Finding a Good Personal Injury Lawyer

Part two of three: Find out how to start your search for the right personal injury lawyer.

Whether you simply want to discuss your claim with a lawyer to get some ideas about how to conduct further negotiations yourself or prepare your case for small claims court or arbitration, or you want to hire a lawyer to completely handle your claim, you don’t want to hire just any lawyer. You want an experienced personal injury lawyer. And you want one with whom you are comfortable.

Finding an Experienced Lawyer

The practice of law has become highly specialized, and most lawyers know less about handling a personal injury claim than you will after some reading through this site. So, your first task is to find a lawyer who has experience representing claimants (known as “plaintiffs”) in personal injury cases. You do not want to be represented by someone who has primarily been a lawyer for insurance companies, even if they’re experienced. Such a lawyer may be too accustomed to taking the insurance company’s side and might not fight hard enough for your claim.

There are several ways to find experienced plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers. The best way to proceed is to comparison shop. Get the names of several lawyers and meet with each of them to discuss your claim before you decide to hire any one of them.

Friends and Acquaintances

Contact friends or coworkers who have been represented by a lawyer in their own personal injury claims. If the friend or coworker says good things about the experience, put that lawyer on your list of people with whom to have an initial consultation. But do not make any decision about a lawyer solely on the basis of someone else’s recommendation. Different people will have different responses to a lawyer’s style and personality. Also, at any particular time a lawyer may have more or less energy or interest to devote to a new case. So do not make up your mind about hiring someone until you have met with the lawyer, discussed your case, and decided that you are comfortable entering a working relationship.

Lawyers You Already Know

You may already know a lawyer, either personally or because the lawyer has represented you before in some legal matter. And that lawyer may be very good at the job. So, when you consider hiring a lawyer to work on your personal injury claim, it may seem obvious to hire this person you already know.

However, this lawyer might have little or no experience representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases. And instead of immediately referring you to an appropriate personal injury attorney, the lawyer may hang onto your case, either because of a reluctance to disappoint you, or believing that the lack of experience isn’t important. This is a bad idea. Regardless of the good relations you have with a lawyer, that lawyer is not right to handle your claim without having experience in handling personal injury claims for plaintiffs. If the lawyer you know does not qualify, immediately ask that lawyer to refer you to someone—either in that lawyer’s office or elsewhere—who does.

Other Lawyers

Another way to find an experienced personal injury lawyer is through a lawyer with whom you may have had contact. Lawyers commonly refer cases to one another, and most lawyers know someone else who handles plaintiffs’ personal injury cases. As with referrals from friends or coworkers, however, do not simply take another lawyer’s referral as gospel.

The fact that a lawyer to whom you are referred is in the same office as a lawyer you already know should not be a major factor in your decision. If all other things seem equal, then your familiarity and comfort with a particular law office might properly lead you to choose an experienced personal injury lawyer in that office. But remember that it is a particular lawyer you should be choosing, not the lawyer’s associates or officemates.

Lawyer Directories

You can search for lawyers through advertising directories. Nolo’s lawyer directory at www.nolo.com/lawyers provides extensive profiles of attorneys, including each attorney’s experience, education, and fee structure.

Referral Services

Most local bar associations have lawyer referral services through which you can get the name of a lawyer in specialty areas. Call your local bar association referral service and ask for the names of a couple of personal injury lawyers.

Unfortunately, bar associations do very little screening concerning the experience of lawyers on their lists. A referral lawyer’s experience level can be a hit-or-miss proposition. Make no decision about a bar referral lawyer until you have met and interviewed him or her.

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