If you are one of the 3 million people injured in a car accident each year, you know how much the process costs you, both financially and emotionally. The cost of an auto accident includes medical expenses, property damage, and even pain and suffering. Depending on how serious your injuries are, your expenses could be thousands of dollars or even more. When the accident is your not fault, you should not have to bear the burden of these expenses. An experienced auto accident lawyer in Phoenix can help build a case so you can fight for the compensation you deserve.
Read on to learn more about the mistakes you should avoid when you’re hiring an attorney.
1. Choosing an Inexperienced Lawyer
Now is not the time to hire a brand new lawyer who just graduated from law school. To be successful in a personal injury case, you need an attorney who has years (maybe even decades) of experience handling auto accident cases.
An experienced attorney can give you an honest assessment of your case, will have an idea of what kind of settlement you might expect, will know how to build a strong case, and will know when to settle or when to take a case to trial.
An inexperienced, brand-new attorney won’t have that knowledge yet. Sure, they are qualified to practice law in the sense that they have passed the bar exam, but they lack the on-the-job experience that is so necessary to win a personal injury case.
If you want to give a newbie lawyer a shot, find someone who is working with a more senior attorney to oversee your case.
2. Not Doing Your Research
Relying on the recommendation from a friend or family member alone, without doing your own research, is a huge mistake. Sure, your family member or friend may mean well, but they may not know how to truly assess the effectiveness of an attorney.
Just because they have a cousin or brother-in-law or another friend who is an attorney doesn’t mean that person is right for you. Similarly, you shouldn’t hire an attorney because a friend or family member recommends someone because they like them.
You don’t need someone likable; you need someone who is going to fight for you against insurance companies that are doing their best to get you to settle or drop your claim.
Read every review that you can get your hands on and then some. If you are a member of any online groups, such as local Facebook groups, ask for their recommendations (or who they might advise you to avoid). The longer your starting list is, the more options you have to narrow it down to a shortlist.
3. Making a Rushed Decision
Don’t make a rushed decision when picking an attorney that you may be working with for the foreseeable future. While time is of the essence because there is a statute of limitations and you need to act quickly after an accident to preserve evidence, you shouldn’t make a rash decision when hiring a lawyer.
Take some time to do the research we discussed above. Ask around, make a shortlist, and spend some time talking with potential attorneys before agreeing to work with anyone.
The good news is that while you do have to have some sense of urgency when hiring an attorney if you want to put the best case forward, you can do some things to put yourself in a stronger position when you do select an attorney.
Seeking medical attention, keeping copies of your medical records, following treatment plans, keeping receipts from out-of-pocket expenses, and avoiding social media and anything that might jeopardize a future case will help your attorney.
4. Choosing a Lawyer Who Makes You Promises
Experienced personal injury attorneys may be able to give you a ballpark estimate of what your case might be worth based on their experience with similar cases, but be wary of anyone who promises you anything. If an attorney promises you a quick settlement, a certain amount, or a certain outcome, steer clear.
There are so many factors that impact how a case turns out, you should not take the word of anyone who promises you anything. Choose an attorney who gives you a realistic idea of what you might expect. It’s always better to have someone who underpromises and overperforms than the alternative.
5. Picking a Lawyer Who Has Never Litigated a Case
Not all cases will settle. Always remember that the insurance company wants to settle your case for as little amount of money as possible, in as little time as possible. They want a quick, cheap settlement so you go away.
They’ll likely try to offer you a lowball settlement shortly after the accident. If you sign anything or agree to a settlement, you can’t change your mind later. Accepting a settlement means that you forfeit any right to ask for additional compensation down the road.
Once you hire an attorney, they can negotiate with the insurance company for you. However, in some cases, you and your attorney will not be able to reach an agreeable settlement amount. If this is the case, you may choose to take your case to trial.
If your attorney has never litigated a case in court, you will need to start over with a new attorney from their firm or an entirely new firm. This is not ideal, as it’s likely that you have been working with your attorney for months, if not longer.
Ask any potential attorney that you are considering about their experience in litigating cases in court. How many cases have they had that have gone to court and what were the outcomes?
