A personal injury lawyer is someone who stands in your corner, looks out for your interests, and helps you make tough-but-important decisions affecting your finances and your future. Choosing the right lawyer is an important matter, and it’s not something you want to do blindly.
However, if you don’t have a lot of experience in working with attorneys, starting your search can be harder than it sounds. There are many attorneys working in every city in this country. Your options are practically endless, and yet, you may have heard horror stories from friends or family members who worked with attorneys that left them unsatisfied.
“What should I look for when looking for a lawyer?” you might ask. In today’s article, we’re going to guide you through some of the most important factors to consider when choosing the lawyer or law firm that’s right for you.
Remember: there are many types of law firms and many different areas of law. The right firm for one case or client might not be the right choice for another. We hope this article will serve as a helpful guide as you begin your search for a lawyer here in California.
The old saying is true: there’s no substitute for experience. That’s true whether you’re hiring a mechanic, a computer technician, a hairstylist, a doctor, or a plumber.
Experience has a way of sharpening insight, imparting wisdom, preparing for battle, and revealing mistakes before they happen.
When evaluating a prospective lawyer’s experience, you want to look for at least a few things:
- Overall legal experience — How many years has the attorney been in practice?
- Courtroom experience — While many personal injury claims are settled outside of court, you may feel more comfortable with an attorney who has significant litigation experience inside a court of law. There is always the possibility that your claim could go to trial. Moreover, if the insurance companies / defendants believe that your claim could cost them in court, the insurance adjustor might negotiate more reasonably in order to avoid going to trial.
- Experience in your particular practice area — A lawyer who has handled thousands of car accident claims might not be the right choice for your commercial truck accident claim, for example, unless they have also handled truck accident cases in the past. (Commercial truck accident cases are different from conventional car accidents for a number of important reasons.) Likewise, an attorney who focuses primarily on traffic tickets might not be the right choice for your medical malpractice claim.
It may be in your best interest to find a lawyer who has extensive experience in handling claims that are similar to yours.
If you are going to pursue legal action, you want to give it your best shot. You want to put your claim in the best possible position, doing everything you can to maximize the amount of compensation you might recover. Your law firm’s resources may be able to help in that regard.
Examples of resources you might want to inquire about include:
- Investigative resources — Evidence is critical to a successful personal injury claim. The right law firm will understand how to investigate an accident like yours. You should ask about any investigative technologies the firm uses, its typical approach to accident investigation, and any relationships the firm might have with relevant experts in the fields (e.g. accident reconstruction specialists, doctors, expert witnesses, etc.).
- Financial resources — Look for a personal injury law firm in California that is willing and able to advance the costs of investigation and litigation. You shouldn’t have to pay anything up front or out of pocket. Pursuing an insurance claim can sometimes take many months or even years, especially if it advances to trial. Make sure your law firm has the financial resources necessary to sustain a case for the long haul.
- Legal research resources — Different law firms may use different legal research tools. Many of today’s law firms now use one or more online digital law libraries and online legal research databases.
3. Record of Success
When accident victims ask us, “What should I look for when looking for a lawyer,” we tell them, “Don’t be afraid to ask a lawyer about his or her track record — point blank.” While past results do not predict future outcomes, you may nevertheless feel more at ease knowing that your attorney has been successful in handling claims similar to yours in the past.
Confidentiality agreements, ethics rules, and attorney-client privilege may prevent the attorney from providing you with client names or any detailed information about their prior cases, but you can certainly ask them for a record of results — and you should.
4. Client Testimonials
Want to know what you should look for when looking for a lawyer? Go straight to the source! Hear from the people who’ve hired the same lawyer in the past.
- Begin by asking the law firm for client reviews or testimonials. Many law firms offer client reviews on their website.
- Visit other online client review outlets, such as Avvo, Google Reviews, and Yelp.
- You might also search YouTube for video testimonials.
5. Disciplinary Records
You can search for an attorney’s official record with the State Bar of California using the state’s official online attorney search. The search results will tell you information about the attorney’s license status, admission date, and any disciplinary matters in their official record.
6. An Up-Front Contingency Fee Structure
If your case relates to a personal injury, you should look for a lawyer who offers a clear contingency fee arrangement.
A contingency fee means that you won’t have to pay your lawyer a fee for their services unless and until they get you money.
- If the lawyer doesn’t succeed, you don’t have to pay anything.
- If the lawyer does succeed, their fee is only a percentage of your total financial recovery.
The precise details of the contingency fee structure — including the exact percentages — should be made clear to you up front. (Typically, the percentage will be higher if your claim goes to trial than if it does not.) When you ask about the fee structure, the attorney should have a clear, straightforward answer for you. You should have a chance to review any contract before you sign it and to ask questions about it.
Additionally, the right law firm will offer you a free and confidential initial consultation with absolutely no obligations.
7. Communication, Availability, and Respect
When you call the law firm, will you have a chance to talk with the lawyers themselves, or just their assistants or paralegals? Ask!
If you have a question for a lawyer, about how quickly can you expect a response? Ask!
What is the law firm’s policy or approach for communicating with their clients? Ask!
These are all things you should look for when looking for a lawyer. You deserve a legal representative who values your time and who gives you the attention you deserve.
8. Passion, Care, and Zeal
Finally, look for a lawyer who truly seems to care. Your choice about who to hire could have a significant impact on your financial future. At the end of the day, you may have more peace of mind if you feel truly confident that your lawyer is looking out for you and fighting for your best outcome.
As with experience, there is no substitute for passion. It is the lawyer’s stock and trade.
The Law Offices of Mickey Fine Will Fight for Your Rights
Mickey Fine is a California personal injury attorney with more than 25 years of legal experience, including specific experience in many of the most common areas of personal injury law: car and motorcycle accidents, commercial truck accidents, medical malpractice, dog bites, premises liability, and many more.
At the Law Offices of Mickey Fine, formerly Fine & Chais, our lawyers have represented clients in over 75 jury trials. We have also successfully achieved an out-of-court settlement in the majority of our clients’ cases.
We are committed to doing whatever it takes to get our clients the justice they deserve, including maintaining valuable relationships with experts in a variety of fields, in addition to various other resources.
We are proud of our client testimonials and our record of results, having served injured people and their families throughout the state of California for many years. We care deeply about our clients and are dedicated to giving them the personal time, attention, and care they deserve.
The Law Offices of Mickey Fine will passionately fight for the full and fair compensation you deserve. To learn more about your rights and options, contact our office and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. An experienced Bakersfield personal injury lawyer is standing by.
We offer straightforward contingency fee structures to our personal injury clients: we will never charge a fee for our services unless we get you money first. Additionally, the initial consultation is absolutely free.
Time limits do apply to most accident claims in California, so please don’t delay. Call 661-333-3333 in Bakersfield (or 310-546-8146 in Manhattan Beach, CA) to speak with a Bakersfield personal injury lawyer today, or contact us online as soon as possible.