You hear the thud and are a little bit in shock. You gather your composure and then realize that someone has crashed into your car. All of the sudden, your big plans for the day are gone.
And if you are like most people, you have no idea what you need to do when you’re in a car accident. Your friends and family members encourage you to consult a lawyer. But how do you find the right one?
Before I detail the best way to find a car accident lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, I’ll share a story about a conversation I had with a friend of mine many years ago (before the Internet existed).
My friend lamented that she was going through a divorce and her lawyer was terrible. He wasn’t getting anything done and wouldn’t return her calls. I asked how she found the lawyer and was stunned to learn she relied on the Yellow Pages. This is someone who would have refused to try a new hair stylist without a personal referral! But for one of the most significant events of her entire life, she hired a lawyer she found in an advertisement.
As crazy as that sounds, yesterday’s Yellow Page ad is today’s television commercial. While there is nothing wrong with advertising, a law firm’s ability to afford a TV ad has absolutely no correlation to a lawyer’s abilities or – just as importantly – his desire to help you.
So, how do you find the right lawyer for your case? While it seems intimidating, it really is a pretty simple process.
Get a personal referral. Speak to friends and colleagues and find out which lawyers they know and have used previously. Be sure to ask questions like this:
If the answer to even one of those questions is no, strongly consider looking elsewhere.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Once you get a referral, don’t forget to research the lawyer’s credentials. Conduct an Internet search for an experienced personal injury lawyer in Fort Lauderdale or the best car accident lawyer in South Florida.
Consider the following to determine if the lawyer would be the best fit for you:
1. Significant Experience: Has the lawyer handled your type of case before? Does he or she regularly go to trial? It is well known that most cases settle. However, not all cases should settle. You need a lawyer who is known for a willingness to try cases, even difficult ones. A claims adjuster is not afraid of a lawyer who won’t try a case. Ask for specifics.
2. Significant Credentials: While it is important that you have a good relationship with your lawyer, you are not hiring him or her to be your friend. You are hiring an advocate. You need to make sure you retain a lawyer with a proven track record of success. Look for credentials such as board certifications, peer ratings from other lawyers, ratings from Avvo or Martindale and other legal awards. You have every right to expect, require and demand your lawyer be highly qualified.
3. The Money to Finance Your Case: Most people don’t consider how expensive car accident lawsuits are when retaining a lawyer. You want to make sure your lawyer can afford to handle your case from start to finish and that finances don’t influence decisions. Taking depositions and hiring experts are expensive. Make sure you retain a lawyer who can afford to do so. How do you do this? Take a look around his office. Does the lawyer have a nice building, sufficient space and proper staff? If not, the lawyer likely can’t afford them. Hiring a lawyer who can’t afford your case may result in your claim being compromised.
4. Passion: You want a lawyer who will fight for you and family. Many lawyers will tell you what you want to hear to get your case. Then, after opening the file and realizing your injuries are not severe or that there is a lack of insurance coverage, he or she quickly loses interest. This is not who you want.
5. Regular communication: Remember that you are hiring a lawyer, not a paralegal. Make sure you hire a lawyer who will take your calls, return your emails and answer your questions. Ask about the lawyer’s policy regarding responsiveness. For instance, I tell my clients I will return all calls and emails within 48 hours. I have a regularly scheduled appointment, either by phone or in person, every six weeks. If I understand you and know what is going on in your life, I can ensure you get the result you want and need. Also, knowing what is happening with your case will help you get through a very difficult time and focus on your recovery. I get many clients who have been previously represented. The complaints about their prior lawyers are almost always the same: My lawyer wouldn’t talk to me, and I didn’t know what was going on with my case. Don’t let that be you.
If you follow the above steps, you will be able to get through this difficult time relatively smoothly.
Remember to be your own biggest advocate. There is no such thing as a small case. You should not care about how many million-dollar cases I have going on. The only case you should care about is yours. Make sure your lawyer feels the same way. If he doesn’t, I am here for you.