You’ve been hurt in a car accident, and you suspect you may have a legal case against the other driver. Or maybe you got injured on a carnival ride and think the carnival operator was negligent. However the injury (or injuries) happened, if you think you have a case, then you deserve to talk to a personal injury lawyer and find out for sure.
A gut feeling can be helpful, but that alone isn’t reason enough to file a tort claim. To pick out a personal injury lawyer, you’ll need to pay attention to a few different factors. Here are three things worth considering.
How will I pay them?
If you want to hire an attorney, you need to figure out a way to pay them first. Private attorneys generally get paid one of three ways: through retainer fees, a flat fee, or on contingency. If they want a retainer fee, that means you need to give them a certain amount up-front before they even begin work on the case. It’s like paying for a meal before you eat it, only the restaurant first looks at your party, asks questions about your appetite, and then estimates how much food you’re going to consume.
Then there are flat fees. These are more common in simple cases where you don’t need a lot of ongoing representation or legal advice. If you hire an attorney to help your business become a registered non-profit, then they may only charge you a flat fee.
Finally, there’s contingency. If possible, you want to find an injury lawyer who operates on contingency. An attorney who works on contingency won’t charge for a case unless you win. That may sound risky, and it is, but it also means an attorney will only represent a client if he or she feels really strongly that the client has been wronged. They’re not going to take on a suit that inspires nothing but lukewarm feelings. Luckily, personal injury attorneys are among the most likely type of attorney to work on contingency.
Can I get along with them?
You want a personal injury attorney, not a best friend. You shouldn’t expect to to form an intimate relationship of any kind, and lawyers have been suspended for doing that sort of thing. However, there’s a wide spectrum between disliking your lawyer and acting inappropriately with them. When you meet with a lawyer for your initial consultation, pay attention to whether your personalities mesh. Are they too abrasive for you? Do you feel like they’re constantly interrupting you or talking over you? If so, those are not great indicators for a fruitful client and attorney relationship.
But if you don’t like their tie, then that alone is not a reason to run away. If you find out that they’re a Yankees fan while you root for the Red Sox, then do your best to put sports aside and focus on the particulars of your case.
Do they make promises they can’t keep?
Be wary of a lawyer who promises you a certain outcome. You want to hire a personal injury lawyer, not a self-proclaimed fortune teller. A lawyer can tell you something like, “I think the jury will be moved by this detail,” but they cannot say, “You’ll get so much money when the jury hears this!” Every single jury is different, and an argument that moved a jury last year might leave the next jury completely cold.
By all means, ask your attorney how other cases like yours have turned out locally. Ask if the juries in your county have a reputation for favoring personal injury plaintiffs over defendants, or vice versa. But don’t ask them to tell you what will happen. Civil courts operate on certain rules and principles, but there are no guarantees.