Choosing the right personal injury lawyer to represent you can be confusing. The chances are, you’ve never had to hire a lawyer before. And even if you have, the chances are even lower that you’ve previously hired a personal injury lawyer.
So, how do you make the best choice? There are many things to consider when it comes to defining a good personal injury lawyer versus one that is less than ideal. The sections to follow will describe some key factors to look out for.
Effectively Allocating Resources
A good personal injury lawyer knows how to effectively allocate the resources available to them. For one, this means not taking on too many cases. An overburdened attorney will not be able to provide the personalized attention that each case needs to stand the best chance of succeeding.
This also means delegating tasks when appropriate while being careful not to over-delegate. Paralegals and legal assistants are highly-qualified to take on many types of legal tasks, but not all of them. A lesser personal injury attorney might pass off tasks they don’t want to complete to their colleagues or staff members, while a good lawyer will prioritize high-quality legal representation above all else.
In the personal injury realm, most cases won’t make it to court, let alone trial. However, there comes a time and place when doing so is in the client’s best interest. On the other side of the same coin, it can be a mistake to bring a case to court when settling beforehand is most beneficial to the client. A good personal injury lawyer knows the best course of action for the case at hand.
Knowledge and Expertise in Personal Injury Law
Personal injury law encompasses a wide range of case types – everything from car accidents to medical malpractice to slip and fall accidents. Some personal injury lawyers focus on a specific area or two, while others will offer legal services for virtually any type of case.
A good personal injury lawyer utilizes their skillset and past experience realistically without offering to represent clients in practice areas they’re not adept with. Some personal injury attorneys might genuinely be able to represent a client after any type of personal injury accident, but this kind of expertise can only come from many, many years of success.
Each case involves a unique set of facts, so each will generally require at least some amount of legal research. But the lawyer should not have to educate themselves on the established doctrine and relevant law that applies to the practice area as a whole.
If the attorney is offering legal services for areas of the law they don’t know like the back of their hand, they’re less likely to provide optimal legal representation.
State-Specific Laws Experience
Part of having the right knowledge and expertise for the case at hand comes down to experience in the appropriate jurisdiction.
While an attorney cannot legally practice law in a given state without passing the appropriate bar exam, that’s just the bare minimum. When it comes to the personal injury field, many state-specific laws will influence the lawyer’s course of action.
For example, contributory negligence is often a key issue in personal injury cases. Some states do not allow personal injury victims to recover compensation if they are just 1% at fault for their accident. Others prevent recovery if the victim is 50% (or 51%, in some states) or more at fault.
California and Florida both follow what is called a pure comparative negligence doctrine. According to Bill Allen, an Ocala personal injury attorney, “Under this doctrine, the personal injury victim can receive compensation regardless of their percentage of fault. However, their compensation award could be reduced based on that percentage”.
Contrast this with Texas, which has modified comparative negligence laws. In Texas, you cannot recover any compensation after an accident if you are 51% or more at fault for your injuries. However, you can recover damages if you share 50% or less of the blame — but your damages will be reduced according to your percentage of fault.
This is just one example of how state law can differ on a given personal injury topic. Because these laws vary so much, a good personal injury lawyer will adjust their approach based on the law that applies to the case in front of them. Without substantial knowledge about these nuances, the lawyer is less likely to achieve a favorable outcome for the client.
Empathy and Compassion
It’s often stated that storytelling is a critical component of what makes a good criminal defense attorney. While the role of a personal injury lawyer is not exactly the same, this same sentiment still applies to some extent.
Personal injury lawyers must help victims suffering through quite possibly the most difficult experience of their lives. In this sense, the comparison with a criminal defense attorney is spot on, for criminal defendants are also likely going through a trying time.
A good personal injury lawyer empathizes with what their clients are experiencing and acts as a compassionate advocate for their interests and rights. Empathy goes a long way in the world as a whole, and that remains true in the personal injury field.
An empathetic, compassionate attorney will likely be more motivated to help their clients achieve an outcome that works for them. Empathy and compassion can lead to more understanding of what the client is going through, which can, in turn, lead to the lawyer crafting more effective arguments on their behalf.
Further, a good personal injury lawyer will keep their clients apprised of their legal options at all times, ensuring they’re never left in the dark about how their case is progressing. They will treat their clients as they would a family member, caring deeply about them and cutting no corners in their legal responsibilities.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney for Legal Advice and Assistance
You deserve effective legal representation if you’ve been hurt in a personal injury accident. The factors discussed above are far from exhaustive, but it is our intent that they provide you with a good starting point when it comes to defining a good personal injury lawyer.
Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations to review your case, which is also an opportunity for you to learn more about the lawyer and whether they’ll be able to assist you appropriately and effectively.