How Do I Choose the Right Accident Lawyer?
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
If you’re wondering how to select lawyers for accident claims, consider these factors in making your decision.
If you’ve been in a car accident and have decided you need a personal injury attorney, you’ve already realized that filing a car accident claim or other personal injury claim in civil court may be the only way you can hope to receive adequate monetary compensation for the losses you have already experienced — and will experience in the future. These losses might include lost wages, lost earning potential, long-term medical costs, long-term disability and/or permanent disfigurement, and pain and suffering.
Do Your Homework
When you decide to file a civil claim and start looking for an attorney, take some time to assemble all the documentation you have that is related to your accident. Depending on the kind of accident — automobile, medical malpractice, defective product, etc. — this material may include such items as a police report, hospital/medical records, photos taken at the scene, and any record of communication you have had with anyone — such as insurance companies — about the accident and/or settlement. An attorney will need these records as a starting place when considering your case, and it will save a significant amount of time to have them available and organized when you first meet.
Hiring a personal injury lawyer is an important decision, and you may need to do some looking around. Start by asking people you know for a referral — including family members and friends, your employer and co-workers. They may know someone — or know someone who knows someone. Follow up by checking these referrals out online, and making other inquiries.
Make a list of candidates, and narrow it down to two or three people or firms.
Look for Expertise
If you’ve been in a car accident, look for a car accident lawyer that specializes in personal injury law, and shares verdicts and settlements and other helpful information for accident victims on their website. If your personal injury case involves a different kind of accident — like medical malpractice or a defective product — look for cases and settlements in those areas, if they are available.
Check credentials — like board certification, education and schools attended, memberships — and make sure you are comfortable with everything you see.
If you’re looking for an auto accident attorney, for example, find out if handling car accident cases like yours is the focus of their firm, or if it is a side specialty. Depending on the details of your case, this may or may not be important to you.
Cochran, Kroll & Associates P. C. can help you address your immediate needs after an accident and then work with you and your family to ensure your interests are taken care of in the settlement and personal injury claims process. The entire firm is dedicated to representing individuals and families who have suffered catastrophic losses as a result of injuries, disabilities, or death.
What, exactly, does a personal injury lawyer do? You want to work with an attorney who will be handling your case personally, listen to your needs, and respond quickly, clearly, and honestly to your questions.
Your lawyer will also be the person helping you to calculate your losses, assemble all relevant documentation, ensure court documents are filed correctly, and systematically gather evidence.
One of the key things that a good lawyer does is ease the burden of the legal process, take care of details, and guide you step-by-step through what can be an extremely frustrating, complex, and challenging period of time. You must be able to trust your attorney to represent your best interests during all negotiations with insurance companies and help you understand what settlement offers mean.
Cochran, Kroll & Associates P.C. is ready to be your advocate during any settlement discussion, and help you understand the implications and impacts of signing any type of release.
Think of Your Questions
As you do your research, start making a list of questions that you want to ask an attorney when you meet. Typical questions that you might consider asking include:
- Have you handled personal injury cases like mine?
- Does the firm have the resources to conduct a thorough investigation?
- What kinds of cases do you handle on a daily basis?
- Will they be handling your case on a contingency fee basis and only get paid when they achieve a successful recovery for you?
- Ask about the attorney’s court appearances and their thoughts about settling your claim and going to court.
- Will I be working with you or someone else on my case?
Write down all your questions — even the ones you may feel embarrassed about asking — and ask them! The attorney you want to work with will want to understand you, your concerns, your worries — completely. Knowing you helps them craft better arguments and reach better conclusions. Knowing you also helps an attorney be more compassionate and consistent in all their communications and interactions with you.
Arrange a Meeting
Call the firm during normal business hours, or use the contact form that is available at most law firm websites, and set up a meeting.
Most attorneys will be happy to meet with you anywhere, at your convenience, and at a place and time that makes sense and is most comfortable to you — including your home or hospital room.
