How To Hire A Car Accident Lawyer

According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, each year around 4.4 million people in the United States seek medical attention because of vehicle accidents. The direct medical costs associated with road accidents in the U.S. every year is more than $380 million, and that doesn’t take into account other costs, such as lost wages or property damage. In short, if you or someone you love gets hurt in a car accident, you might be facing a lot of related expenses. And if the accident was not your fault, those expenses probably shouldn’t rest on your shoulders. Follow this guide to learn when to get an attorney for a car accident, and how to find the best car accident lawyer for your case.

  1. Understand that not every car accident warrants a lawsuit.
  2. Start your attorney search with a focus on car accident cases.
  3. Take full advantage of the attorney’s initial free consultation.
  4. Get a clear understanding of the attorney’s fee structure, and what percentage of your settlement you will receive.
  5. Understand the process of the car accident lawsuit, and what your role will be.

Understand that not every car accident warrants a lawsuit.

This means that not every accident requires a car accident lawyer. A minor fender bender that results in $1,000 in damage is likely to be covered by the appropriate insurance company, for example. And it might be a waste of your time and potential resources to seek out a lawyer to file a lawsuit over such an amount. If, however, you were involved in an accident that was the other driver’s fault and you’ve been seriously injured or sustained considerable damages to your personal property, a lawyer can be a huge asset.

Start your attorney search with a focus on car accident cases.

If you’ve established that 1.) in your assessment, the accident was not your fault, and 2.) you need help standing up for your best interests and seeking compensation, it’s time to find a car accident attorney.

First, cast a wide net to look at various personal injury attorneys with extensive experience dealing with car accidents, and narrow your choices down to a few you’d like to consider further. Look at the attorneys’ websites, and review items such as case history, successes, testimonials, and blog posts, to see how much emphasis the attorney places on car accident cases. You want to find a lawyer who deals a lot with car accident lawsuits, rather than one who mostly handles family law but occasionally dabbles in vehicle accidents.

ExperTip: To the best of your abilities, prioritizing your safety first, document your accident with images and video as thoroughly as possible, and get contact information for onlookers or other drivers who witnessed the crash. While you may believe firmly that fault lies unequivocally with the other driver, if your accident was not witnessed or well documented, the attorney may not be able to prove this sufficiently enough to make a strong case.

Take full advantage of the attorney’s initial free consultation.

Many attorneys that deal with vehicle accidents offer free consultations. The purpose of these meetings is twofold. The attorney asks you questions about the case to help determine if they want to take it on. These questions my address things like:

  • How much time has elapsed since your accident—if you waited too long to pursue a lawsuit, your case may not be viable.
  • The extent of your injuries, and their impact on your life—if you walked away from your accident unhurt, or you sustained only minor injuries, your damages may not be sufficient to make the case worthwhile for the attorney.

But the initial consultation also allows you to ask questions about the lawyer’s processes and experiences. During the consultation, you should ask the following questions, and receive clear answers to all of them:

  1. What portion of your practice is devoted to car accident cases?
  2. How many car accident cases have you handled in the past three years?
  3. How extensive is your experience with my type of car accident case, i.e. head-on collision, rear-end collision, multi-car crash, etc. (ask to see case history)?
  4. Have you been recognized for achievement by and/or certified by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys or a state-sponsored certification board or association?
  5. What damages can I claim, i.e. medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.?
  6. What do you think my case is worth, and does the state place caps on any damages?
  7. How many cases is your firm currently handling, and what portion of them are car accident cases?
  8. What percentage of your car accident cases reach settlement before trial?
  9. How long do you think it will take to resolve my car accident case?
  10. Have you ever been subject to disciplinary action in relation to your legal practice?
  11. If we disagree on a settlement offer will you defer to my wishes?
  12. If I hire your firm, will I communicate primarily with my attorney, or a paralegal or other support staff?
  13. What resources does the firm have to handle my case?
  14. May I speak to two recent clients?

Make sure to find out if the attorney has succeeded with cases similar to yours. For example, if you were injured in an accident involving a large truck, ask the attorney about success rates and settlement amounts in cases related to big trucks. If you were hit by a delivery driver for a corporate business, ask the lawyer about successes that involved companies, and not just individual drivers.

In addition to verifying the attorney’s experience with car accident cases that are similar to yours, you should feel comfortable with the attorney. Negotiating a car accident settlement or taking a car accident lawsuit to trial can be stressful, especially if you are still recovering from injuries. You want to feel like you’re in good hands, both emotionally and from a legal representation standpoint, throughout the process.

Get a clear understanding of the attorney’s fee structure, and what percentage of your settlement you will receive.

While your attorney may quote a possible settlement figure, you’ll need to ask more questions to understand the car accident lawyer’s fee structure,  costs associated with your case, and what you may actually recover in terms of compensation. Personal injury attorneys, including car accident lawyers, generally work on contingency. This means that they take an agreed-upon percentage of your settlement as their fee for services (usually between 30% and 40%).

An example: The attorney charges a 33% contingency fee, and agrees to pay costs up front. If the case settles for $200,000 and the lawyer paid $10,000 in up-front costs, the lawyer would be reimbursed for those costs first, then take their 33% contingency (payment for services) of $62,700 out of the remaining $190,000, leaving the patient with $127,300.

If there is no settlement, or no jury award if the case goes to trial unsuccessfully, the attorney does not get paid.

Understand the process of the car accident lawsuit, and what your role will be.

At a minimum, you’ll likely need to be available to answer questions and provide documentation for your attorney. You may also need to be present at depositions and court hearings. However, depending on the nature of your case, the extent of your injuries and recovery progress, and how much your attorney is willing to do, you may able to concentrate on your recovery while the bulk of the legal activity is handled for you.

Again, how involved you want to be with the case is sometimes a matter of personal preference and necessity. For example, if you’ve been injured to the point of needing to be in the hospital or rehab for some time, you may need a lawyer who is willing to deal with the majority of the details without much of your help. It’s also important that you feel a strong sense of trust in your lawyer to do these things without constant input from you, and to only reach out to you via phone or other methods when a decision that requires your input needs to be made.

ExperTip: Be wary of “ambulance chasers,” or lawyers who reach out to you by phone following your accident. Unscrupulous attorneys sometimes will improperly get contact information from hospitals or law enforcement, and pursue accident victims to push their legal representation services. This practice is not just a violation of the American Bar Association’s rules of professional conduct, it is also illegal in most states.

Be clear on the role of insurance companies in car accident cases, and what this means for you.

It’s important to remember that insurance companies are not there to look out for your best interest following a car accident—especially if the accident wasn’t your fault and you’re dealing with someone else’s insurance company. The role of an insurance company is to protect its own bottom line and the financial security of its stakeholders and policyholders.

That doesn’t mean insurance companies are evil. But it does mean that they won’t be looking to do what’s in your best interest first and foremost. One major reason to hire a car accident attorney is that it is the job of that legal professional to protect you and help you win compensation for your losses and damages, first and foremost.

Ready to speak to an attorney? Here is our list of the best car accident lawyers near you.

 Disclaimer

The materials provided in this article are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Use of and access to this article or any of the links contained in the article do not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the user or browser. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.