This is one of the most common questions we receive from potential clients. We have found that there are certain things to look for in a personal injury attorney which will tell you if that law firm should be representing you or not. Below, we have compiled a list of what to look for and what to avoid when choosing an attorney.
1) Personal Injury Attorneys – The Ideal Attorney
When looking for good Tampa personal injury lawyers, there are several factors you should consider:
- Experience - You need an attorney who has been practicing law longer than 1 year. This ensures your lawyer knows the ins and outs of dealing with insurance companies and their attorneys, accident reports, and dealing with your insurance company.
- Prior Results – The attorney should have experience working on similar cases to yours. If you were involved in a car accident, ask if the lawyer has ever handled a personal injury case before where someone was injured in a car accident. Ask for examples of results or verdicts they've achieved and their percentage success rate (if available).
- Case Reviews - Upon talking to several different attorneys, you should notice that some will review your case for free while others will review it with conditions such as needing an upfront retainer fee or monthly payments. Some things to look out for when reviewing these reviews:
-- Are there any limitations? For example, do they only offer a free case review for you to call them, but once they review your case they may not take it on because of some reason. This is done to collect up front fees or retainer.
-- Do they do interest free or low interest retainers? A good legal practice should offer some sort of payment plan options without charging high rates of interest which can range anywhere from 10 - 36% (higher depending on the state).
-- Does the attorney guarantee that they will win your case? If someone guarantees that they will win your case then it usually means that your case is either very weak and needs a lot more work than if it was taken on as "just another" personal injury case, or it's a scam since no one can truly guarantee a verdict.
- References/References from previous clients - If the attorney provides you with references then it's in their best interest to provide you with plenty of them (minimum 5). You can do your own reference checking and contact each person who served as a reference for this particular attorney and ask about their level of service and overall satisfaction.
- Payment Plans - A good legal practice should offer some sort of payment plan options without charging high rates of interest which can range anywhere from 10 - 36% (higher depending on the state). Avoid legal practices that require an upfront retainer fee or monthly payments before pre-authorizing surgeries, treatment etc. This is typically done to collect up front fees or retainers even when they may not end up representing your case.
- Open communication - A good legal practice is one that will keep you in the loop with everything going on with your case and will make an effort to return all phone calls and emails in a timely manner (usually within 24 hours). A reputable legal practice does not like surprises and would rather tell you "I don't know" when they have no idea what's going on, compared to just ignoring the question altogether.
2) Personal Injury Attorneys – The Not So Good Attorney
What to watch out for:
-- An attorney who just got out of law school or has been practicing less than 2 years should be avoided at all costs. Their inexperience may result in a weaker defense for you.
-- An attorney who guarantees you a certain payout or percentage of success on your case should be avoided at all costs since they are either scam artists trying to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals.
-- An attorney who requires an upfront retainer fee or monthly payments before pre-authorizing surgeries, treatment etc., is typically done to collect up front fees or retainers even when they may not end up representing your case. A reputable legal practice does not like surprises and would rather tell you "I don't know" when they have no idea what's going on, compared to just ignoring the question altogether.
3) Is It Worth Taking My Case To Trial?
Traditionally, personal injury cases that go to trial are worth more money compared to settlements. Keep in mind that a good personal injury attorney will acknowledge a realistic number for a settlement before going to trial.
4) How Can I Get My Case Settled?
-- Have you been offered a settlement figure from the defendants insurance company? If so, have an idea of what percentage this offer represents relative to your injuries and medical bills. For example, if you were in a car accident resulting in $20,000 dollars worth of medical bills and they are offering you $5,000 then this is 25% of your claim. This means that if the case went to court and you won your case, you would receive 25% more than was offered resulting in 25% + 25% equaling 50% of your claim.
-- Have a realistic idea of the percentage of success before accepting a settlement offer from an insurance company or going to trial. For example, if your medical bills are $20,000 dollars and you have been offered a certain amount by the defendants insurance company then know that this is usually around 40% - 50% of what they would end up paying if it went to trial. This doesn't mean that they will end up paying you that much but there is no way for you to know until all is said and done so keep this in mind so as not to be disappointed if and when it goes to court.
It's important to know how valuable your case really is before taking action since too many individuals have accepted offers that were below their expectations. Most personal injury attorneys will have some sort of payment plan options without charging high rates of interest which can range anywhere from 10 - 36% (higher depending on the state).
5) What Are Some More Questions That I Should Ask The Legal Practice?
