Did you know that from 2014 to 2015 the number of traffic accidents in Louisiana rose more than 7%? That’s despite a drop in the number of miles driven within that same period.
You’ve seen the giant billboards and heard the radio jingles advertising car accident attorneys. But there’s more to choosing a car accident lawyer than just remembering a telephone number because it’s sung to a catchy melody.
We’ve compiled this primer to help you find the best attorney to work with after you’ve been involved in a serious traffic accident.
1. Will I Work With You, or With Your Associates?
The attorneys whose faces grace those billboards or the back cover of the Yellow Pages aren’t necessarily the ones who will work directly with you. Instead, you might consult with them once (or never), and then be passed on to a less-experienced associate.
Of course, those lawyers need to get on-the-job experience compiling cases, negotiating settlements, and arguing in court — but do you want to put your potential compensation in thier hands?
Working with a smaller firm, you’ll get caring, knowledgeable help from a car accident lawyer who has a number of successful cases under his belt.
2. Can You Provide References?
After speaking with a car accident lawyer, it’s a good idea to contact some of his previous clients to get an idea of how things went for them.
Attorneys worth their salt will provide such references; they tend to work tirelessly to resolve cases to clients’ satisfaction — in some cases even giving a guarantee that clients will be satisfied — so there ought to be nothing to hide.
If an attorney hems, haws, or hesitates when you ask for references, that’s a sure sign you should leave their office and try a different car accident lawyer.
3. What Kind of Documentation Will You Need From Me?
Of course, you will need to provide any evidence from the accident — police reports, pictures of videos of the vehicles involved and of road conditions that may have affected the crash, and statements from witnesses.
Your attorney will also need to see the medical records documenting your injury. They will need to know whether or not you’ll be able to return to work, what your previous salary was, and the monetary damages you’ve already incurred or are likely to incur as a result of the accident.
4. How Long Will the Whole Process Take?
There are so many factors at play in a legal proceeding that it can be hard to even guess how long it will be before you walk out of court, settlement in hand, ready to resume your life. However, your attorney should be able to give you a ballpark estimate. It will be based on the particulars of your situation and whether or not you might be able to settle out of court.
Some cases are more clear-cut than others; if yours is one, it will likely take less time to resolve. If it’s going to be more difficult to prove negligence or fault, then the proceedings might stretch out for a long time. Either way, it’s good to be prepared.
5. Will We Have to Go to Court?
There are many instances in which a car accident lawyer will negotiate a settlement with the at-fault parties — meaning that you may never have to go to trial. That’s better for everyone involved; it’s less expensive, less time-consuming, and less stressful.
Your attorney doesn’t have a crystal ball, of course, but he should reassure you that no matter what happens, he’ll be on your side, ready to fight for what you deserve.
6. Do You Work on Contingency? Are There Other Fees I’ll Have to Pay Out of Pocket?
Contingency simply means that your attorney will only be paid once you receive a settlement. In essence, he works for free until you win, and then his fees are deducted from your damages.
Most car accident attorneys will work on contingency, but it’s important to clear this up from the get-go. You may be asked to pay some fees upfront, so make sure to ask this question.
7. What Kind of Compensation Can I Expect?
This is the big question, isn’t it? Although it might be awkward to bring up the issue of compensation, it’s really the heart of the matter and the reason that you’re consulting a car accident lawyer in the first place.
When your car has been destroyed, your body has been hurt, your ability to work has been compromised, and your relationships with loved ones tested in the aftermath of a serious accident, you are absolutely entitled to compensation from anyone whose negligence or fault may have played a contributing factor. So don’t feel bad asking!
That said, know that this question can be hard to answer. At the outset of your relationship with your car accident attorney, there’s really no telling what sort of damages you may be awarded by a judge or offered during a settlement.
Again, your lawyer might make some back-of-the-envelope calculations, based on his experience and prior cases he’s either settled or tried.
Use this question, then, as a litmus test to see what type of character you’re dealing with. Be wary of any car accident lawyer who promises you a specific figure. After all, he can promise all he wants — but can he make good on those promises?
This is another sign that you should probably consult with a different car accident attorney.
Final Thoughts on Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
After you’ve had an initial consultation with your attorney, you should have a sense of whether or not you trust him, can work with him, and think he’s the best foot for you to put forward on this legal journey. If there are any warning signs, or if you just don’t “click” with him, there’s no harm in moving on and trying another firm.
If you’ve been injured, Stephen Babcock is standing by to help you.
Your case — and your future will be our top priority. When we meet with you, we will review your case with you for free and after you hire us you will have Stephen’s 100% Client Satisfaction Guarantee.
If you have any questions about this article or want to contact us, call Stephen at (225) 500-5000 or contact us here.
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