An average of 6 million1 car accidents happen each year in the U.S. Unfortunately, this means that you can be a terrific driver with a perfect record and still find yourself in a car accident. You simply cannot control the actions of other people on the road.
And, even if you are not at fault for a car accident, you may be left to pay a tremendous physical, psychological, and financial cost. The physical injuries are difficult enough to deal with: contending with other factors, such as missing work, having to repair or replace your car, paying medical bills, and worrying how you’ll make ends meet is often just as, or even more, stressful. From medical bills to lost wages to trauma in the aftermath of the event, it can be difficult to make ends meet. Where do you turn? For many, it’s to a car accident lawyer found on Google.
People often search for terms such as “best car accident attorney near me.” The keyword is “best.” When car accident lawyers are skilled at their jobs, they will help you navigate the complex legal terrain and give you the best chances of receiving fair and appropriate compensation. But when you see the results pages, how do you know if these “best” lawyers are, in fact, capable of handling your case and getting you the results you need?
Looking for Good Accident Lawyers? Here’s What Not To Do
When you are in a car accident and suffering with a host of pressures, you need help. Out of desperation, many people turn to the internet and pick the first lawyer they find. Car accident and injury lawyers are very easy to find; many practice in this area. A top-ranking site must mean a top-ranking firm. Well… it’s a start. But think of it like this: would you select a hair stylist this way? A home decorator? A car dealership?
No! You’d put a bit more time into researching the results and vetting possible candidates. With a decision as important as hiring an attorney, it is well worth it to do your homework. Yes, it takes a little bit of time – and we know time is of the essence – but it will help you achieve far more favorable results.
What Are the Steps to Finding the Best Car Accident Attorney?
Certainly, use Google! But go a few steps beyond:
- Ask for Personal Referrals
Reach out to friends, family members, coworkers, etc., who have used attorneys before. Ask if they were satisfied with their performance, if the lawyer kept them informed and clearly explained legal terms, if they returned calls and emails promptly, and what the results were.
One particularly important question: was the lawyer passionate about their case and engaged in advocating for their rights? You don’t want an attorney who will simply “phone it in” or treat you like a case number instead of a person.
Your lawyer needs to be skilled in the legal and technical aspects of your case, to be sure. They need to have extensive knowledge of the law and the ability to build a compelling case. But they also need to care about your case. They should treat you as a person, with complex and pressing needs, not just a case number. And certainly not just a potential payday.
Are they respectful? Do they listen when you discuss your situation? Do they understand your issues? Are they approachable? Are you comfortable working with them? Are they engaged in the process? Will they fight for you? Again, legal acumen is essential – but so is an effective “deskside” or “courtside” manner.
- Research Credentials
When you’re living your life, feeling good, and are healthy, you see your regular general practitioner for a checkup once a year. But when you have, for example, an issue with your heart, you visit a specialist. They have in-depth knowledge and expertise with your condition that goes beyond the scope of your GP. In other words, hearts are what they do.
It is the same with attorneys. When you are in a car accident, you need a lawyer that specializes in this area of the law. Their experience will help you navigate the complex ins and outs that go along with your case.
Whether you find a name via a personal acquaintance or online, take the next step: investigate their credentials. Some key areas at which to look:
- Does the attorney have specific experience with the laws around car accidents?
- Does the attorney go to trial or do they always settle? Now, the ability to settle a case to your satisfaction is important; it can streamline the process and help you move on more quickly. But the willingness to go to trial is Not every case should be settled.
- Do they have a track record of going up against tough opponents? For example, you may need to wrangle with the other driver’s insurance company. These are huge entities with big pockets. They want to protect their profits, and they can be intimidating. You need an attorney who is not afraid to go up against the “big boys” – and who can triumph over them.
- What is their track record of success?
- Do they have credentials beyond a license to practice (e.g., board certifications, peer ratings, legal awards, etc.)?
- Don’t Shy Away from Talking About Finances
Many car accident lawyers work on a contingency basis; that is, they are paid only when you receive a settlement or win a judgement. This means that they need to have the financial means to handle your case in the meantime. They must be able to take depositions, hire accident investigators and other experts, devote time to meeting/negotiating with insurance companies, scour medical records, etc. Can they afford this?
- Prioritize Effective, Frequent Communication
One of the most common, and frustrating, complaints people have is that their lawyer does not return calls or emails, answer questions to their satisfaction, or explain the case and legal process in a clear, understandable way.
Avoid this by asking about their communication policy. For example, if you call or email, is it their practice to answer within 24 hours? 48? What is acceptable to you? Do they offer regularly scheduled appointments or “checkups” to keep you informed about your case and their progress?
Use your initial consultation as a guide. Do they seem interested in listening to you? In hearing your story? In respecting your wishes? If they rush you, speak over you, or confuse you with legal jargon, move on.
This is one of the most frustrating scenarios: any effective relationship is based on communication, and it is paramount when it comes to the client-attorney relationship. Poor communication creates a confusing situation.
Any lawyer should be able to explain your legal matter in clear “layman’s” terms, explain how they will handle your case, explain what you should expect, and give at least a rough timeline. They should also be responsive to your messages: if you call, they answer or call back promptly.
- Consider Honesty and Availability
Lawyer jokes notwithstanding, honesty and trust at the heart of every attorney-client relationship. If, for example, a lawyer guarantees a certain result, consider it a red flag. No one can promise a particular outcome. What they can do is explain possible, and probable, outcomes given their experience and the various laws and factors that are pertinent to your case.
If an attorney seems honest and trustworthy but doesn’t have the time to adequately handle your case, then it’s a no-go. Find someone who also has the availability to give you the attention you deserve. Your lawyer should have the time to discuss your case, answer your phone calls, respond to messages, and, of course, work to develop a compelling case.
- Don’t Discount Passion and Determination
There are a lot of personal injury attorneys from which to choose. But that doesn’t mean they all possess the same experience or expertise. It also does not mean that they are truly invested in your case, your needs, and your wellbeing.
Good accident lawyers are passionate about fighting for their clients’ rights. They care more about your ability to receive a fair and appropriate settlement or judgement than they do about their bottom line.
That is the type of lawyer you want. And that is the type of lawyer you deserve. You are not your accident. You are not your case number. You are not a statistic. You are a person with real, and pressing, needs. A personal injury lawyer should fight tirelessly on your behalf. Accept nothing less.
You may start with a search for “best car accident attorney near me” – but don’t end there. Good car accident lawyers share the qualities described and will work to ensure that this trying time in your life is as manageable as possible. If you have been injured as the result of another party’s negligence, recklessness, or carelessness, take the time to go the extra steps and do your due diligence. When you do, you’ll find a lawyer who will go the extra steps for you.