When you suffer a personal injury as a Florida native, a snowbird, or a tourist, you need the best possible legal representation. Fortunately, no matter who you are, an experienced attorney can advise you on your crucial next steps. Here are a few steps and factors for choosing the best personal injury attorney for your case.
Research Your Options in Your Local Community
Personal injury law firms aren’t hard to find no matter where you live, but finding the best one for you may take some time and research. The best lawyer for your case is someone with a proven record of accomplishment and excellence. Fortunately, the internet makes such research easy. Look at testimonials and reviews before deciding on who to call.
Rely on Experience and Testimonials
One of the best metrics for knowing which firm will work for you is their professional legal experience. You should look for a lawyer with knowledge and experience representing clients with similar cases. Florida law is complicated, and experience truly is the only benchmark to show an understanding of the law in practice. Reading testimonials and case results is an excellent opportunity to witness the success of an attorney’s career and determine if they are right for your needs.
Experience only comes as the result of years of working in the field. The best lawyers are those with established careers and years of experience, not simply those with large law firms. In fact, larger law firms may end up losing you in the reeds because of their size and time commitments.
Personal injury lawyers work in a variety of different subfields within the law. You want someone to represent your case who knows how to handle your specific issue. You would not want to hire a contract law lawyer for a personal injury, after all. Sometimes individual attorneys or law firms specialize in a variety of fields, but may not always have a breadth of experience within the specific issue you need addressing.
An experienced attorney should have contacts that can assist your case. A personal injury lawyer, for example, will often have associates within the insurance company to accelerate the process of communication and negotiation. A lawyer’s reputation is a good estimate of their skill as a legal counselor. The best and most experienced attorneys will often teach courses at a law college as well.
Compassionate Legal Care
Because of the nature of the legal relationship, a lawyer must be personable and compassionate. You can’t trust someone you can’t be honest with, so don’t discount the importance of a personal connection.
The best attorneys will advocate for you from day one. Your success is their success, even beyond the financial incentive. You should expect your attorney to listen carefully to your case before offering advice. This kind of compassion and attention shows that they aim to work with you, not for you, and will carefully tailor your case to your needs.
Questions to Ask During a Consultation:
When choosing which lawyer is best to represent you, ask certain questions during your free consultation. The questions you ask and how the attorney answers them can give you a clearer picture of what to expect from working with the firm, as well as how your claim might reach a resolution.
Before hiring an attorney for your personal injury case, you should ask the following:
1. Do I have a claim?
Your first question is pretty straightforward. Give the lawyer a brief overview of your car accident, including the extent of you or your loved one’s injuries and who you believe is at fault. Legal consultations are completely confidential, so don’t worry about the attorney giving any of this information to insurance companies or other parties. Ask the lawyer if he/she believes you have grounds to file a lawsuit. In Florida, the only time someone can file a claim outside of the state’s no-fault insurance system is if the person’s injuries are serious enough. In general, permanent injuries, long-term disabilities, and scarring will qualify for lawsuits.
2. What is your fee structure?
It’s important for you to fully grasp the lawyer’s fee structure before signing a contract or agreeing to retain the attorney. Most car accident lawyers operate on a contingency-fee basis. This means their attorney fees are contingent upon you winning your lawsuit. If you don’t win, you don’t pay. The average fee schedule is one-third (or 33.33%) of your settlement or judgment award. This rate might increase, however, depending on the amount of work the attorney must do on your case. If you go to trial, for example, fees might increase.
3. How long do I have to file a lawsuit?
Learning your timeline to file is crucial to the success of your claim. The Florida courts maintain strict deadlines for bringing a claim. If you miss this time limit, odds are the courts will refuse to hear your claim. Even if the courts agree, the defendant will file a motion to dismiss on the grounds that you missed the statute of limitations. In Florida, most car accident victims have four years from the date of the accident to file. Talk to an attorney as soon as possible, however, as there are exceptions to the rule. Filing against a government agency, for example, typically only comes with six months to file a notice.
4. What is my case worth?
Ask your attorney what your case is likely worth. Evaluating your claim right from the beginning can help you stay realistic about what you could get from a lawsuit. Awards may differ depending on a settlement vs. judgment award. Compare what the attorney tells you about what an insurance company recently offered you. Help from an attorney can almost always get better case results. Most car accident lawsuits can result in recovery for related medical costs, property damage repairs, lost income, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering.
5. What types of cases do you focus on?
Regardless of the size of the firm they work at, it’s essential to determine the attorney you hire has handled cases similar to yours in the past. Find out what types of personal injury cases they focus on to see if they truly have what it takes to help you with your car accident, truck crash, slip and fall, or another type of case.
6. Who will be working on my case?
Sometimes, personal injury lawyers that provide your initial consultation aren’t actually the ones that represent you throughout your claim. Make sure you know exactly who will be working on your case. Will it be the personal injury attorney you’re speaking to, or another less experienced attorney at their firm?
7. Can I speak to previous clients?
One of the best ways to determine whether a personal injury lawyer is skilled and experienced is to call their references. Ask the attorney to provide you with some names and numbers of previous clients they’ve represented with cases similar to yours.
8. How many cases are you currently handling?
If the attorney you’re speaking to works at a small firm with only a few other lawyers and states they are currently working on a dozen cases, they may not have the time to give your case the attention it deserves. Find out how many cases they’re handling at the moment, and make sure they truly have time for your case.
9. Can you take my case to trial if necessary?
The reality is that not all personal injury lawyers have the skills and experience to file a claim and litigate it all the way to trial. Many attorneys take on personal injury cases with the hope that they’ll quickly settle and avoid trial. Be sure the lawyer you select has trial experience.
10. What is it like to communicate with you?
You should be able to call or email your lawyer directly with any questions you might have. If an attorney makes it seem like they don’t have time to speak to you and promptly address your questions and concerns, look elsewhere for legal representation.
11. Are you affiliated with any legal organizations?
There are national and state organizations designed specifically for personal injury lawyers. If an attorney is affiliated with any of them, they are likely well-connected and respected in the community.
12. What is your process like?
Every personal injury lawyer has their own unique process for handling cases. Find out the process of the lawyer you’re speaking to, and make sure you feel comfortable with it.
13. What Can I Do to Help My Case?
Finally, ask what steps you can take right away to protect your rights. Your attorney might recommend that you don’t admit fault or accept a settlement when on the phone with insurance claims adjusters. It might also help to start gathering information about your cases, such as copies of your medical records and police reports. Your lawyer can take care of other aspects of your claim for you, such as preserving evidence and beginning the filing process.
Feel Free to Get in Touch with Us
In addition to asking these questions, when you’re considering hiring an attorney, go with your gut. If you feel like a personal injury attorney is knowledgeable, experienced, and has your best interests in mind, hire them.
At David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A., attorney David Fuchs is happy to answer these questions for you and explain why he is a valuable resource for your personal injury case. Contact us at today, or reach out online to schedule a free consultation of your case.