If you’re like most people, you haven’t had much to do with the legal system. Perhaps you’ve been to court to contest a speeding ticket, but otherwise, you may consider yourself lucky to not have to deal with lawyers, courts, or judges. But if you have hurt in an accident, you may need an attorney to represent you.
There are 274,619 lawyers in the state of California — 189,936 of which are currently practicing law. Finding the best lawyer to represent you in a personal injury case may seem like finding a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, there are ways that you can narrow down the list to find the right attorney for you.
An experienced California personal injury attorney can be an incredible asset to you, providing you with support and guidance throughout the legal process. If you have been hurt in an accident, this article will help you find and hire the best California personal injury lawyer for your case.
When Do I Need an Attorney?
If you’ve been hurt in an accident — such as a slip and fall, bike accident, rear-end accident, fatal car crash, or even through a dog bite — you may think that you can handle whatever comes next yourself. This may be true, particularly for relatively minor cases. But more often than not, you will get a better outcome if you work with an attorney instead of representing yourself.
Insurance companies are not on your side. They’re businesses, after all, and their goal is to make money…not to make sure that you get a fair settlement that represents the true value of your losses. These massive corporations typically have teams of lawyers and adjusters to handle claims.
Having a lawyer can level the playing field and typically results in a much higher settlement for injury victims. On average, settlements for injury victims are 40% higher when represented by a lawyer compared to when they represented themselves. Similarly, insurance payouts are as much as 3.5 times higher for people with attorneys than people who represent themselves.
In cases involving serious injuries, working with an attorney is even more important. The insurance company may offer you a settlement that appears to be generous. But after you accept it, you may quickly realize that it won’t come close to covering all of your losses, or even the medical treatment that you may need for years in the future.
The bottom line is that in many — if not all — personal injury cases, retaining a lawyer will only benefit you. An attorney will fight for your best interests, and help you get the highest possible recovery.
Finding the Best California Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Case
Once you have decided to work with a lawyer, the next question is which one you should hire. There are a number of ways to do this.
First, you should ask family and friends if they have any recommendations. This type of insight is invaluable, as you will get their personal perspective on how a lawyer handled their case. If you don’t know anyone who has worked with a personal injury attorney, you can start by looking online for reviews. Websites like avvo.com and martindale.com are good places to start your search.
Second, once you have made a list of potential lawyers, you can start to narrow down your search. Consider factors such as:
- Experience: how long has the attorney been in practice? How long have they done personal injury law?
- Focus of Practice: Do they exclusively handle personal injury cases? If not, what percentage of their practice is personal injury law? This is an important consideration, as each area of law is different. You want to hire a lawyer who has specific knowledge and experience in personal injury law.
- Reviews: Check out the lawyer’s online reviews. What are clients saying about them on Google, Yelp, and other review sites?
- Trial Experience: most personal injury cases settle before trial — or even before a lawsuit is filed. Nevertheless, you want to make sure that a lawyer is comfortable taking a case to trial before hiring them. After all, the insurance companies are more likely to offer a fair settlement if they believe that you will take them to court otherwise!
- Past Settlements or Verdicts: each case is different, and results in one case does not guarantee that you will receive a similar amount. However, looking at a lawyer’s record of success can help you get a better understanding of the type of negotiator that they are. If they have many high dollar settlements and verdicts, it is a good sign that this attorney is a skilled negotiator and litigator.
- Disciplinary Record: be sure to check the website of the California Bar to check to see if a lawyer has any disciplinary issues on file. This can help you make a decision about which attorneys to avoid.
- Website: take a look at the attorney’s website. While having a good site doesn’t mean that they’ll be the best lawyer for you, it will allow you to learn more about the attorney and their practice.
- Size of Firm: personal injury cases are typically handled on a contingency fee basis, which means that you don’t pay attorney’s fees unless you get a settlement or a verdict at trial. A bigger law firm, with more than one lawyer on staff, is more likely to have the resources necessary to front the costs of litigation in your case.
Once you have a shortlist of your top choices, schedule an appointment with your top 2 or 3 picks. Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations, which is a good way to determine if your lawyer will be a good fit.
During the consultation, be prepared with a list of questions to ask. You may want to ask about:
- Fee Arrangements: how will you be billed for this matter? Contingency fee arrangements usually specify that you will pay a percentage of your recovery to your lawyer, plus costs. Be sure to get details on how this will work with a particular attorney.
- Representation: who will handle your case? If there is more than one attorney, ask about which lawyer in the office will represent you.
- Specific Experience: has the lawyer handled cases like yours?
- Communication: how will your attorney communicate with you during your case?
This appointment is a good time to get answers to these questions and more. You will also get a good sense of whether you will be able to work with this person. Compatibility is important in this situation. While you won’t necessarily become best friends with your attorney, you want to make sure that you get along well enough with them to work together while your claim is pending.
You should also look for red flags during this consultation. For example, if the lawyer doesn’t have a written fee agreement that you can review, or if they claim that you will win your case without even hearing the facts, that should set off alarms. Take all of this into consideration when making a decision about who to hire.
Want to Learn More? Contact Us Today.
Being in an accident can be incredibly stressful. A skilled personal injury attorney can help to ease your anxiety by working collaboratively with you to reach a common goal: the best possible recovery for your losses.
At Megeredchian Law, we are committed to representing Californians who have been injured in a range of accidents, from car crashes to slip and falls to bus collisions. We offer free initial consultations, and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 818-530-1300.