How to Choose the Best Car Accident Lawyer
For individuals who have been involved in an auto accident, and particularly those who have been hurt, finding the best car accident lawyer is one of the most important aspects of achieving the settlement you are due in your case.
This may sound easy enough at the outset. After all, finding a lawyer is just a case of a quick and cursory google search, right?
Not exactly. In fact, not at all. Finding the right lawyer in Michigan is not just about finding a local law firm with experience, though those two factors are important. It’s also about finding a car accident attorney who you can comfortably trust to advocate on your behalf and help you achieve the settlement you deserve.
At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., we understand the importance of finding the right balance between experience and transparency, professionalism, and personability. That is why we’ve put together this guide to finding the best auto accident lawyer to pursue your car accident injury claim.
Why do I need an auto accident lawyer?
Initially, after a car accident that left you or a loved one injured in which the other driver was clearly at fault, you may be wondering if it makes sense to hire a car accident attorney at all.
While it is possible to pursue a lawsuit on your own, in cases of personal injury, it is highly advised that you seek out a lawyer to help you pursue your claim for various reasons.
Firstly, retaining an experienced car accident attorney is your best bet for ensuring that you achieve the maximum amount of damages possible in your settlement.
Keep in mind that insurance companies work with their own team of elite legal professionals and claims adjusters who are intimately versed in the laws and regulations in your state. These individuals make a living for themselves and their company by working to ensure you do not receive the maximum settlement.
In cases like this, it is absolutely imperative to have your own legal professionals to offer guidance and advocate for damages that you may not even be aware you are entitled to on your behalf. For example, you of course know to pursue coverage for the medical expenses incurred by you and anyone injured in the accident, as well as damages to the vehicle involved.
But what you may not know is that you could possibly be entitled to monetary or other forms of compensation for emotional trauma inflicted, as well as lost wages that were sustained due to your inability work as a result of the injuries incurred.
Finally, local auto accident attorneys in Michigan have the unique advantage of possessing prior experience within your jurisdiction, including a network of insurance agents, judges, other lawyers, and police officers. This means that your auto accident attorney is intimately aware of the various nuances that exist from judge to judge, lawyer to lawyer, and can use that knowledge to your advantage.
When should I look for a car accident attorney?
When it comes to hiring an auto accident attorney, there really is no time like the present, and you should begin the process of finding an attorney immediately after the accident and injuries took place.
This is due to the fact that, in personal injury cases, time is of the essence. Auto accident attorneys know exactly what evidence should be obtained from the scene of the accident to help you pursue your claim. When retained promptly, a car accident attorney can begin the process of collecting this evidence, as well as testimony from any witnesses and police officers present, right away when the accident is still recent and more easily called to memory.
In addition, filing your case after retaining an attorney rather than prior to can help you avoid potentially costly mistakes that you might make during the filing process. This can include not following filing protocol in the various complicated documents that are required and also pertain to ensuring that you are within the statute of limitations for filing your injury case according to your state.
Though the thought of retaining an attorney right away may seem intimidating as you are mentally and emotionally processing the physical and financial damage incurred from your accident, doing so only after medical expenses and lost wages begin to pile up is not advisable.
On the contrary, hiring early can help to put your mind at ease and feel like you are doing your best to achieve the damages that you deserve. Starting the hiring process right away will keep you from ending up in a position of rashly hiring the first attorney to take your case and allow you to find instead a legal professional you are comfortable with and whose abilities you are confident in.
What credentials should I look for when choosing an auto accident attorney?
In electing to hire an attorney following a personal injury, it is important that you are aware of which credentials to look for during the hiring process.
This brings us to the research portion of your search, as many of the attributes listed below can be easily accessed by simply typing the name of the prospective firm into your search engine of choice.
One of the very first credentials to consider when hiring your car accident attorney is their experience.
This pertains to the number of years that the firm has been practicing law, the number of years that that specific lawyer has been practicing with their firm and the amount of experience they have in pursuing personal injury cases that resulted from car accidents in your jurisdiction specifically.
One of the reasons to look for a well-established firm with years of experience is that knowledge of theory is simply no match for tried and true practice. No matter how hyper-competitive and well-educated a young lawyer fresh out of law school is, they will not possess the experience necessary to negotiate and settle a car accident case.
You attorney or law firm’s reputation is another factor to consider that often gets overlooked in the process of finding a lawyer.
However, as in all professions, your lawyer’s reputation within the field of law proceeds them. This pertains to their ability to handle and negotiate with insurance agencies that are looking to have the upper hand, as well as with other lawyers.
