When an accident occurs, it is all too easy to be swept up in the confusion of the moment, and lose track of what matters. Emotions can run high and stakes can be even higher, especially when complications with insurance play a part in the case. All too often, people make simple mistakes that cost them their savings, and even put them in debt – all over an incident that was not their fault to begin with.
The key to resolving an accident that culminated in injury in the most efficient and effective manner possible is a good attorney. A qualified and experienced law firm will be able to instruct you on the best course of action, and will help you ensure that your losses are minimal, and that you are fairly compensated.
The first thing you need to know when in an accident is not to say anything. Regardless of whether you were at fault or not, any admission of guilt is unwise at an early point in the discovery process. It could be that even if you thought you were at fault, some form of mechanical failure or negligence on the other party/a third party’s side accounted for most of the damage. Finally, it is all too easy to be bullied into guilt in the heat of the moment, especially if your mental state at the time is vulnerable to suggestion.
Stay quiet, inform yourself on the basics of personal injury law and your state’s laws, and get a lawyer. But which one? Choosing a right lawyer is a matter of asking the right questions, and here are a few key questions to ask when deliberating your choices.
Most law firms and attorneys practice more than one form of law, and even among the specialists, there are several types of cases that make their way onto an attorney’s plate.
While asking this question may not particularly help you gauge your attorney’s overall experience – after all, the circumstances of their cases are mostly up to chance – it does give you a good idea of whether your attorney has dealt with cases with relevance to your particular situation, enough so that they could more easily help you with your problem than a competitor might.
Typically, personal injury claims are best settled privately between the involved parties. However, a peaceful settlement is not always possible. There are times when, unfortunately, the issue has to be taken to court. However, this is rarely a bad thing. An attorney will likely only take your case to court when there is no chance of settling in a way that guarantees you the compensation you deserve, and a qualified attorney should be able to represent your interests and defend them to the point of a favorable conclusion.
Asking your potential attorney how often they have had to go to court to defend their client, and how often they were successful at doing so gives you a good idea of just how qualified your attorney is/how good their or their law firm’s success rate is.
Personal injury attorneys are still meant to be negotiators, rather than sharks. You do not want an attorney who boasts about taking most cases to court – at the end of the day, a courtroom battle should be a last resort, something you would want to avoid after the stress and hardships of an accident and the potential long-term consequences it can bear.
Good attorneys and law firms keep an open line of communication with their clients, specifically for any legal questions or necessary clarifications. It is important to stay in touch with your attorney throughout the entirety of the case’s timeline, so you can be sure to always have a legal professional on-hand if any new information comes up.
Time is of the essence in the legal field. The faster you get onto building a good case/claim, the better – and an open line of communication ensures that both you and your attorney keep each other updated with anything relevant.
Attorneys are trained to follow the letter of the law, and work in the interest of their client – they are not taught fortune telling. However, that does not mean that it isn’t a good idea to ask your attorney to gauge the possibilities of the case. A good attorney will be able to give you at least three scenarios: the worst kind, the best kind, and the most likely kind.
Remember – you’re not gauging for the “best answer”, but the most honest one. This is not meant to be an opportunity for your attorney to sell their services, but rather an opportunity for you to pick a legal professional’s brain on your chances.
Some law firms are at times notorious for shuffling cases around between associates, sometimes passing down essential work to less-qualified associates. If you are contacted by a specific attorney within a law firm, make sure that the questions you ask are relevant to whomever will end up working the majority of your case. There is nothing wrong with having a talented junior associate work your case – as long as your chosen law firm is honest about it.
This is also a good opportunity for you to ask about billing and payments. Some law firms offer discounts if aspects of the case/claim were handled by less experienced associates, versus a case/claim handled entirely by a veteran lawyer.
Personal injury law is wrought with interests – in a car accident alone, the parties involved with potential fault/interest include the drivers in the accident, the manufacturers of the vehicles, the insurance companies, and any third parties responsible for specific conditions on the road. First and foremost, your duty in such a confusing and divisive situation is unto yourself – so choose a qualified attorney to protect your interests, get to the truth of the situation, and help you achieve the best possible outcome.
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