Just as you wouldn’t expect a cardiologist to set a broken bone, you shouldn’t visit a divorce attorney if you want to file a lawsuit against the wrong-way driver who hit you head-on. While all lawyers have a general knowledge of the law, many develop expertise in a particular field. Personal injury law encompasses civil actions brought about as the result of wrongful conduct. Common personal injury claims involve motor vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, product liability, construction accidents, medical malpractice, birth injuries, and wrongful deaths. An experienced personal injury attorney can help a victim in many ways, including negotiating with insurance companies for the best compensation, guiding the case through the applicable laws, dealing with the mound of required paperwork, and tying up loose ends.
Personal injury lawyers can be critical to a successful action, given their experience assessing claims, understanding legal procedures, translating medical terminology, assembling an investigative team, recognizing fair settlement offers, and developing a solid legal strategy. In selecting an attorney, potential clients may wish to consider years of experience, convenience of office location, fees charged, availability, and court admittance. Attorneys are granted permission by a particular court system to practice law in that system. Each state, as well as the federal government, has its own system and sets its own rules for admitting lawyers. Being allowed to practice in one jurisdiction does not automatically entitle an attorney to practice in another.
Each state has its own bar association, which is an organization of attorneys seeking to support ethical standards and professional competence. These associations have strict rules about how members can advertise their services using various media, including websites, social media, print advertising, commercials, and billboards. For example, the Florida Bar says that law firms cannot advertise case results unless they are "objectively verifiable," cannot include statements in an advertisement that a consumer can reasonably interpret as a prediction or guarantee of success or specific results the lawyer can achieve, and cannot design advertisements that are made to resemble legal pleadings or other legal documents. Current rules can be found here.
A good way to begin looking for an attorney is by asking people you trust for referrals, including friends, family members and other attorneys that you may know. These individuals are a great resource, because you can ask them questions such as whether the attorney was on time for appointments, answered questions in a timely fashion and was well-organized. There are also numerous websites that can offer suggestions as well as reviews about lawyers.
A list of three or four possible attorneys is usually enough. A good idea if you find yourself overwhelmed is to visit the website of the lawyer’s practice and gauge your reaction to the advertising, the layout of the information, and any personal biographies.
Some websites offering suggestions and reviews for personal injury attorneys:
Many lawyers offer a free initial consultation, so you have little to lose by scheduling face-to-face meetings. Bring along a summary of your case with details such as when the accident happened, who was involved, and how you were injured. This is great opportunity to determine whether the attorney’s staff are efficient and helpful and how you comfortable you feel with the attorney and his or her team. It is important to have a lawyer who puts in sufficient time to learn about your case and plan your strategy, so if you don’t feel at ease with the analysis, that may be a reason to choose someone else. While a lawyer is allowed to give you an idea of possible outcomes, he or she is not permitted to promise a certain result. Any attorney that does make such a promise is not someone you should choose because the outcome cannot be guaranteed in advance – it depends on negotiations with the defendant, at best, and a judge and jury, at worst.
Costs should also be considered and are generally based on the case’s complexity. The most common payment approach in a personal injury action is a “contingent fee” arrangement, which means the lawyer is paid a fixed percentage of the amount recovered (customarily one-third). If you recover nothing, you pay the lawyer nothing, but you are still responsible for filing fees and other court costs. Attorneys who practice in other areas of law may prefer to charge a flat, one-time fee or an hourly “billable” rate.
Choosing an attorney is similar to a job interview. It’s important to select someone you think you can work with who also is engaged in the information you are sharing and the inquiries you are making. If you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski Law For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families. To learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a case evaluation form.