The state of Florida reported 401,872 traffic crashes in 2019 — nearly 16% of which resulted in injuries.
No matter what type of injury you’ve suffered due to someone else’s negligence, finding the right personal injury lawyer in Florida can be overwhelming.
Personal injury attorneys don’t just handle traffic crashes; they can also handle slips and falls, fires and explosions, and even nursing home abuse.
So, what should you look for in a personal injury lawyer? And where do you even begin? This step-by-step guide will make it simple to hire the Florida personal injury lawyer that is right for you.
1. Identify Your Criteria
You know the right lawyer will practice in personal injury. Obviously, a criminal defense or family law lawyer won’t be of much help to your case.
But what else makes a personal injury lawyer in Florida the right fit for you?
Generally, you’ll want a lawyer who is accessible, experienced in your practice area, and licensed in your state.
Beyond that, you need to ask yourself how far you’re willing to travel to meet with this lawyer. Would you prefer to stay local or hire a big-city attorney at an established firm?
Keep in mind that while lawyers at big-name firms may have the experience and credentials you need, they probably also handle bigger caseloads.
As such, you might find it harder to reach one of these lawyers personally and on a routine basis. Instead, you might be directed to their personal assistants or paralegals.
If you need a more personalized, one-on-one approach — especially if this is your first time using the legal system — there are personal injury law firms that have both the experience and the personalized style you’re looking for.
2. Compile a List
Not sure where to start when it comes to searching for a personal injury lawyer? Ask your friends and family for referrals. If someone you know has had personal experience with a lawyer, you should trust their recommendations over those of strangers.
If you don’t know anyone with experience in hiring a lawyer, don’t fret. There are plenty of qualified professionals willing to help. Start with a quick Google search for lawyers in your area.
If the search results are overwhelming, you can also use the Florida Bar Association’s lawyer directory or referral service. These tools let you find lawyers based on your desired practice area and geographic location.
For each law office on your list, jot down the names of the lawyers, their location, their contact information, and a few notes on what set them apart. This will make it easier to proceed to the next step.
3. Narrow the List Down
Once you’ve collected a diverse list, it’s time to pick three to five lawyers to focus on. These lawyers should be the ones that interested you the most.
Before you reach out to the people on your shortlist, dive deeper into their backgrounds. Read their biographies and other materials on their website. Search for any relevant news articles that mention their name.
Then, read their client reviews and testimonials. While their websites are generally a good place to start, this place is usually reserved for only the most gleaming reviews.
While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you want to remember to branch out further for more independent, third-party reviews, like those on Google, Yelp, and their Facebook page, if applicable.
Most importantly, check their discipline records with the Florida Bar Association. It posts summaries of attorney discipline on its website every month. An attorney’s discipline history will also appear on their profile if you search them by name.
4. Contact and Meet With Personal Injury Lawyers
Once you’re confident you’ve learned all there is to know about the attorneys on your shortlist, reach out to their offices and schedule a meeting.
Then, when the meeting comes, be prepared. There are several questions you should be ready to ask your prospective lawyer — especially based on the research you’ve done.
Some questions you might have for your lawyer include:
- What is your experience with my specific legal problem?
- Have you tried any cases like mine in front of a jury before?
- What is your track record of success?
- How do you structure your fees?
- Do you have any peer reviews you can share?
- Who will actually handle my case?
- What is my role in my case?
- How can I reach you in case of an emergency?
Use this opportunity to follow up on any information you might’ve discovered during the research process, like their discipline history.
Ultimately, you’ll also want to know the estimated time frame for a case like yours, and what happens if you and your attorney disagree on a matter of your case, like accepting a settlement.
Remember to trust your gut instincts during this process. If your attorney seems dismissive, makes you feel uncomfortable, or isn’t being direct and transparent, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere for representation.
5. Sign a Contract
Before you sign a contract, it’s important to understand how your attorney structures their fees.
Most personal injury attorneys work on a “contingency basis.” Instead of charging exorbitant hourly rates, this means your attorney only gets paid if you win a judgment in court or receive an acceptable settlement.
In this case, your attorney will typically take 25% to 40%, though one-third — of 33.33% — is the standard accepted nationwide.
You also want to know how your attorney accepts payments, and what happens under special circumstances, including the case going to trial or needing expert witnesses and other resources.
6. File Your Claim
Now that you have the right personal injury attorney on your side, it’s time to get to work filing a claim.
In Florida’s personal injury claims, the burden of proof is negligence. To prove negligence in court, your lawyer must convincingly argue that the defendant “failed to act with a reasonable amount of care towards others.”
Additionally, Florida has a four-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases. This means you can only file a claim within four years of the date of the accident. While that may not seem very long, it’s actually a much bigger window than most states allow.
After you’ve filed a claim, one of two outcomes will occur. The defendant can file a response in court, where they either admit to or deny certain parts of your assertions.
More likely, though, they’ll file a motion to dismiss the case if they believe it has no legal standing. If the case isn’t dismissed, this is when the process of working through the lawsuit begins.
The Right Personal Injury Lawyer in Florida For You
Personal injuries are physically and emotionally stressful enough. Hiring a personal injury lawyer in Florida shouldn’t add to that burden. Follow these tips for hiring a personal injury lawyer, and make it simpler.
At LaBovick Law Group, we have more than 25 years experience serving people in South Florida. We are committed to fighting for the justice — and compensation — that you deserve.
Whether it’s a slip-and-fall, car accident, or even wrongful death, contact us today for your free consultation.