How to Find The Best Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Case
Although no exact research currently exists, it is estimated that nearly 700,000 personal injury claims are filed each year in the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Statistics also found that the most common types of personal injury cases were:
- 52% the result of motor vehicle accidents
- 15% in relation to medical malpractice
- 5% the result of product liability
The prevalence of such claims highlights the fact that, throughout one’s lifetime, it’s conceivable that you or someone you know will be impacted by a personal injury lawsuit. Should you find yourself in such an unfortunate situation, knowledge is indeed power, and understanding how to find the best personal injury attorney to represent you is critical.
Let’s take a look at the wide-ranging arena of personal injury law, and then examine steps for researching, and eventually hiring, the best personal injury lawyer according to your specific case.
What is Personal Injury Law?
When someone is injured, personal injury law allows that individual to file a lawsuit for damages (such as lost wages or medical bills) resulting from the accident or incident.
Personal injury law encompasses a wide variety of accidents and situations. For our purposes, let’s break down the expansive range of cases into four broad categories, and then analyze them in greater detail through multiple sub-categories that focus on specific types of personal injury claims.
1) Accidents: Situations where someone acts in a negligent manner, and that negligence causes harm to another individual. Some specific examples include:
- Slip-and-fall: accidents where an injury results from an unsafe environment, such as a wet floor in a grocery store or a faulty staircase leading to a public entrance.
- Car & motor vehicle accidents: any instance of a motor vehicle crash, typically occurring when a driver is at-fault, such as a DUI, reckless driving, poorly maintained vehicle, etc.
- Medical malpractice: An act or omission (failure to act) by a medical professional that doesn’t meet the medical standard of care. This could be anything from a botched surgery that leaves a patient worse off than they were prior to the operation (i.e. brain damage or paralysis), or a misdiagnosis that results in further injury or death that should have been prevented with a proper diagnosis.
- Wrongful death: A civil action where a person can be held responsible for damages related to causing an accidental death. In such cases, either the estate or close friends/relatives of the deceased are able to file a lawsuit.
- Dog bites: When an owner fails to prevent injury to an individual, or property damage caused by their dog.
2) Intentional Acts: When a person knowingly and intentionally harms another through an illegal action. Examples can include:
- Assault and battery: This covers the act of threatening a person, as well as making physical contact that results in injury.
- Sexual assault: Occurs when an individual (or individuals) intentionally engage in unwanted sexual contact with another person. This can also apply to institutions that allow such reprehensible acts to occur, despite having knowledge of them.
3) Defective Products: This involves the liability a manufacturer, seller, or trader for releasing a faulty product to the public. Examples can include:
- Product liability: such as prescription drugs that cause serious side effects or death, or a design flaw on an automobile that causes accidents and requires a recall.
4) Defamation: The action of damaging the good reputation of an individual. Examples include:
- Slander: Occurs when an individual defames another through the act of speech.
- Libel: Occurs when an individual defames another in writing, or through various forms of publications (pictures, videos, etc.)
Researching and Finding the Best Attorney for You:
If you have been the victim of one or more of the above incidents, you will want to find the most competent attorney to represent you. However, finding the perfect lawyer can be difficult and time-consuming if you aren’t familiar with how to separate accurate information from misinformation. While some clients seek a personal injury lawyer through referrals from friends and family, the majority of us will go online to conduct research. In doing so, there are many red flags that you will want to recognize. There are specific types of websites that you will want to disregard, and others you will want to seek out.
You want to find non-biased and accurate information. This usually starts with a Google search. However, when you Google a search term like ‘Best personal injury lawyer in California,’ the first links that you will see are actually advertisements (ad-based pages will have a green box with ‘Ad’ next to the green link, while general pages will not have the ‘Ad’ indicator). These types of ads are paid for by law firms or marketing companies representing law firms that match prospective clients with attorneys. And, for the most part, they are inherently biased. Rather than relying on specific, verifiable information, these pages hope that, because they are listed at the top of the search engine results, you will automatically click on them thinking that they are non-biased and trustworthy. Rather, ad-based pages are essentially like commercials on television, where a service is being sold to you. Their strategy is to attract a high volume of clients, with no obligation to provide you with high quality attorneys.
As you scroll down through the search listings underneath the advertisements, you will likely come across multiple pages that are either law firms or marketing companies hired by law firms to promote them as top attorneys. And it can often be difficult to distinguish between a marketing page and a law firm page, as they both provide similar types of information, attempting to persuade you to ‘call now’ for a free consultation. These pages can often be misleading, as you will never see any negative information or feedback (such as win-loss records, reviews from dissatisfied former clients, etc.) that might exist and could be important to consider in your decision making process. The information found on these sites is sanitized to give you the perception that the page you are visiting represents your best option for a lawyer. Additionally, you should be aware that marketing company pages make the bulk of their money by connecting lawyers with clients. They’re merely a ‘middleman’ between the injured party and the lawyer. You, and your case, are viewed as a commodity. You fill out your information on the site and then your case is sold to the highest bidding law firm (which rarely equals reputable or experienced lawyers to help you secure the largest possible settlement).
