You or a family member has been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence. It might have been a car accident or a slip and fall. You know you now must deal with medical bills and property damage. Doctor visits. Vehicle replacement. And of course, you now need to speak to the insurance companies and, sometimes, the police. People are calling you on the phone. Are you are supposed to talk to any of them? It is time to hire a qualified personal injury lawyer. But how do you choose? There are so many advertisements on tv and billboards and buses and online.
Here are the 5 things you should know before deciding whom to hire:
1. CONTINGENT FEE ONLY
Always hire a personal injury attorney who works on a contingent fee. A contingent fee means that the lawyer only gets paid a fee from an insurance settlement from an insurance company or directly from the negligent party. Not from you. Almost all reputable personal injury attorneys work under this fee agreement. Under this fee agreement the attorney should also pay all the costs for your case upfront and should not get the costs back from you unless the attorney makes a recovery for you. The risk is on the attorney and not on you. The maximum fee they can charge is usually governed by state law. For example, in Florida the maximum fee is usually one third of the gross recovery if the case settles without a lawsuit (a claim) or forty percent if the case resolves after a lawsuit is filed.
Always hire a personal injury attorney who specializes in personal injury claims and lawsuits and is not a “jack of all trades.” Much like medicine, each area of the law is complicated and filled with subtle nuances. If an attorney does personal injury and criminal and family law and wills, he or she is much less likely to have the level of knowledge that an attorney who only handles personal injury does.
3. GOES TO COURT IF NECESSARY
Always hire a personal injury attorney who will be handling your case personally and who litigates the cases in court, if necessary. This means the attorney you hire works on your case. Not a paralegal or low-level associate, as is common in larger personal injury law firms. You want to know that your attorney will file a lawsuit if the case cannot be settled and the attorney knows their way around a courtroom. If your case must be placed in the court system, you do not want to have your case referred to a new lawyer to learn anew. Always ask how many jury trials they have had in the last five years.
4. CREDENTIALS, REPUTATION AND BAR COMPLAINTS
Check the credentials of your personal injury attorney. Go to the law firm website and read up on the attorney’s bio. I strongly suggest you hire an attorney who has handled personal injury cases and litigated them for more than ten years. You can usually go online and see if they have bar complaints against them by going to the State Bar’s website. Have they been recognized by and rated by well-known organizations like www.avvo.com and www.martindale.com. Are they recognized in Super Lawyers at www.superlawyers.com? Have they ever obtained a jury verdict in excess of a million dollars? You can check at www.milliondollaradvocates.com
5. THEY HANDLE AND SEEK TO REDUCE ALL MEDICAL BILLS
Confirm that your lawyer will keep track of and work to get your medical bills reduced or waived at the end of your case to maximize your recovery. If there is Medicare or Medicaid or health insurance involved, your lawyer will need to ensure that these payments are repaid at the end of your case or you could lose these benefits. Also, does the attorney have a strong referral relationship with the doctors who are treating you or with whom they refer you? If so, be sure that the attorney will still be aggressive about attempting to get those doctors’ bills reduced. Sometimes the attorneys don’t seek to reduce these medical bills, so they don’t risk losing valuable future client referrals from these physicians.
John A. Willis is a personal injury trial attorney and President of Willis Law, P.A. located in Boca Raton, Florida. Please reach out to us at 561-599-7300 or complete our contact form. We offer no-cost consultations and only get paid when we recover funds for you.