When you’re involved in a car accident, your primary concern should be making sure you and your passengers are safe. In the immediate aftermath of such a traumatic event, it can be difficult to think clearly about what steps to take next. While it may feel like a no-brainer, choosing the best car accident lawyer quickly is essential in minimizing the long-term impact of an accident on your life.
However, with so many different personal injury lawyers out there, finding the right one for you can be challenging. As such, we’ve put together this helpful guide to help you make the right choice when seeking legal representation following a car accident. Whatever your circumstances, keep reading to learn more about how you can choose the best car accident lawyer and get back on track as soon as possible after a collision.
Tips for Choosing the Best Car Accident Lawyer
You’ve probably seen those TV ads or heard radio jingles about car accident lawyers who’ll give you a free consultation. You might assume that any personal injury attorney would have your best interests in mind and recommend whatever option is best for you and your situation. After all, these attorneys are professionals with an obligation to counsel their clients wisely and ethically. In reality, choosing the right car accident lawyer can be a challenging task. Here are some useful tips on how to choose the best car accident lawyer for your case.
1. Ask friends and family for recommendations.
If you know someone whose car accident case was resolved successfully, ask for that person’s recommendation. Keep in mind that a recommendation from a friend or family member is not a guarantee of success. It is likely to be the best indication you have of a particular lawyer’s excellence — and expertise in the type of case you have.
2. Check the attorney’s track record.
If a prospective attorney advertises a high success rate in car accident cases, you should see if that information is posted on the lawyer’s website. In such a case, you should be able to confirm the accuracy of the information by contacting the applicable state bar association and requesting a formal complaint investigation. In case the lawyer’s website does not display information about the lawyer’s track record, you might want to follow up with that person to ask why not.
3. Be wary of up-front fees and retainers.
Some car accident lawyers may suggest that they will take your case, but require an up-front retainer or fee. You should be wary of such offers, especially if you are unable to pay the retainer or fee in one lump sum. You should also be wary of lawyers who ask you to sign a contract obligating you to pay a certain amount of money — in installments or otherwise — as part of your representation. In some jurisdictions, you can use these factors as indicators that a lawyer is not ethically licensed.
4. Hire a lawyer who specializes in car accident cases.
Some legal specialties are more subjective than others, but the best car accident attorneys have experience with this specific type of case. Some jurisdictions require that attorneys specialize in a certain type of law (e.g., personal injury law) before practicing in that field; other jurisdictions allow lawyers to specialize at their discretion. If you suspect your case will require negotiating a settlement or filing a lawsuit, you should choose a lawyer with experience in car accident cases.
5. Decide whether to work with an attorney or go it alone.
Some people decide to represent themselves in court against the advice of their attorneys. Other people decide to hire an attorney but to take the lead on their own case. These are both very risky decisions, and we strongly recommend against them. Choosing the right attorney is critical to the success of your case. If you don’t feel comfortable with a particular attorney, you should consider hiring another one. If you decide to work with a lawyer, it’s important to remember that you are the client, while your lawyer is the expert working on your behalf. In other words, you should take an active role in your case but also respect your attorney’s advice.
6. Always make note of everything you discuss with your attorney.
Even if the conversation does not seem important at the time, make note of it. If your attorney recommends that you do something — such as getting a second opinion from another doctor, hiring specialized experts, or submitting to diagnostic tests — make note of that conversation as well. If you get into a disagreement with your attorney at any point, you may need this information to defend your position.
7. Determining fault is critical; don’t rely on your lawyer to do it.
If you were involved in a car accident and were not at fault, you may have a claim for damages against the other driver or his or her insurance company. Make sure your attorney conducts a thorough investigation into fault, including reviewing police reports, eyewitness accounts, photographs of the scene, and medical records. Make sure your attorney follows up with any parties that need to be interviewed, and insist that your attorney interview you as a witness. You may also want to hire your own accident reconstruction expert to reconstruct the accident and identify any faults in the other driver’s account of what happened.
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8. What are your damages? The most important factor in choosing a lawyer.
In some cases, you may be able to sue for general damages in court. General damages compensate the individual for pain and suffering related to the accident. Your medical bills, future medical bills, lost wages from time off work, and property damage related to the accident are all examples of special damages. Special damages compensate a person for costs associated with the accident, such as car repair bills, tow truck fees, and rental car fees. Sometimes, you will be unable to sue for these special damages because the other driver’s insurance company will cover them. Other times, you may want to sue for special damages because they are much easier to quantify and determine damages. In either case, you should consider the damage amount when choosing a lawyer.
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Choosing the right car accident lawyer can be a challenging task. This is why it is important to do your due diligence before hiring anyone to represent you in court. You should start by asking friends and family for recommendations, and then checking the attorney’s track record. Next, you should decide whether to work with an attorney or go it alone. Once you’ve made your decision, you should make sure to always make note of everything you discuss with your attorney. Ensure that your attorney conducts a thorough investigation into fault and damages. Finally, you should consider the damage amount when choosing a lawyer. Remember that the most important factor in choosing a lawyer is the amount of damages your case is worth.
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