for you:
There are a number of online databases of local and regional personal injury attorneys. While most of these are pay per listing or free submission, some actually do provide reviewing services. Even here, however, be wary of putting too much stock in a website’s recommendation as this information can be easily manipulated.
Using this online database and your local yellow pages as a sort of general list, it then becomes imperative to narrow this list by looking at the credentials of a particular attorney. Probably the best way to do this is to call your local legal aid clinic, which is free. While these individuals are not in the business of providing recommendations, the bar in a particular city for personal injury usually consists of about fifty to one hundred attorneys, so amongst attorneys word gets around pretty quickly as to who is good and who is not.
Another good resource is your city bar association. Your city bar will keep more general information about who has not been sanctioned by courts for malpractice and typically keeps a short list of recommended attorneys. But again, take this list with a grain of salt as there are manipulations going on behind the scenes here as well. Often a better tack is just to have a list of three or four attorneys you are considering and then call the bar association to hear their thoughts on each one.
Referrals can be good if you know someone in the legal community. But if not, the best you will get out of a referral is a sort of ‘he/she isn’t incompetent.’ Because let’s face it, most clients have no idea whether the settlement they received was in actuality the best they could have.
The final test should always be to meet with the attorney. In such a meeting you can discuss the payment method (contingency or flat-fee), but more importantly you want to try to assess if this individual seems competent. Note things like, what law school he/she attended? Did they pass the bar on their first try? How long have they been practicing personal injury in your state? Will they let you speak with some of their most recent clients? All of these factors taken together should give you a general impression of whether your personal injury attorney is competent, if not good.