Similarly, commercials you see on television (or hear on the radio) targeting injured people are primarily ads by marketing companies disguised to look as if they are from actual law firms. If you see an advertisement trying to persuade you to call 1-800-LAWYER, you are almost certainly calling a marketing company, not a law firm.
These companies use slick advertising methods to trick you into believing that you’re connecting with the best lawyers. Law firms spend millions of dollars to such companies, and they need to recoup those millions quickly. They do so by closing cases as fast as possible (meaning there is potential for your case to be rushed and not properly presented), at which time said firms receive a portion of any settlement you might be awarded to cover those high costs.
Knowing how to differentiate between ad-based pages and legitimate, independent pages (also known as organically generated results) is the first step to finding the best attorney for you. An example of an independent site would be something like Yelp, where client reviews are aggregated and provided to you without influence from a marketing company or law firm. They include honest and unbiased reviews from actual clients that give you a true sense of both the positive and negative attributes of a particular lawyer or firm. Keep in mind, however, that although theoretically no individual or company reviewed on Yelp should be able to change or remove a negative review, there’s an explanation behind why a simple search for ‘personal injury lawyers’ will generate so many five-star reviews.
Lawyers are experts in the law, and it’s not unheard of for a lawyer to sue, or issue legal threats, to former clients who post negative reviews. Whether or not such a lawsuit has any merit, rather than engage in what could be a costly legal battle, people will often simply remove their negative reviews to avoid the potential hassle. So, while independent reviews should definitely be part of your research in finding the best lawyer, you should approach them with some skepticism, and consider checking multiple options like Google Reviews or Avvo as well. An even better option would be sites that are generated organically by your specific search engine.
As an example, if a lawyer wins a large settlement for a car accident victim, news coverage on that story will likely exist. Being able to verify an attorney’s past results through independent coverage is extremely important because it provides you with confidence knowing that an advertisement isn’t being sold to you, nor is your own information being sold to the highest bidder. Instead, it simply provides an example of a particular attorney’s (or firm’s) recent results that were significant enough to generate news coverage. Law firms will often post press releases on their pages, touting their latest settlement victories. But as these are essentially just another form of advertisement, it’s important that you always verify such information with a secondary news source to ensure the information is accurate and true.
Additionally, part of finding several organic links could be a matter of changing your search terms to with a variety of words (such as: ‘latest settlement for car accident’ or ‘major personal injury settlement awarded’). Definitely change your search terms regularly to see which organic and independent links are generated. You will want to check the news tab rather than simply the general results tab within Google (or your specific search engine choice) to see which lawyers have recently made headlines (and, of course, keep in mind that this can also help you weed out unqualified attorneys, as lost cases are also frequently reported).
Contacting the Best Lawyer for Your Type of Personal Injury Case:
Once you’ve taken the steps to ensure that you’re not being fooled by advertisements or misinformation, and have found examples of attorneys that seem like good options, you want to determine whether or not the attorney has experience in winning lawsuits similar to yours. For example, the best dog bite attorney, one who has secured major settlements for a large number of clients, may not have experience in other areas of personal injury law, and therefore wouldn’t be right for your car accident case. Again, the world of personal injury law covers many different types of cases, so you want to find a lawyer who has experience winning settlements similar to your type of case.
Think of the process of finding and selecting a personal injury attorney as similar to choosing a surgeon. Surgeons typically specialize in one specific area — perhaps heart bypasses or bone reconstruction surgery — and, as such, are experts in that particular field. You wouldn’t choose a plastic surgeon specializing in nose jobs to perform your knee replacement surgery. Similarly, you shouldn’t hire an attorney who primarily handles slip and fall accidents when you need someone who is an expert in car accident cases.
To find such information (always after verifying a qualified attorney through independent and organic search results) you can check the attorney’s actual website for information concerning win/loss records in specific types of cases. If they have several examples of securing large settlement awards for car accident victims, and you happen to be a car accident victim, that attorney might be right for you. Additionally, their past experience and settlement victories should provide you with an estimate for the type of settlement you may receive given your injuries and any damages. However, if this type of information is nowhere to be found on their website (and, especially if they refuse to provide examples of car accident settlements and win/loss ratios for such cases over the phone) you should view this as a red flag and move on to the next lawyer you found through organic or news generated search engine results.
