Auto accidents have no upsides. They can result in injuries, a destroyed car, rising car insurance prices, emotional strife and even death. If you or a loved one were involved in an accident, a car accident lawyer could help you get the financial compensation you’re entitled to.
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An experienced attorney will protect you from scams or extortion and allow you to focus on healing and moving on with your life. Read on for information on how to find the best car accident lawyer for your case.
What does a car accident lawyer do?
In most states, the law requires all drivers to have at least a minimum of liability coverage, but insurance companies won’t always cover every expense you might face in the aftermath of a collision. A car accident lawyer is a type of personal injury lawyer that can help file a claim if you’ve been involved in an auto accident.
By representing you, a car accident injury lawyer can guarantee you receive the money owed to pay medical bills and make up for lost wages. In the worst cases, when a car accident causes the death of a relative or loved one, a lawyer that handles fatal car accident cases can help you file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Even if nobody was injured in the collision, a non-injury car accident lawyer will help you file a property damage lawsuit and can also help you receive compensation for emotional distress.
Suppose you were involved in a collision and someone files a car accident lawsuit against you. In that case, a defense attorney will navigate the processes involved in negotiating a settlement and defending you against claims that may not be your fault.
Important things to consider
When seeking legal representation after an auto accident, you should not just hire the first attorney you see an advertisement for on a bus stop or billboard. You must research thoroughly to find a good lawyer for car accident claims. Keep the following things in mind during your search.
Their experience with car accident cases
Theoretically, any attorney can represent you in a car accident case. However, you’ll want a lawyer who has dealt with these types of cases before, as they will have a better grasp of the local laws pertaining specifically to traffic accidents. They will also have experience dealing with insurance companies and defendants.
When a lawyer has seen hundreds (if not thousands) of cases, they’ll know all the tricks and will likely maximize your chances for the highest compensation. They’ll also recognize red flags before they become a problem.
If they work on a contingency basis
As with any job, attorneys need to make money from the services they provide. But if you have to pay a lawyer even after losing your case, you might end up even worse off than you were before. By hiring an attorney that works on contingency, you won’t have to pay any lawyer fees unless you win your case. If you win, the contingency fee usually ranges from 33% to 40%.
However, law practices that work on contingency have a selective process and may not take cases that require a long, drawn-out court battle or result in low settlements. If a lawyer working on contingency does not believe your case will result in a quick settlement, they might decide not to work with you.
Their communication skills
When involved in a car accident lawsuit, you’ll want to know what to expect moving forward. Whether hoping for a quick settlement or digging in for a lengthy legal battle, you want a lawyer who provides regular updates to you, clearly explains the steps they’re taking and informs you of any upcoming meetings, depositions or hearings you need to attend.
Even if your lawyer is in constant communication with you, it does you no good if you don’t understand what they’re saying. You will need an attorney who makes themselves accessible and can explain concepts in a way you can understand.
Their success rate
It’s also important to consider the attorney’s success rate. Nothing about a lawyer’s experience, payment plan or communications skills matters if they consistently loses cases. Many law firms publish their success rate on their website or make it available if you inquire. Keep in mind that the success rate for settling cases may differ greatly from the wins in court, so you must consider both.
Of course, a stellar success rate can also be misleading. Contingency lawyers often pick and choose their clients. Therefore, lawyers who boast high success rates can do the same. If a lawyer chooses to only work in easy-to-win cases, their success rate will naturally skyrocket.
The reputation of their firm
Some basic questions to ask when reviewing law firms:
- Is your prospective attorney’s law firm well-respected?
- Do its peers speak highly of the practice?
- Does it have an abundance of satisfied clients leaving positive reviews?
- Is it actively involved in the community through charities or other local organizations?
All of these things matter when it comes to choosing a good lawyer. Knowing an attorney’s reputation can protect you from dealing with a disreputable law firm and it can also help your chances during proceedings.
