It’s a smart decision to retain a Florida personal injury lawyer to assist with your claim if you’ve been injured in an accident, but you may not know where to go from there. Regardless of whether you develop a list of candidates through referrals, go online, or rely on other sources, you’ll need to do some homework to ensure you find the right fit. As part of your research, there are a few questions to ask a personal injury lawyer before you move forward.
- How do you handle billing in a personal injury case? Most attorneys bill on a contingency fee basis in accident claims, which means that you’re only obligated to pay for legal services if you win. For purposes of this fee arrangement, a “win” means recovering compensation through settlement or in a lawsuit. The amount you pay is typically a percentage of the total amount you receive, plus expenses incurred by your lawyer in representing you.
- What’s your experience in accident cases? Experience is closely linked to the number of years an attorney has been practicing, but this isn’t the only measurement to consider. The key is to determine his or her skills in negotiations, drafting agreements, filing court documents, and litigation. A highly competent, dedicated lawyer who’s been practicing for just three years may be just as qualified as one with 20 years of experience.
- Do you spend considerable time in the courtroom? Decades of experience have limited value unless your attorney is in court on a regular basis, arguing motions, appearing at status conferences, and conducting trials. An in-depth understanding of court procedural rules is essential.
- What other kinds of cases do you handle? It’s common for some lawyers to take on clients in a range of other legal areas, such as bankruptcy, criminal law, family law, and many others. When an attorney’s practice covers many different cases, that means he or she is less focused on one in particular. Considering that personal injury is a very niche area, it’s better to go with someone based upon depth rather than breadth.
- Do you have peer reviews available? This question is important because you want to know what other people in the same profession are saying about the lawyer you’re considering hiring. There are multiple sources where you can find peer rating on attorneys, including:
- The Best Lawyers in America; and,
- Super Lawyers.
In each of these directories, there are multiple categories according to legal specialty – including personal injury.
- Are you and your firm equipped with appropriate financial and staffing resources? From a minor auto accident case to a complex medical malpractice claim, personal injury matters require significant resources. Your lawyer must have the financial backing and support staff to take on complicated investigations, review a multitude of documents, retain experts, and cover litigation costs.
- What percentage of your clients come from referrals? When an attorney trusts and respects another lawyer enough to send clients over, that is a powerful indicator of skill and integrity. The higher the percentage of business through referrals – the better.
- Do you present at continuing legal education courses? It takes a great deal of knowledge and aptitude to teach or lecture other attorneys in the area of personal injury. These traits translate over to that lawyer’s practice and proficiency, so you want to be the client who benefits from them.
- Are you a member of any legal organizations that focus on personal injury matters? There are organizations at both the national and state level that are dedicated to various areas in the practice of law, including personal injury. These entities publish professional publications, provide continuing legal education seminars, and offer many other resources and support. For your situation, you might specifically as your lawyer about membership in:
- The American Trial Lawyers Association;
- The Florida Justice Association; and,
- The Florida Trial Lawyers Association.
- Do you have credentials through the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA)? Just as in the medical industry, lawyers have developed a board certification program through the NBTA to recognize excellence in a particular focus of law. To qualify, a personal injury attorney must have considerable experience in the courtroom environment, engaging in pretrial activities, and conducting trials. It’s wise to work with a lawyer who is board certified in personal injury.
A Florida Personal Injury Attorney Can Provide Additional Details
Though this information on the questions to ask a personal injury lawyer may be helpful, you’ll probably want more information about accident claims and your rights. Our team at Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon can advise you on your legal options, so please contact us to set up a no-cost consultation at our offices in Pensacola or Miramar Beach. We have extensive experience representing clients throughout Florida’s Gulf Coast, so we’re prepared to take on your case.