Qualities to Look For in a Good Personal Injury Attorney
The Most Important Qualities to Look For in a Personal Injury Lawyer or Law Firm
It can happen to any one of us without warning. Through no fault of your own, you suffer a serious injury. It can profoundly impact your life for the next few months, years, maybe even forever. It’s important to remember that you’ll only get one chance to litigate the case and seek damages against the negligent party. It pays to find the best possible attorney to advocate on your behalf.
So the question then becomes: what are the most important qualities to look for in a good personal injury attorney? In no particular order, we’ve listed some of the top qualities personal injury lawyers should have and those we feel are the most important for clients to consider when looking for a lawyer.
#1. They Have a Record of Solid Settlements
If they don’t, there may be a problem. There are nearly 9,000 personal injury attorneys in California. Not all of them operate on the same standard of excellence. Someone looking to retain a personal injury attorney for their lawsuit needs to realize that there are law firms out there that operate on high volume and high turnover. That means taking as many cases as they can, settling them with as little effort as possible, and then moving on to the next one. So, you wouldn't want this type of law firm that handles 100's of minor "fender bender" car accident cases to work on your very specialized pedestrian accident matter.
If you feel as though your lawyer is pressuring you to settle even when your settlement doesn’t come close to covering your medical expenses, that’s a huge red flag… and probably too late. You want to identify this before you hire them!
You don't want to find yourself needing to hire a new lawyer after you've already hired one that you had a bad feeling about at the get-go, but still went with because you were too overwhelmed or busy to find the best. Top-quality personal injury attorneys have a track record of success. They work to maximize their clients’ payouts. They stick to cases they know best. They don’t operate on a revolving door volume-based model of practicing law. They give each client’s case the attention it deserves and work as hard as they can to ensure you get better than the average personal injury settlement in your case.
One of the most important qualities to look for in a good personal injury lawyer is the amount of personal attention you believe they will give you and your case. This should be indicated by a solid track record.
Be warned! There are various attorney “rating” sites that reward attorneys who pay for listings. Just because a lawyer has a dozen "Awesome Lawyer" badges on their website, doesn't mean they are actually awesome. They may have just paid for the badges.
#2. They Specialize in the Kind of Personal Injury Law YOU Need
One of the top qualities to look for in a personal injury attorney is the extent to which their practice is specialized.
There is nothing stopping a criminal defense or family law attorney from taking a personal injury case. But personal injury cases often require expertise not only in that branch of law but also in sub-specialties as well.
For instance, you would not necessarily want a personal injury lawyer who specializes in traffic accidents to sue a doctor in a medical malpractice case. While it’s well within their power to do so, the results would not be anywhere near as good as a lawyer that successfully litigates malpractice cases on a regular basis. The same goes for the reverse. If you are in a motorcycle accident, you most certainly want someone who focuses on those cases.
Consider all the different kinds of a personal injury law that exist:
- Traffic accidents
- Premises liability
- Medical malpractice
- Product liability
- Toxic tort
- Dog bites
- Boat accidents
- Nursing home abuse
That’s just to name a few. So one quality you hope to find in your personal injury attorney is a depth of knowledge about the individual area of practice that you need them to focus on.
#3. They Are Empathetic and Understand that You Are Suffering
Clients come to personal injury attorneys during one of the most painful and trying times they’ll ever face. They’re adjusting to life after their accident. They’re not sure the extent of their injuries. They’re missing time from work. Medical bills are piling up, and they may not know if their lives will ever be the same again.
One of the most important qualities a personal injury lawyer should have is empathy. Not because you want anyone to feel sorry for you, but because your attorney will need to be able to clearly articulate your pain and suffering as well as the impact your injury has had on your life to insurance adjuster, opposing attorneys, judges and jurors. It’s important to trust your instincts on this one. If your attorney comes across as cold or distant, then it may be wiser to move forward with another attorney.
It’s important to understand that there is a great deal of competition among personal injury lawyers. It’s also important to keep in mind that you only get one chance to litigate your case. An attorney needs to be able to advocate on your behalf. That requires empathy.
#4. You Don’t Pay Them a Dime Unless They Win
The majority of personal injury lawyers in California work on contingency. That means that they take a cut of whatever you win. But if you don’t win, then they receive nothing. Some personal injury attorneys will advertise that there is no fee unless you win, but they will expect you to cover expenses. That means that you’ll be responsible for covering expert witnesses and whatever other expenses your lawyer has to pay out-of-pocket for, even if they fail to win the case.
So not only do you end up being stuck with mounting medical bills and missed time from work but then you get a bill from your lawyer saying that you owe them money too. The best personal injury attorneys will not make you pay a dime unless you collect on your claim. That is an important quality to look for in a personal injury lawyer!
#5. They Take an Interest in Your Case and Instill a Sense of Trust
Trust is an important quality to look for in a personal injury law firm. Any lawyer with a law degree can try to take on a personal injury case. The question is will they have the know-how and devote the necessary time, interest, and resources to it. If you hire an attorney who doesn’t know enough about that particular niche of personal injury law, you are going to be second-guessing them through your case. That’s not going to work!
You would never want to hire a divorce attorney, or even a general personal injury lawyer, to handle your Uber accident case if they don't have years of experience in dealing with Uber.
Trust is the foundation of the attorney client relationship. What are your instincts telling you about your lawyer? If you don’t feel that you can trust them, move on… quickly.
Ask a lot of questions when you are interviewing personal injury lawyers for your case.
Make sure you choose the best personal injury attorney for your particular case and injury type. You want to make sure the law firm is a good fit for your own style of conflict resolution and your risk tolerance.
#6. They Take the Pressure off of You
You have enough to deal with recovering from your accident. The last thing you need is insurance adjusters calling you about your injuries and acting as if they’re there to help you. They aren’t. One important quality the best personal injury law firms should have is that they take much of the pressure off of you. This enables you to focus on your recovery while your lawyers handle the insurance companies and the legal aspect of your case.
Instead, take it upon yourself to do diligent research online to see what past clients are saying about this lawyer or law firm. In the instance where there are few, no or poor reviews online from former clients, there is likely a problem. If there are several reviews, be sure to read them closely to make sure the reviewers are touching on the top qualities you are looking for in a personal injury lawyer.
Curious about whether a California accident lawyer that is right for you? Find out if our law firm is a good fit for you. We have offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles and serve the entire state of California, even if you were injured while visiting California from out of state.
If you are curious, you can learn more about how the process would work if you hired Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers (click here) to help you with your serious traffic accident case.