An auto accident can be a truly traumatic and devastating occurrence. And, after a crash, you may be focused on your physical recovery and on putting the pieces of your life back together. At the same time, thoughts of car accident lawyers and legal proceedings could be far from your mind.
Even so, obtaining the monetary compensation you’re entitled to is a crucial part of returning to normalcy. You’ll need to cover your medical bills and lost wages. And you’ll have to repair or replace your car.
It would be best to have a skilled and tenacious attorney to collect your total compensation. Unfortunately, many car accident lawyers are less than adept. Even worse, some of them expend little effort on behalf of their clients.
How, then, can you find winning legal representation?
The steps below should help you identify car accident lawyers who are both talented and dedicated. When you’re beginning this search, remember to cast a wide net and take your time. Indeed, finding the right attorney can sometimes involve a lengthy process. But it’s worth the effort.
Make a List
You can conduct online searches to compile a list of nearby accident attorneys. Of course, you can also ask family members, colleagues, friends, and others you know to recommend lawyers. You’ll especially want to ask those who’ve hired car accident attorneys in the past.
Be sure that every person on your list specializes in car accidents. It’s a very particular field. To investigate these incidents effectively, a lawyer needs a specific knowledge base and set of skills. Even filing evidence in car accident cases can be different from other legal cases.
Thus, if your lawyer is a generalized accident attorney, you’d be at a disadvantage in the courtroom and the negotiating table.
Once you’ve put your list together, it’s time to investigate the names on it. With an essential process of elimination, you can winnow this group down to one attorney.
Search the Internet
Once again, the World Wide Web can be a big help.
First, go to your home state’s Bar Association website. Do any names on your list not appear on that site? If they’re not there, you can cross them off.
You could now spend a few minutes looking at each attorney’s website. In particular, you could do the following:
- Read through a few of the articles or blog posts.
- Study the layout and the photos.
- Check several of the links to make sure they work.
How does everything look? Is the presentation classy and understated? Are the articles well-written, informative, and grammatically correct?
Suspicious websites tend to announce themselves right away. On such sites, you may be bombarded by pop-up ads. The text could be full of errors. Dubious promises might appear in capital letters and gigantic fonts. The colors could be garish, and the links could be dead.
You might look at each attorney’s Facebook page as well. Which lawyers have received plenty of glowing reviews and positive comments? Naturally, you should check out some of the commenters’ Facebook pages. That way, you can be confident that they’re actual human beings with friends, photos, and comments of their own.
Get on the Phone
After perusing the web, it’s time for some interaction.
Try calling each of your remaining law offices. You don’t have to discuss your case in specific terms at this juncture. Instead, ask what each attorney might be able to offer you.
As you’re conversing with each legal office, consider some intangibles. That is, do you feel at ease? Is the person on the other end, whether it’s a lawyer or another legal professional, thoroughly answering your questions? Or does the tone feel brusque, and do you feel rushed?
The initial phone call is also a time to learn about fees. For example, you might pose a few of these questions:
- How is the fee system structured?
- Would you pay a flat fee? Or would you pay per legal service?
- If you need to pay per service, what services are involved? How much does each one cost?
- How are out-of-pocket fees handled? Those are the sums of money your attorney will pay in your name. They include court and administrative expenses.
- How much more would it cost you if you won in court than if you didn’t prevail?
- What percentage of your settlement would go to the lawyer?
On top of such questions, you might ask each of these car accident lawyers to estimate your compensation. It’s instructive to compare answers, even if some attorneys decline to hazard a guess so early on.
It’s also wise to ask these car accident lawyers to send you a service contract. That way, you’ll have the fee information in writing.
Stop By the Law Offices
Maybe your phone calls have helped you eliminate car accident lawyers. At this point, you probably have a shortlist. Perhaps just two or three names remain.
You can now make appointments to visit those final contenders. Many law firms offer free consultations.
However, you might still be in the hospital or staying at a rehab facility. Or perhaps you’re not ready to leave home just yet. You could ask a friend or a family member to make those visits for you in such a case. Try to think of someone who’s shrewd and experienced in legal matters.
In some ways, visiting a law office is like checking out its website. Consider the overall presentation, the optics. Is the exterior building appealing, clean, and well-maintained?
Inside, are the furniture, carpeting, and office supplies in good shape? Does the place hum with organized activity as you pass through the hallways? Do the employees you encounter appear to be focused and hard at work?
It can be a screaming red flag if a law office seems dismal, run-down, or inefficient.
In other ways, visiting a law office is like calling the place on the phone. Once more, you’ll get a sense of how people there treat you.
You should be greeted warmly as soon as you enter the building. Your meeting ought to start on time, too. You shouldn’t have to sit there waiting.
Moreover, you should be accorded respect throughout this visit. The lawyer should answer your questions thoroughly and not rush through the session.
Do you even get to see an attorney at all, or must you meet with another law office employee?
Once you’ve completed all of your visits, you could take some time to consider the responses you received. Most likely, each law office will have presented you with a comprehensive, basic plan for handling your case. Carefully think through all of those suggestions.
Talk to the Lawyers’ Clients
After the first four steps, you may have in mind the lawyer you want representing you. If so, congratulations.
However, maybe you still have to choose between, say, two or three-car accident lawyers. In that case, there’s one more step you could take: seeking information from past clients.
Ask each law office to email your references. You can use the contact info you receive to contact those former clients. Then you can reach out to some of those people and discuss how their cases were handled.
By the way, if a law office tells you that it can’t provide references, it’s not a good sign.
Do you remember those online law firm reviews we mentioned earlier? Well, you could always contact a few reviewers through their social media pages. You’ll want to communicate with those who posted positive comments as well as those who had negative reactions.
After those conversations, you could be prepared for a final decision in whatever form they come in.
You’ll be able to enlist the services of an intelligent, brave, and battle-tested attorney. This person will be ready to fight for your rights, no matter what it takes.
In the end, the process of finding an attorney can be a little therapeutic. Car accidents are society’s leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some survivors relive the horrific event again and again in their minds — when they’re awake and when they’re dreaming.
However, when you’re looking for an attorney, you’re starting to empower yourself. You’re taking proactive action with a concrete goal and several steps to get there. You have a process to focus on as you begin the healing process.
Then, when you find the right attorney, you should enjoy at least some peace of mind. It’s a relief to have an advocate helping you get the damages you deserve. And, once you’ve paid off your accident-related expenses, your life should be significantly closer to normal.
Throughout this journey, your friends, your loved ones, and, yes, your car accident attorney will be cheering you on each step of the way.