When you have been injured in an accident and the other person is at fault, you should retain a personal injury attorney to represent you ASAP. Illinois uses a tort system to legally determine fault when an accident causes injuries. After an accident, you can file a claim with your own insurance company or the defendant’s insurance company. However, you should always keep in mind that any insurance company, even your own, is in business to make money. The insurance company is going to pay the least amount possible to get you to settle. For that reason, it is always best to retain a personal injury lawyer to help you navigate the claims process.
Before You Contact an Attorney
Illinois has many personal injury lawyers ready to help you. So, how do you choose the right lawyer? Before you contact an attorney, you should do some due diligence to make sure you pick the right attorney for your case. Most importantly, you should try to figure out whether the attorney has experience representing people who have had similar accidents or injuries, and whether they have a good reputation and track record.
Types of Cases
Make sure you view a personal injury firm’s practice areas to see if they have experience representing people who have had accidents or injuries that are similar to yours. For example, if you were bitten by a dog, you should not hire an attorney who only represents people who have been involved in vehicle accidents.
Always look into an attorney’s experience before you reach out to them. In most cases, their experience will be outlined on their firm’s website. You can find additional information about the lawyer on websites such as Avvo and Super Lawyers.
When you call or come in for a consultation, feel free to ask about successful cases and the amounts an attorney has won for previous clients.
Narrowing Your Choice Down
Once you have done some online research, you might want to narrow your choices down to a couple personal injury firms with good track records. Once you do that, you should schedule a consultation with one or more of the firms to see how you “mesh” with the firm’s attorneys and support staff. No matter how good an attorney is at practicing law, your relationship with them will be an important part of working together for the best results in your case. You will be sharing personal information with the law firm and you should feel comfortable with the attorneys and their staff. The attorney you choose should be friendly and professional and should be at ease explaining the law as it applies to your case.
Attorneys’ Fees and Costs
You should ask an attorney what the firm charges. In most cases, personal injury firms will take their fees and costs out of your winnings and you will not need to pay anything up front. But you might want to inquire as to what percentage they charge. Most injury lawyers take one-third of the gross amount collected, but some firms increase their fees once a lawsuit has been filed.
Your prospective attorneys should discuss any potential costs that may arise in your case, including expert witness fees if they are needed. An expert witness can testify on your behalf in court. Expert witnesses could include medical doctors, medical billing experts, architects, and accident reconstruction professionals, just to name a few.
What a Firm Should Promise
A good law firm will not promise that they will recover a high dollar amount in your case. What the firm should promise is to represent your interests in such a way that they will get you the highest amount possible for your case. If an insurance company refuses to settle for a fair and reasonable amount, the firm should be willing and able to take your case to court, and should be as adept at trying your case in front of a judge and jury as they are at settling cases. In fact, the firm you choose should have a good number of settlements and trials under its belt. Never choose a firm that does not have a good amount of experience going to trial.
A firm should also promise to investigate your case thoroughly. In some cases, the firm may be able to investigate the case themselves, while in others they may need to bring in experts. For example, if you were injured in a trip and fall accident due to defective stairs and you are being blamed for the accident when you know it was not your fault, the firm may bring in an architect to look and the stairs and determine if there were building code violations or other hazards. Or if you have a medical malpractice case, the firm would bring in an expert to determine if a medical professional was negligent and violated the standard of care. These expert witnesses should also be adept at testifying before a judge or jury.
Make a Decision
Once you have had initial free consultations, you are ready to make a decision about which firm to hire. If all factors are equal, choose the firm you feel most comfortable with or the firm with the most experience in your type of claim.