Well-regarded lawyers from esteemed firms might have good reputations among their peers and in court, which could lead to better outcomes and negotiations. Having a highly respected lawyer on your side can save you time, money and many headaches from a drawn-out legal battle.
How to choose the best car accident lawyer
Now that you know which qualities to consider in an attorney, it’s time to learn how to choose a car accident lawyer that best fits your needs. While many resources can help you find a lawyer, such as online directories or state bar associations, you should still take certain steps before hiring a lawyer to represent you.
Ask people you know and trust
If they’ve previously dealt with a car accident attorney, family members and close friends can provide valuable information about their experiences. They can talk about how they hired a lawyer, which questions you should ask and any difficulties that came up during the process. They can also point you in the right direction towards a lawyer that has helped them or someone they know successfully take legal action.
If you choose a recommended firm, remember to ask the same questions you would of any other firm. Just because an attorney won your friend or family member’s case doesn’t mean your situation fits their skill set.
Have a consultation before making a decision
A consultation can help you decide on the right car accident lawyer for your circumstances. Consultations are usually free and allow you to speak to an attorney about the merits of your case, the events that happened at the scene of the accident, your medical records, the type of injury you sustained (if any), the fees they charge and any other concerns that you want to discuss.
The following includes a few vital things to discuss with a car accident attorney to determine if they meet your requirements.
Discuss their experience
Your best chance of winning a car accident lawsuit comes from hiring an attorney who knows the system. Many factors influence a lawyer’s quality, but nothing substitutes experience. If an attorney has won many cases, they likely researched relevant case law and have the tools to get you your entitled compensation. The more intimately they understand the quirks and potential pitfalls of cases like yours, the more likely they will succeed.
If possible, try to determine whether a lawyer is experienced in car accident suits and in your specific type of claim. A property damage lawsuit differs from a personal injury claim, an emotional distress case or a wrongful death suit. Get the lawyer to talk about how often they have handled cases of your specific type and ask for details on how those cases play out.
Discuss how payment works
Every lawyer charges their clients differently, so it’s important to talk to a lawyer about how they charge for their services. Determine whether they charge an hourly rate, require a retainer or work on contingency.
Many lawyers also charge you for additional costs, such as filing fees, transcription fees, jury fees and even printing fees and parking fees. These can add up, so you’ll want a detailed breakdown of costs.
Lawyers have standard payment methods, such as flat or monthly fees. However, these types of payment methods don’t often apply to car accident attorneys.
Discuss the lawsuit process
A good lawyer has a game plan. A car accident attorney specializing in your type of collision claim should have detailed knowledge about the possible outcomes of how your case will play out.
After you file your lawsuit and your complaint is served, your lawyer should be able to give you a basic idea of what to expect. While nothing is written in stone, a lawyer could discuss how each party might respond, how likely the case is to go to trial, and what to prepare for moving forward.
Discuss anticipated compensation
No lawyer can know exactly how much their clients stand to make from their claims. However, if your lawyer has experience with claims like yours, they should be able to estimate based on the compensation they’ve won for similar cases.
Look into their track record
Before hiring an attorney, you should investigate their background. You can do this several ways.
The simplest way is to look up your attorney on your state bar association’s website to check whether they’ve been subject to reprimands or disciplinary actions. That way you can avoid choosing a lawyer with an imperfect record who could potentially affect your case in a negative way.
You can also directly research what cases your car accident attorney has handled. Look up their name in the Public Access to Court Electronic Records database to determine if they’ve been involved in any federal cases. If your lawyer has dealt with federal courts, PACER lets you review each of your attorney’s cases from beginning to end and see the resulting judgments or opinions. Most state and local court systems have ways to search their records as well, though the type and quality of information vary greatly.
Read their client reviews
Ratings on sites like Google, Yelp, or Avvo can be skewed to give undeserving lawyers high scores. However, these sites can still provide helpful information if you look for detailed reviews that provide context of a lawyer’s performance.
You can ignore any overall scores and dismiss any vague and nonspecific reviews and pay attention to those that detail a client’s experience and see if the firm responded to these reviews.