-- Is this legal practice a member of the BAR association, if so do they have any complaints filed against them? If an attorney is a member of the BAR association then they may be able to tell you how many times they've been sued or disciplined as well as any other important information that's available. Although having a few lawsuits or grievances filed against them doesn't automatically mean that they are bad lawyers just as being sued for malpractice does not mean that they are bad lawyers either. The key is to find out what the outcomes were for these cases and whether or not their errors could have been avoided by following standard legal practices.
-- Does this legal practice specialize in your type of case? If not, would they consider doing so if you were willing to pay more money? Some attorneys may not be willing to take on difficult cases but if it's something that interests them then they might hold off on billing you extra so long as you pay for any additional expenses involved during your representation. This also gives you an idea of whether or not an attorney will really go the extra mile for your case without charging exorbitant rates.
-- level of compensation do they anticipate before taking on your case and how would they handle the costs in relation to time spent? This is important because it can help you determine whether or not you should wait for better settlement offers or file a lawsuit before continuing to pay out-of-pocket. Some attorneys will ask for an hourly rate which varies anywhere from $100 - $350 per hour while others charge a percent of recoveries so be sure to have this clarified early on before paying them anything.
6) How Much Experience Does The Legal Practice Have In My Type Of Case?
-- Has this legal practice had previous cases that are similar to yours and what were the outcomes of these cases? If there aren't any then all the more reason why you should find someone new instead of wasting your time and money on someone that's likely to lose.
-- Does this legal practice specialize in any specific type of law or is it general? Not only will you save money but your case should be taken more seriously since they don't have other cases distracting them from yours. Their main focus should always remain on giving you the best representation possible as well as lowering risk factors to ensure a good outcome.
-- How much experience does the attorney handling my case have? If he/she has been practicing for less than 5 years then there might be cause for concern even if their reviews are great because they haven't had enough time to build up a winning track record like those with 20+ of experience.
7) What Type Of Compensation Will Be Given To Me If This Legal Practice Wins My Case?
-- Is this attorney willing to take payment plans or offer discounted rates if I'm out-of-work, paid under the table, unemployed, retired, etc.? Some attorneys might be flexible with their billing options but others may not so it's important to find out before paying them anything.
-- How much of a recovery could I potentially receive from my case and how long would it take for me to receive all of the compensation involved? If an attorney starts telling you that you won't see a dime until they've received all of your medical expenses then there is a good chance that they're trying to scam you. All personal injury cases work on contingency which means that the only fees that you have to worry about are their expenses and a percentage of your overall compensation if they win.
-- Are there any upcoming changes in legislation or court rulings that might affect my case? Although it's unlikely, an attorney should always inform you about anything concerning your case even if it isn't going to affect it in a major way because these types of details can come back to haunt them instead of helping them.
8) How Will The Legal Practice Handle My Case If Something Happens To Me Or I Am Unable To Continue?
-- Is this sarasota personal injury lawyer willing to represent me despite my age, health, income level, employment status, etc.? Some attorneys may require extensive retainer costs while others won't but you should still try your best to find out beforehand so that you're not stuck with a scammer.
-- Has this attorney ever had a case similar to mine before and how did it turn out? If they haven't then all the more reason to find someone else because they probably don't have a clue what they're doing.
-- How much time will I have before my case ends if something happens to me or I'm unable to continue? This is important because if you end up dying, too busy, lack funds, etc. then there's no point in having an attorney representing you as their only job is to help argue your case.
9) What Is The Best Way To Contact The Legal Practice And The Estimated Response Time?
-- Is there a 24/7 hotline available in case of emergencies or when an update is needed regarding my case? You shouldn't have to wait for business hours to be over in order to get in touch with your attorney especially if there's an emergency. There are also attorneys who may take cases that aren't even physically located in the same city as them which means you should find out how they plan on communicating instead of wasting time traveling back and forth.
10) What Are All The Other Ways That This Legal Practice May Help Me Out Besides Representing Me In Court?
-- Is this lawyer willing to look over any personal injury settlement offers before I accept them? If so then all of the more reason to stick with their legal practice because they're willing to help you out even if it doesn't directly involve your case.
-- Does this legal practice work with medical professionals, accident reconstructionists, private investigators, etc.? They should at least be able to tell you who they're affiliated with and what their job role is as this type of information can come in handy during negotiations.
-- Are there any other ways that I can recover from my personal injury besides going through the courts? Some attorneys may have a charity program or some sort of financial assistance for those unable to pay but it's important that you at least find out about all the options before dismissing them. No attorney should ever dismiss an option without first consulting you so keep that in mind when they say something along the lines of "we'll do our best to win your case."