You’ve been hurt or you lost a loved one in an accident and you know that you should find a personal injury lawyer to make sure your rights are fully represented. But how do you pick the right lawyer? Will the lawyer be good enough to get you the full amount of compensation you deserve? Does this lawyer handle cases like yours? Doing some research before you hire an attorney helps you make better choices when it comes to finding the right personal injury attorney.
Ask for Recommendations
Start by asking friends, relatives, and coworkers for recommendations. This doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily use any of the attorneys they recommend, but it gives you a place to start. Because there are so many attorneys to choose from, you’ll drive yourself up the wall trying to start without having some names to begin with. Try to gather the names of at least three or four personal injury attorneys.
Do a Google Search
In addition to personal recommendations, you can start your search on the internet. However, not all personal injury attorneys practice in all areas. If you were bitten by a dog, you definitely do not want to hire an attorney who has never handled a dog bite case. When you search, make sure you include some description of your injury or accident: search for something like “personal injury lawyer in Chicago dog bite.” That will help narrow down which firms come up—but you’ll still have a ton to weed through!
Weeding out Firms
As you start to build your list of firms, make sure those firms handle cases like yours. Delete any others off your list. Then, check all the of the firms’ websites. You are looking for:
- A list of cases the firm’s attorneys have won with the amounts they have won in those cases. While this type of list doesn’t predict what the attorney might be able to secure in your case, it can tell you what types of cases the firm handles, and let you know that the firm’s attorneys will fight to get you a fair and reasonable settlement.
- Click on the firm’s practice areas page to make sure that your type of case is listed. Because attorneys may win hundreds of cases, they don’t always list every case they have won.
- Check the contact information for the firm. The contact page should have a phone number, address and a web form for you to contact the firm via email. If the page does not use a form, the firm should provide an email address. Contact information is important as you want to be able to readily contact the attorney when you have questions.
- Check each attorney’s profile. The attorneys should list their achievements and any awards they have won because of their work. An attorney who has won awards has been acknowledged by their peers or by an attorney rating website like AVVO or Millions Dollar Advocates Forum. For example, David Abels was given the Super Lawyer distinction for 2014-2019. This distinction is only given to the top 5 percent of attorneys in the state. More significantly, he was also named to the Illinois Super Lawyers Top 100 list for the years 2016-2019.
- Check the Illinois ARDC website to make sure the firm’s attorneys are in good standing and are allowed to practice law in Illinois.
- Finally, make sure your personalities are compatible. You will be working closely with the attorney and their staff for the duration of your case. Depending on the circumstances, your case could settle quickly or it could go to trial, which will take longer, especially if the attorney needs to schedule depositions and use expert witnesses.
Narrow your search down to three attorneys or law firms. Once you have a list of three attorneys or firms who fit the criteria above, set up a consultation with each of them. Meet the attorneys and their staff before you hire them to make sure your personalities mesh.
When you meet an attorney for the first time, you are there to get information about your case and to interview the attorney. Be ready to ask questions about your case and about the firm. If you are happy with the answers and the firm meets all your expectations, you have found the right attorney to represent you. Some questions you might ask include:
- How many personal injury cases has your firm handled?
- How many personal injury cases has the attorney I will be working with handled?
- Of those, how many did you win?
- How many cases have you handled like mine, and what percentage of those did you win?
- Some information in the police report is not correct. How will you handle that?
- Do you hire outside investigators?
- How do you choose outside investigators?
- How will I be able to contact you? How often can I obtain updates?
- Do you handle cases on a contingency basis? Will you handle my case on a contingency basis?
- How many legal assistants and paralegals do you have to help you?
- When will you start negotiations with the insurance company?
- What will you do if the insurance company counters with a low-ball settlement? (For example, the answer to this question could be that they will continue negotiations for a specific period of time, after which they will start preparing for a lawsuit).
- How long will it take to file a lawsuit if the insurance company does not come to a fair and reasonable settlement?
- If you win my case, how will I get my money? Will you pay the hospital and doctors’ bills out of my settlement for me or do I have to do that?
- Any other questions related to your specific case that you want answers for.
Once you contact all three attorneys and some of their support staff and compare their answers, you will be ready to pick the attorney you feel is best suited to handle your case.