What to Consider When Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
If you suffered any damages through no fault of your own, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury refers to multiple types of damages. While many cases focus on physical injury, you can also file a case for other types of damage. How much you are able to claim in a case depends on the extent of your damage. Typically, these cases involve suing for medical expenses, but you can also include additional items, such as lost wages, pain and suffering and damaged property.
Because personal injury covers such a broad category, you are strongly encouraged to hire a personal injury attorney to help navigate your case. Even if you are only appearing in small claims court, hiring a lawyer to act as a consultant greatly increases your odds of winning your case, as well as ensuring you are getting the proper compensation.
Tips for Starting your Personal Injury Claim
For the best chance of winning your case, you need to file a claim as soon as possible. The more time passes, the less credibility you have. In these situations, the defense normally implies your damages cannot be as severe as you claim, otherwise, you would not have waited so long to file. There are also practical reasons to filing your case earlier.
Many personal injury cases are decided by witness testimony. If you wait too long to file your case, you risk either being unable to find a witness to back up your claims, or having your witness forget the specific details. The defense will grill your witness for exact details regarding the nature of your injury. If your witness shows hesitation, the defense will use this as an opportunity to suggest you were the one at fault, or imply the witness is forgetting other key details so the rest of his or her testimony is unreliable.
Waiting also gives the opportunity for the responsible party to prepare a stronger defense. If you were injured because of a poorly maintained building, the owner could use the time to make repairs so your claim seems fraudulent. He or she also has more time to find his or her own witnesses to counter your claims. He or she also the opportunity to get rid of evidence, such as throwing out footage from security cameras, claiming it is normal procedure to delete footage after a few days.
Tips for Finding a Personal Injury Attorney
While it is important to file your case as soon as possible, you do not want to rush and pick the first attorney you find. Because personal injury cases often take a long time to resolve, you want a lawyer you are comfortable working with for months, possibly years. Try and find at least three or four potential lawyers.
It is common for personal injury attorneys to offer a free consultation. This gives you the opportunity to explain the details of your case, but also ask questions. How much you claim varies on the case. Personal injury attorneys know exactly what kind of damages you can list. Ask the attorney exactly what damages he or she believes you can claim, as well as how much he or she believes you can make. Below are some other questions you should bring up with the attorney.
- While you are discussing the total settlement, it is a good idea to ask about rates. Some attorneys charge an upfront fee for their services, but it is more common for an attorney to receive a percentage of your settlement. There are other costs to consider as well, such as hiring expert witnesses, doing research and court filing fees. Find out whether you are responsible, or if the law firm covers these expenses.
- Another question to ask is whether your lawyer intends to handle the case personally. If your lawyer works for a larger firm, he or she may assign another lawyer or a paralegal to handle the work. If it sounds like the attorney you are speaking with is only going to do a minimal amount of work, either ask to speak with whoever will handle the bulk of the work, or consider finding a different lawyer.
Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
In addition to helping you assess your damages, personal injury attorneys also help you gather evidence for your case. Experienced attorneys know exactly what you need to win a case, such as photographic evidence, medical records and testimonies from either witnesses or experts. Your lawyer also knows how to negotiate with the defense. In most cases, you must meet with the defense several times before your case goes to court. This gives you an opportunity to settle. By hiring your own lawyer, you are less likely to be intimidated by the defense.
Hiring a personal injury attorney also ensures you have someone who knows how to file all the necessary paperwork. This may not sound like a big deal, but filing a legal case is an involved process, and even a minor case can greatly delay proceedings. Depending on the nature of your injury, you may not be in the best condition to file with a court, or gather evidence. With your own lawyer, you know everything is being handled correctly, in a timely fashion.