Searching for a Needle in a Stack of Needles: Finding the Right Personal Injury Attorney
After you’ve decided that you need a personal injury attorney, you have to decide which one to select. Although there are thousands of attorneys practicing personal injury law in the Bellevue and Seattle area, the following should help you narrow your search to the best person who can represent you.
Narrow Your Search – The first step in locating an attorney is to narrow your search to attorneys who specifically practice personal injury law. I know this is a basic step, but it cannot be under estimated because not all lawyers practice personal injury law. In fact, most have no experience in this area whatsoever. I’ll admit that before becoming a personal injury attorney, I, like many others, thought that personal injury was as a basic area that any attorney could practice. However, after practicing in this area for the last two years I can tell you that it is a highly complex area and the attorney must donate at least a substantial portion of his or her practice be effective.
Narrow it Again – Once you’ve narrowed your search to personal injury lawyers, narrow it again and find a personal injury attorney that has experience representing clients who have been injured in the same way as you. For example, if you’ve been involved in a low impact car accident, find a personal injury attorney that focuses his or her personal injury practice on low impact car accidents. Conversely, if you’ve been injured in the course of treatment by a doctor or other health care professional, narrow your search to personal injury attorneys who specialize in medical malpractice. Again, personal injury law is very broad and has many unique practice areas. Therefore, you need to find a personal injury who has experience representing plaintiffs that have experienced an injury similar to yours.
Find out the fee – Personal injury attorneys generally charge a contingency fee. This means that there are no upfront attorney fees, but the attorney will receive a percentage of any settlement he or she recovers for you. In a contingency fee situation, if you recover nothing, your attorney receives no fees from you. The most common amount is thirty-three percent of the total recovered but that could increase if your case requires a trial. If the attorney refuses to take your case on a contingency, I suggest going elsewhere.
Communication not Location – Communication with the attorney is much more important than his or her location. Years ago it was important to have a lawyer that was a few minutes from your work or home. However, thanks to cell phones and email, this is no longer the case. During the course of the representation, you will likely meet with your attorney between two to five times. In contrast, you’ll speak, or should speak, to him or her more than thirty times. Therefore, it should be much easier to contact your attorney than to physically see him or her. In addition, to facilitate communication with your attorney, make sure you have the attorney’s direct line and email address. Also, arrange a time and day to speak every two weeks on the phone so that you can provide one another with updates on the case.
Like the Lawyer and the Person – After narrowing down your choices using the above criteria, it will ultimately come time to meet with the attorney or attorney(s) during an initial consult. First, if you have personal injury case, the initial consult should be free. If an attorney attempts to charge you for an hour of his or her time, take your business elsewhere. Assuming the consult is free this will be your opportunity to learn about the attorney. During the consult I suggest asking the lawyer to explain his or her experience and why he or she believes they are the most qualified attorney to represent you. In addition to these professional questions, make sure to get an idea of who the attorney is as a person. Remember, you will be spending significant time dealing with this individual. Therefore you should have a good idea of who they are before you agree to form this professional relationship.
In addition to learning about the merit’s of your case, the initial consult will serve two other purposes for the client. First, you will learn more about the attorney professionally and personally. Second you will see a glimpse of the attorney’s advocacy skills as he or she attempts to persuade you to retain him or her as your lawyer. If after this conversation, you believe the attorney is the right person from the job, then your search is over. If you don’t feel confident with the attorney, don’t be afraid to keep looking for another “needle”.