You want to be confident that you have covered all your bases by finding as much pertinent and accurate information as possible before scheduling an in person consultation (which is preferable to a phone call, as you will want to have a sense of how you interact one-on-one with the attorney). Additionally, as seeking a second opinion from a physician is commonly advised, seeking a minimum of two consultations with personal injury attorneys is equally advisable.
The Next Step — Finding a ‘Good Fit’ Through an In Person Consultation:
Once you’ve gone through each of the above steps, cutting through the misinformation and finding examples of attorneys specializing in cases similar to yours, you’ll be ready to meet in person to determine if a specific attorney is right for you. Consider this to be like a job interview, only you’re the interviewer and the attorney is the interviewee responsible for demonstrating why they are the best person for the job.
As this process involves establishing a working relationship with a professional, you want to be comfortable with them as your representative, and confident that they will be an advocate for securing justice on your behalf. That’s why communication between you and your attorney is key. Let’s break down some examples of determining an attorney who is a ‘good fit’ in further detail:
Are They Empathetic and Genuinely Concerned About You and Your Case?
- The attorney should be sincerely interested in your case, and you should be confident they will prioritize your well-being.
- They should empathize with your current situation (particularly if it involves injuries/pain and suffering).
- They should ask questions about your accident, and you should be able to accurately articulate the events that transpired.
What Should You Expect in Terms of Communication?
- While the lead attorney should always be your main contact, and consistently available, you should also have access to a secondary, and even third contact within the firm who is available in the event of an emergency, or when your lead attorney may be in court and unavailable.
- Your attorney should handle every detail from start to finish. You want to find an attorney who will proactively manage every aspect of your case — from the filing process, to witness preparation, to extensive research. The attorney is the expert, not you. Requiring you to file paperwork is not only unprofessional, it could lead to errors that negatively impact your case in court.
- You should expect to hear back about a question pertaining to your case within approximately 24 hours. That timeframe is considered a general standard.
- You should receive regular updates on your case. Personal injury cases are fluid, and keeping you apprised on such changes should be a priority for your attorney.
Is Your Attorney Informed on Conflicts of Interest Among Doctors and Insurance Companies?
If you are involved in any type of personal injury suit that involves medical care (and therefore bills) — you will absolutely want to ask your attorney about this specific point. Though this may come as a surprise, many doctors — potentially even the very doctor treating you for injuries sustained via an accident — also work for insurance companies. Most of us would have no way of knowing whether or not such a relationship exists (which is extremely unfortunate given the negative effects it could potentially have on your case).
Insurance companies do not have your (the victim) best interests in mind, as their primary goal is to negotiate the lowest possible settlement for their client. A lowest possible settlement offer rarely reflects the fair amount of damages you may be entitled to for pain and suffering, medical bills, loss of work, reduced quality of life, and multiple other factors. Therefore, doctors who simultaneously work for insurance companies and see patients (car accident victims, for example) have been found to regularly submit biased reports to benefit the insurance companies. Such reports can be intentionally subjective, including an inaccurate medical diagnosis. Sadly, very few accident victim patients are privy to such information.
Your attorney, however, should be knowledgeable of such bad actors. If your attorney is experienced, he or she should be aware of conflicts of interest existing between doctors and insurance companies. Consequently, your lawyer should be able to recommend an impartial doctor to properly oversee your treatment.
You should be prepared to ask questions and receive answers on everything above (and include any additional questions that might be unique to your case) prior to meeting for a consultation. The attorney’s responses, and whether or not you’re able to develop a genuine rapport with them, should be a factor in how you decide to proceed.
How Much Do Personal Injury Lawyers Charge?
In personal injury cases, the general rule is that you pay no fee unless you win your settlement. This places the onus on your lawyer to not only present the best possible case on your behalf, but to also secure you the highest possible settlement, as that figure affects their own financial interests.
Once your case is settled, a personal injury lawyer’s fee is generally between 33% and 40% of the settlement amount secured on your behalf. While this may seem like a substantial portion of money you feel you are entitled to after undergoing a harrowing accident, it’s important to realize that your attorney assumes all the risk in such personal injury cases. Moreover, should you choose to negotiate an hourly fee structure with your lawyer, it will almost certainly be more expensive than the percentage figure — not to mention that by doing so you would inherit all the risk.
Finding and hiring the best personal injury lawyer for your specific case can seem like a daunting task if you aren’t equipped with the information and methods for researching, screening, and verifying top candidates. Personal Injury News (PINews.com) was created, in part, to provide accident victims with the most accurate and relevant information when searching for the best personal injury lawyer — through news, blogs, and expert analysis. We intend to be the best independent and organically generated source for all information relevant to personal injury law