According to the National Safety Council, traffic accidents resulting in people injured or killed have increased nationwide. During the first six months of last year, nearly 1,600 people lost their lives in highway accidents in Florida. If you are the victim of a car accident, slip and fall or are injured as a result of someone’s negligence, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Selecting the right attorney for your case is one of the most important decisions you will make. The attorney you choose should have the experience, resources, and ability to guide you through the legal system. Relying on lawyer referral services to make that decision could be a mistake.
What are lawyer referral services?
You’ve probably seen their advertising on television. Lawyer referral services commercials often feature spokespeople who explain how their attorneys help clients get the maximum recovery for accident injuries. Viewers are directed to call an 800-number to be connected with a personal injury attorney that will handle their case. It is easy for accident victims to listen to these scripted commercials and assume they are getting someone experienced in handling their types of injuries and accidents.
Instead, lawyer referral services typically refer the injured party to the next personal injury attorney in their database.
Choosing your own attorney makes more sense
Privately-owned lawyer referral services provide no cost savings, despite what they would like for you to believe. State law in Florida, not individual attorneys, controls the fees charged in personal injury cases.
Attorneys handling personal injury cases are paid a percentage of the amount recovered on the client’s behalf. Known as “contingent” or “contingency” fees, the law sets the percentages as follows:
- Cases settled before an answer is filed: The fee is 33.3 percent of settlements up to $1 million. The percentage decreases for settlements in excess of $1 million.
- Settlement or judgment after an answer is filed: The fee is 40 percent if the recovery is $1 million or less. The fee goes down as the recovery increases.
- Post-trial appeals: If a case is appealed after trial, the law allows the personal injury attorney to charge an additional 5 percent for extra services rendered.
The law establishes these fees, leaving no cost savings between attorneys. This means that there is little advantage to selecting someone whose name happens to be next on the list. It is critical to select a seasoned personal injury attorney to fight for you.
Getting outstanding representation from your personal injury lawyer
Attorneys might use lawyer referral services to build their practices and attract clients based on television commercials instead of extensive experience, skill, and legal knowledge. Finding an attorney to handle your personal injury claim begins by asking family and close friends for recommendations. Their experience can help provide personal insight into what to expect.
Before committing to an attorney, complete additional research to ensure that you select someone resourceful and skilled enough to provide superior representation. Interview the lawyer in person or by phone to learn:
How long has the attorney been in practice? What percentage of their total number of cases are personal injury?
The most knowledgeable and skilled personal injury lawyers devote the majority of their practice to those cases.
Does the attorney have trial experience?
You want an attorney who is a talented negotiator and has a good record of settling claims. Settlements take less time than trials and get compensation quickly. However, your attorney should be a gifted litigator who is not afraid or hesitant to take a case to trial if it will benefit you. Some insurance adjusters delay making their best offers on cases when dealing with attorneys that have a history of favoring settlements over trials.
Does the attorney have access to investigators and expert witnesses?
Personal injury cases can be expensive to investigate and develop. The attorney should be willing to invest the financial resources needed to compete against insurance carriers. The companies are capable of investing large sums of money to defeat your claim.
Who will be responsible for representing you?
If satisfied with the attorney you’ve met, make sure that they are the same lawyer who will directly handle your case. It is common for associates and paralegals to participate in preparing a case for trial. However, you want to ensure that the person standing next to you in court will be the attorney you interviewed.
Before entrusting your financial well-being and future to someone chosen for you by lawyer referral services, speak with an experienced Tampa Bay attorney. The attorneys at Kinney, Fernandez & Boire will provide you with a complimentary case evaluation to determine your legal options. Don’t settle for the next name on a list.