Don’t worry about cost. Most car accident attorneys and personal injury lawyers offer free consultations, and if you decide to work together they will work for you on a contingency basis. This means that attorney fees are only paid when you receive your settlement. In Michigan, contingent legal fees in personal injury cases are set by statute (MRPC Rule 1.5).
At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. clients are offered the opportunity to retain our services under a contingency fee agreement – meaning our firm is only paid if we make a recovery on behalf of the individual or the family.
Qualities to Look For
You want to choose an attorney who will give you good advice, and that you trust to represent you at settlement hearings and in a courtroom.
At your meeting, one of the most important things to pay attention to is how you feel. Ask yourself: “How comfortable do I feel speaking openly and honestly with this person?” A good lawyer is personable, persuasive, and able to read you.
Having the ability to read you”tells you something very important. The attorney can also “read others” and gauge a juror’s reaction to testimony and the honesty of witnesses, which are great skills to have in a negotiation or courtroom setting.
Other qualities to look for include:
- Detail Orientation. The best attorneys are extremely detail-oriented, and this is reflected in everything they do. Details are important in all legal matters. Details make or break a case. The strength of an attorney lies in his or her ability to find small details that the other side does not — and win transactions.
- Communication. Good lawyers are thorough, organized, and don’t make typos. A good lawyer gets the law right (that’s a given), but a great lawyer effectively interprets the law — for you, a judge and jury, and for opposing counsel — and is able to use a variety of communication tools effectively to maximize his/her persuasiveness.
- Presentation Skills. Picture the person in a courtroom or before an audience of any kind. Good lawyers think extremely well on their feet and present well even in the most spontaneous moments. They’re even better when they have time to prepare. You want to be working with a lawyer and firm that is familiar with the process of securing expert testimony, the use of litigation graphics, and other communication tools that improve outcomes.
- Accessibility. It is reasonable to expect a high level of communication with your personal injury attorney, and it is important to have a discussion about what that means when you meet. You don’t ever want to feel ignored, but lawyers are busy people, and your attorney’s availability may vary with what is happening at that particular moment in time. Feel free to ask for a secondary contact at the firm to respond to your minor, day-to-day questions and concerns.
The professionals at Cochran, Kroll & Associates P.C. are available to help you understand the personal injury claims process and your legal options every step of the way. Sometimes it’s easy, but more often it’s not. We’re here to help you understand your right to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party to recover damages and just compensation.
Don’t Wait Too Long
There are several very good reasons to find the right lawyer as early as you can after an accident, particularly if your injury is serious and the accident was not your fault. Here are four of them:
- Insurance Companies. Beware of all settlement offers! If you’ve been injured in an accident, it’s wise to talk with an attorney before you talk with any insurance companies or sign anything concerning a settlement. Insurance companies are much more interested in their own bottom line than they are in your situation and compensating you for your losses. For minor accidents, you probably don’t need an attorney. But if you or any passengers in your vehicle are hurt or killed, having a lawyer at your side can make a big difference in the ultimate outcome of a settlement and litigation process.
- Preparation for Court. There is significant background work involved in filing a personal injury claim and negotiating a successful settlement process. It’s always best to gather documentation, interview witnesses, and assemble other evidence as soon as possible after the accident.
- Proving Liability. Proving liability in a personal injury lawsuit is a lot more complicated than you think it is, even if you believe the accident was obviously not your fault. Sometimes determining fault isn’t the same as determining liability, and sometimes there are several liable parties involved.
- Statute of Limitations. In Michigan, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is three years from the date of the accident. But if someone dies as a result of the accident, and the family wants to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the deadline is three years from the date of death.
At Cochran, Kroll & Associates P.C. the confidence of the attorney-client relationship begins with our first meeting. We are ready to fight for you, so you can receive a fair and adequate settlement and resolution.
Contact us toll-free at 866-466-9912 or use our convenient online contact form.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.