What Kind of Lawyer Do I Need for My Injury Case?

What Kind of Lawyer Do I Need for My Injury Case?

The lawyer you choose is one of the most important factors in the success or failure of your case. It is a decision you should make with care. Unfortunately, choosing a lawyer can be intimidating for people who have never been through the process before. You may be justifiably concerned about ending up with a lawyer with bad ethics or poor skills. In this chapter, we hope to ease those fears and provide a basic guide to finding a personal injury lawyer.

The first thing to consider is that accident attorneys, much like doctors, often concentrate their practices in specific areas of the law. If you need hip replacement surgery, you would probably see an orthopedic surgeon, not a cardiologist. Similarly, if you are in an accident, you will not want to hire a lawyer who focuses on divorce. Another type of lawyer may be able to help you, but he or she may not have the same experience and skills that a personal injury lawyer brings to a personal injury case. Personal injury lawyers understand the legal, procedural and evidentiary strategies that can maximize the value of your personal injury claim, because they work with these issues every day.

At our firm, we find that many of our clients come to us after a recommendation from someone they know that has used us in the past. For that reason, we recommend that you begin the search by talking to your family and friends. Ask if anyone can refer you to a personal injury lawyer who helped them get good results, or who they have heard good things about.

If nobody you know can recommend a lawyer, you can also start by considering lawyer advertisements. You have probably seen lawyer ads on television, in newspapers or in the Yellow Pages. Consistent advertisements from a particular lawyer show that his or her firm has been practicing for all of that time and may have the experience and resources necessary to take on insurance companies. In fact, insurance companies sometimes decide whether or not they will settle a case before a trial based on the reputation and experience of your law firm.

If you are comfortable with computers and the Internet, you can try an Internet search. Using a search engine like Google, Yahoo! or MSN, you can easily search by both your location and the legal specialty you need. There are many ways to search for this information. Here are a few tips that may be helpful:

  1. Search for a phrase instead of a single word. “Auto accident lawyer” will probably turn up more useful results than just “lawyer.”
  2. Put the phrase you search for in quotes. This will tell the search engine to look for the entire phrase as you searched for it, not the individual words in the phrase. Without quotes, your results will be greater in number but not nearly as relevant to your search. Just make sure to spell everything correctly.
  3. Narrow your search by including some geographical information. For example, if your auto accident happened in New York, you might want to search for “New York auto accident lawyer.” You need a lawyer in the state where the accident happened, even if that is not the state where you live or have legal residency.

Why Hire a Lawyer?

The question may enter your mind: Should I even hire a lawyer, as opposed to just dealing directly with the insurance company and its adjuster? You should know that although the insurance adjuster may seem friendly and cooperative, he or she works for the insurance company that will pay to settle your claim. If the insurance adjuster can persuade you to settle your claim for less than what it is worth, that is good for the insurance company but bad for you. Unlike a lawyer you hire, the insurance company has no legal duty or financial incentive to treat you fairly!

Case in point: A working-class mother had a serious accident with a commercial tractor-trailer rig. She was injured in the accident and her car was so badly damaged that it was useless, both of which posed challenges for this mother of three young children. The very next day, she was visited at home by a representative from the truck driver’s insurance company. The insurance adjuster was very skilled at creating a sense that he was there to help her deal with the problems the accident had caused. After learning that she had no medical insurance, he told her that he believed she would make a good recovery, based on his experience and the way she was able to get around in her home and carry one of her children. Based on this evaluation, he offered her cash to repair her damaged vehicle, and $1,000 to compensate her for the trouble and pain she may have experienced. All she needed to do was accept the cash that day and sign the release, barring her from making any further financial claim.

Although tempted, she called her husband at work. He told her not to accept or sign anything and to call a lawyer immediately. After contacting a lawyer, she eventually found that she had severe injuries to her shoulder and would need a period of treatment and testing to see if she could recover without surgery. Fortunately, she recovered without surgery after receiving the necessary treatment, and was fairly and fully compensated for her months of suffering and damages. Ultimately, she received nearly 25 times what the adjuster wanted her to accept. As you can imagine, this client and her family were immensely pleased with their decision to retain a lawyer rather than deal directly with the insurance company.