If your lawyer has weak points, the defendant’s lawyer or claims adjuster knows about them, and this can have a major impact on the damages you receive.
In addition to looking at a lawyer’s success rate in pursuing cases like yours to indicate their reputability in the industry, do a cursory search of any awards or leadership roles they may hold in organizations that specialize in representing injured individuals. Also, consider trying to find information on whether or not they participate in local bar associations or contribute to any campaigns.
Finally, dig up some dirt and ensure that a potential law firm does not have a history of past problems, such as censure or cases of disciplinary action against the firm for unethical conduct by legal committees.
These can all be good indicators of a firm’s standing reputation as well as whether they personally are individuals that you can work with in good conscience.
A car accident that has resulted in serious personal injury is difficult to take to court, but what you may not realize is that it is also exceedingly expensive on behalf of the firm itself.
This is because of the logistics involved in acquiring the evidence required to prove a claim. For example, if you were to pursue a case against a trucking company, the cost to pursue your damages could include an entire network of complicated operations.
This includes retaining accident reconstruction experts, trucking safety experts, and anywhere between one and six medical experts from various specialties (such as physicians, life care experts, and economists) to analyze the nature of the sustained injuries.
For this reason, it is imperative that the car accident lawyer you choose to work with possesses the financial ability to pursue your claim to court, where necessary. In cases where a lawyer does not possess adequate funding, the client is often left to bear the financial burden through an inadequate settlement.
Though determining whether you are comfortable with a lawyer’s personality may be more easily accomplished during your initial consultation, you can kickstart the process by examining a firm’s ‘about us’ page. An attorney’s website can give you a good idea of their professionalism and personability and help you determine if pursuing a consultation is worth your time.
In addition, you can also look to independent review sites to see what past clients have to say about a lawyer’s capabilities and disposition, as well as asking for referrals from friends and family.
By making a point to look for these attributes in a car accident attorney, you can develop a shortlist of potential firms with which you plan to take the time to conduct an initial consultation.
What should I ask at my initial consultation with an auto accident lawyer?
After shortlisting prospective attorneys, it is important to prepare for your initial consultation. This includes gathering any pertinent documents, such as police reports, medical bills, medical records, any information pertaining lost wages (W-2s and pay stubs), and any correspondence that you have received from insurance agencies up until that point.
In addition, it is best to equip yourself with a list of questions for your attorney going into the consultation to help you get a better idea of the credentials that you have already researched. Potential questions can include:
How long have you been practicing?
This question will give you an idea of that exact attorney’s experience level. However, keep in mind that the attorney you meet with may not actually by the lawyer who pursues your case, which leads us into our next question.
Will you be personally handling my case, or will it be passed on to another attorney?
It may be the case that you become acquainted and comfortable with the attorney who handles your initial consultation and then are passed on to another lawyer that you are unfamiliar.
Ensure this is not the case by requesting to meet with the attorney who will work your case upon scheduling, and then follow up with this question at your meeting.
How much experience do you have specifically with auto accident cases?
Keep in mind that there is a vast range of types of personal injury incidents, and you do not want a lawyer who specializes in slip-and-fall accidents to be in charge of pursuing your car accident claim.
During the consultation, ask the attorney about their specialty to make sure they possess experience in pursuing car accident-related injury claims.
How many of your personal injury claims have you settled successfully?
This question will allow a lawyer to elaborate on their past performance and help you to make sure you are working with a legal professional who has established a successful reputation in the industry.
Do you work more with car accident plaintiffs or defendants?
As the plaintiff, it is extremely important that you find a lawyer who has a reputation of representing plaintiffs, not defendants in car accident cases.
How would you recommend that my case be handled?
After clearly presenting your case to a lawyer, as well as any documentation, ask them how they would recommend pursuing a case like yours.
Their answer will demonstrate their ability to think quickly on their feet, as well as their expertise in pursuing similar cases.
After this initial consultation, go home and conduct a post-consultation interview with yourself concerning the lawyer’s performance. Did their answer to your questions stack up to the image that they presented of themselves and their firm online? Did you feel comfortable speaking with them about your claim?
If not, then it may be best to pursue other avenues.
The final word
In finding the right auto accident attorney to pursue your claim, it is always best to look for a local, reputable law firm with a staff of cognizant, helpful lawyers you comfortable voicing any concerns or questions to.
After all, pursuing an injury case can take a decent amount of time, and it is important that you choose to work with someone that you can see yourself working with for a substantial amount of time.
Most importantly, don’t hesitate to contact our firm if you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, at 1-866-MICH LAW (1-866-642-4529) for a no obligation case evaluation.