Have you been injured in an accident? If so, you may have trouble obtaining the compensation you deserve for your injuries. In Alabama, you might even be barred from recovering any compensation at all because of the state’s defendant-friendly legal standard known as “contributory negligence.” Under contributory negligence, you may not be entitled to damages if you are found to be even 1% at-fault for the underlying incident that led to your injury.
To help ensure that you are able to obtain full and fair compensation for your injuries, you will need to have strong legal counsel in your corner advocating forcefully for your rights and interests. That said, not all personal injury lawyers are the same, and choosing the right lawyer is one of the most important decisions you will make regarding the outcome of your case.
First of all, do not make the mistake of hiring an attorney based on ads alone. For example, you may have seen or heard advertisements for a firm on TV, radio, billboards, and in other places. Some of these firms are what are known as “settlement mills.”
The goal of a settlement mill is to acquire as many cases as possible and process them in the shortest possible amount of time. These firms often don’t have anywhere near the level of staff required to bring the cases they handle to trial. This means they are going to settle nearly every case with the insurance company, and the settlement may likely be for far lower then what you would be entitled to.
Important Considerations before Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
There are several factors to consider when deciding on a personal injury lawyer to handle your case. Here are five of the most important:
One of the first things to evaluate is the experience level of the personal injury attorney you are considering. Of course, you want someone who has been practicing in the state for several years and has in-depth knowledge of the applicable laws and statutes. It is also important to distinguish between one of the senior partners for the firm and the person who will handle your specific case. Some firms (like the settlement mills we mentioned earlier) have attorneys with experience that run the firm, but most of the cases that come through the door are handled by paraprofessionals. Be sure that the person handling your case is a licensed attorney with extensive experience in this area of the law.
Some consumers make the mistake of believing that because a firm advertises heavily, they are a reputable firm with strong credentials. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. It is important to dig a little deeper to find out how the firm stacks up with other personal injury attorneys in the area. Client testimonials are helpful, but they should not be the sole determining factor in evaluating a lawyer’s reputation. You should also check with reputable legal rating services such as Avvo, Martindale-Hubbell, and the National Trial Lawyers Association. Recognition by peers and outside organizations is a strong indication of an attorney with exceptional legal skills.
Often, one of the deciding factors in a personal injury case is the testimony of expert witnesses. Expert witnesses are specialists from various industries (such as the medical profession) who can speak with authority on certain aspects of a case. A skilled personal injury attorney will have relationships with top experts whom they can call upon when necessary to help bolster their case. Ask the attorney you are considering if they work with expert witnesses, and how often they use them in the cases they handle.
In order to obtain full and fair compensation for a personal injury, you need to be willing to take the case to trial. Otherwise, the responsible party and their insurer will have no incentive to negotiate a reasonable settlement. Your attorney should have extensive trial experience and the willingness to prepare thoroughly for the possibility of litigation. This way, if the other party is not willing to negotiate in good faith, you are ready and able to aggressively pursue full damages at trial.
At the end of the day, what matters more than anything else is results. Does your attorney have a proven track record of success with personal injury cases? What if your case is more complicated, such as a trucking accident involving numerous governing laws and regulations and multiple parties that could be responsible? Can your attorney handle a case like that? Be sure your attorney not only has experience handling personal injury cases, but experience winning these types of cases as well.