6. Not Knowing the Fees
Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means that they don’t get paid unless you win. Usually, their fee is about 1/3 of your settlement amount. Don’t agree to work with an attorney unless you fully understand their fees and what you might owe them.
Honest and reliable attorneys will be completely upfront with their fee and fee structure, so if you encounter someone who is vague about what they will charge, do not work with them.
There also may be additional costs when building your case. Advanced costs could include things like:
- Medical records
- Police reports
- Expert witnesses
- Medical exams
- Accident reconstruction experts
- All of these resources must be paid, whether you win your case or not. Most law firms will pay these costs upfront and then take the cost out of your settlement. However, be sure to ask what happens if you lose.
Will you still be responsible for these advanced costs if you lose?
7. Not Asking Questions
Doing your own research is important, but don’t just rely on internet reviews, websites, and word of mouth. Meet with a potential attorney in person if possible, or at the very least, speak to them over the phone.
When you talk with them, ask questions. Come prepared with a list of important questions to get an idea of their work style and their assessment of your case. Ultimately, you are putting a lot of trust in this person, so you need to know that they are the best representative for you.
8. Choosing A General Practitioner
Just as you wouldn’t choose a general practitioner to perform heart or brain surgery, you shouldn’t choose a general practice attorney to handle your personal injury case.
Personal injury cases are unique, so you want someone who specializes in them. This is especially important if it’s an uncommon type of personal injury case, such as a trucking accident, a defective product case, or a maritime accident.
A general practice lawyer may be ok at many different types of law but isn’t an expert in any of them. It’s rare to find many general practice firms or lawyers that don’t specialize, so it should not be difficult to find an attorney or firm that focuses on personal injury cases.
You also want an attorney who only represents the victims in personal injury cases. When a firm handles both the victims of the accidents and insurance companies, it may be difficult to trust that they are looking out for your best interests.
9. Going With Name Recognition Alone
Just because you see a lawyer’s ads on TV or hear their radio jingles all the time, doesn’t mean they’re successful. It just means they have a large marketing budget and aren’t afraid to spend it.
Don’t just pick a lawyer or law firm because you recognize their name. Instead, do your research as discussed above, ask questions, and find an auto accident lawyer that is best for your case.
In the end, that well-known law firm might be your best option but decide that after doing your homework, not after seeing a TV commercial.
10. Choosing an Attorney With a Bad Reputation
Personal injury attorneys often get a bad rap, but in reality, they are trying to help people who are hurt due to no fault of their own. However, not all personal injury attorneys are created equal.
An attorney who is well-respected by insurance adjusters, judges, and the legal community will benefit you much more than an attorney that no one wants to work with. If your attorney is highly regarded in the legal community, the insurance company may be much more agreeable to working with them on a fair settlement.
If you take your case to trial, someone who works often, and well, with the courtroom workgroup will also benefit you. If you know anyone working in the legal field, ask them about their perception of any lawyers you are considering. A stamp of approval from a fellow legal colleague is one of the best endorsements an attorney can get.
You should also check with your state bar association to make sure that there are no grievances or disciplinary actions taken against a potential attorney.
11. Not Going With Your Gut
The attorney you pick essentially holds the fate of your case in their hands. If they are ineffective, you may end up with no settlement or a much lower settlement than is adequate for your expenses.
When you meet with potential attorneys, pay attention to how you feel while talking with them. In the end, you should go with your gut. Our gut often doesn’t steer us wrong.
An attorney may look great on paper, have years of experience, and have glowing reviews, but if you don’t gel with them, they probably won’t be the best choice for you. You are going to have a lot of contact with this person throughout the case, so choose someone who you feel good about working with.
Avoid These Mistakes When Hiring an Auto Accident Lawyer in Phoenix
Choosing an auto accident lawyer in Phoenix is a big decision. You may be facing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs, damaged property, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you hire the wrong attorney or don’t hire an attorney at all, you might receive pennies compared to what you need to cover your mounting bills.
Experienced personal injury attorneys, like our staff attorney at Sweet Law, will work to ensure that you get a fair settlement to cover your expenses. If you can’t agree on a settlement, they’ll expertly litigate your case in front of a jury.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation to learn what we can do for you.