This site is dedicated to helping you settle your car accident claims without a lawyer. However, you may decide – in the beginning or later in the process – that it would be better to have a lawyer present your claim.
If that is your decision, there are a number of things you must know about finding good car accident lawyers, selecting the best one for your case and hiring the lawyer you select on fair and reasonable terms.
Finding Car Accident Lawyers
The best option is to return to a car accident lawyer who previously represented you. You know all about that lawyer from personal experience. You know about her skill and how well you can work with her. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Return to the lawyer who served you well before.
Of course, if your prior experience with a car accident lawyer was not good, you should not make the same mistake again. Choose another lawyer this time.
If you have worked with a lawyer before in another type of case – say having a will written or defending against a traffic ticket – it is not wise to hire that lawyer to present your car accident case if he does not regularly handle car accident claims.
You are looking for an expert in car accident claims, not a generalist who happens to also handle car accident claims.
In other words, you want someone whose expertise is a mile deep and an inch wide, not a mile wide and an inch deep. This is the age of specialization, and you should select a true expert.
If you have a lawyer who has helped you in other matters but does not handle car accident cases regularly, you should ask for her recommendation for a car accident specialist. Other lawyers know who are the best lawyers in different specialties. Ask your lawyer something like this, “If you or a close family member had a car accident claim, who would you hire?”
If you do not have a lawyer that you have worked with before, consult your friends, relatives and colleagues. Ask if they have had a car accident lawyer who did an outstanding job for them. If so, consider that lawyer.
Another alternative is to do an online search for “car accident lawyer [and then your jurisdiction].” You can enter either your state or the city and state where you are located or where your accident happened.
When you visit accident lawyers’ websites, focus on the lawyer’s experience and determine whether the lawyer has a proven track record of accomplishments in car accident cases such as yours.
Selecting The Right Car Accident Lawyer For Your Case
Once you have a list of at least 3 lawyers that sound good, you must do your homework.
Call and speak to each lawyer you are considering. Almost all car accident lawyers will speak with you on the phone without charging for the consultation. (If any of the lawyers won’t talk to you on the phone, it’s no big loss. You’re better off without them.)
It is alright to tell the lawyers what you are doing, that you are speaking with a few lawyers to determine the best fit for you and your case.
After speaking with the prospects on the phone, arrange an initial in-person meeting with those you are still considering. (Before scheduling a meeting, confirm that there is no charge for the initial consultation.)
- 1. What proportion of your practice is accident and injury cases? Do you specialize, or concentrate your practice on, injury claims? (Some states do not allow lawyers to state that they “specialize.” In those states, lawyers are allowed to use similar words, such as “concentrate on.”)
2. Have you handled cases with accidents that happened the way mine did? Please tell me about that experience.
3. Have you handled cases with injuries of the type I suffered in my accident? Please tell me about that experience.
4. What results have you gotten in cases such as mine?
5. Will you handle my case personally, or will an associate or legal assistant do the work?
6. How can I reach you?
7. What is your policy on returning phone messages and emails.
8. Are you comfortable exchanging messages by email or text message?
9. In what ways does your office take advantage of modern technology?
10. Explain the process that we will follow to resolve my case.
11. How long do you think it will take to resolve my case?
12. Can you estimate the probable settlement range for my case? If not, please explain how that will be determined?
13. What will you expect from me during the handling of my case?
14. Explain the retainer agreement you are proposing to me.
15. Under your retainer agreement, is your fee contingent on success? That is, will I only owe you a legal fee if we are successful in recovering damages? In short, is it a case of “no recovery, no fee?”
16. Under your retainer agreement, what will I have to pay, if anything, in addition to legal fees? For example, will I have to pay out-of-pocket expenses?
17. In addition to my injury claim, will you help me settle my claim for damage to my vehicle; and, if so, is there any additional fee for that help or is in included in your service at no additional expense?
18. Will you help me submit PIP or medical payments claims to my own insurance company; and, if so, is there any additional fee for that help or is it included in your service at no additional expense?
19. Will you attempt to negotiate reductions in liens and subrogation claims; and, if so, is there any additional fee for that help or is it included in your service at no additional expense?
20. Under your fee agreement, can I fire you if I am not satisfied with your work; and, if I do, will I owe you anything?
In addition to the information you get from the lawyer-candidates, also make observations about the lawyer and the way he relates to you.
Does the lawyer patiently answer your questions? Does she explain things clearly? Do you feel comfortable with the lawyer and his approach to your case?
Did the lawyer seem to genuinely care about you and your case, or did you feel like you were just another prospect to the lawyer?
Believe it or not, likeability is an important characteristic of a good car accident lawyer.
Think about it this way. Car accident lawyers are in the persuasion business. They try to persuade insurance adjusters (or, if that is not successful, judges and juries) of the merits of your case. Isn’t it normal that we are more easily persuaded by people we know, like and trust? It’s normal for insurance adjusters and juries, too.
My experience is that the most successful accident and injury lawyers – although not all of them – are extremely likeable. Yes, they are smart, tough and persistent. But they are also likeable.
Hiring The Best Car Accident Lawyer For Your Case
The last step in hiring a car accident lawyer is entering into a contract with that lawyer.
This agreement is often called a “retainer agreement,” “a legal services agreement,” a “fee agreement,” or something like that.
Traditionally, lawyers propose a contingent fee in car accident cases. That means that whether you have to pay a legal fee is contingent on recovering damages for your injuries. If there is no recovery, there is no legal fee (although you may still be responsible for paying case costs).
Here’s the most important thing to remember about the fee agreement you will enter into with a car accident lawyer – its terms are negotiable.
The main variables are (1) the percentage of the contingent fee, (2) whether the percentage is calculated based on your gross (total) recovery or on your net (what you actually receive after paying bills) recovery and (3) the services included.
Although a car accident lawyer may have a standard fee agreement that she proposes to clients in car accident cases, she can change the standard agreement if she wants to.
A lawyer should not be offended if you ask for a change in the conditions of the agreement, such as a lower percentage for the contingent fee.
If you have attempted to prepare your own case and have followed the steps that I recommend here at Car Accident Claims Help and in my ebook, The Car Accident Claims Kit, you have a strong basis for asking the lawyer to reduce his percentage fee. After all, you have already done much of the work that the lawyer would have had to do.
Here’s another situation where you should negotiate the terms of the fee agreement with your lawyer.
If you have a case which should be able to be easily resolved for the policy limit of the responsible party, consider asking for an hourly rate fee or, better yet, a fixed fee.
Let’s say, for example, that the at-fault driver has a liability insurance policy limit of $100,000.00. Assume also that liability is clear and that your injuries obviously entitle you to more than the $100,000.00 policy limit.
First of all, you should consider trying to settle the claim yourself, following the advice at this website.
If you prefer to have a lawyer, you should consider asking the lawyer to work for a fixed fee (on the assumption that the case resolves for the policy limit) of say $5,000 or $10,000, or some other amount you can agree on. Compared to the most common percentage, 1/3, or $33,333.33 in this case, a fixed fee agreement in policy limit cases such as this can save you thousands of dollars while still being fair to the lawyer.