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3 Step Guide: How To Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer

Knowing what to look for in a lawyer is a powerful tool. Even with the seriousness and urgency of personal injury, you deserve to know that you are making a decision you can feel confident about — just like when it is time to replace your refrigerator. While hiring a lawyer is not exactly like buying a major appliance, there are some similar challenges. 

People tend to avoid both major appliance shopping and lawyers unless absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, that can mean that, once the need comes around, you already might not feel like you have enough time to do your research. Read on for a comprehensive guide to finding a personal injury lawyer. 

What’s the First Step in Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Many people start with personal recommendations when it comes to finding a lawyer, and we don’t disagree that word-of-mouth is a great resource. Still, when University of Windsor law professor Julie Macfarlane reviewed court records across Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, she found that 60% of people represented themselves. While a trusted friend or family member’s experience is a valuable tool, there is a good chance you might not have anyone to ask. 

Unfortunately, Macfarlane’s research also found that many people who proceeded with civil cases without legal representation reported that it was a traumatizing experience. Without a personal recommendation, you might start to feel like finding a personal injury lawyer is a mountainous task before you have even started. Just taking that first step can be difficult for a number of reasons:

  • You may expect to be treated like you are just out for easy money.
  • You might be afraid to admit how much you are struggling.
  • You could be afraid of being blamed for your situation.
  • You have a fear that lawyers will never treat clients fairly.

Without an injury lawyer to turn to, it may be tempting to hire whichever lawyer in your life you trust most, especially if you have had a positive professional experience with them in the past. All good lawyers have a basic understanding of most areas of the law, but not all areas of law are created equal, and no lawyer can be reasonably expected to be equipped to handle it all. 

Hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer who can understand the complexity of your unique circumstances. Almost 40% of Canadian personal injury cases from 2004-2018 involved motor vehicle accidents. As a personal injury lawyer, I work with clients with a variety of injuries:

  • Truck accidents
  • Slip and fall injuries
  • Concussion/traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Sports and recreational accidents
  • Elder neglect
  • Wrongful death
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Motor vehicle accidents

A lawyer who focuses on a certain area of law will have up-to-date information on recent court outcomes or law changes, existing relationships with others in their field, and experience working through both common and rare circumstances. Make sure to ask good questions when seeking out a personal injury lawyer.   

Some questions to ask lawyers you interview: 

  • How do you handle personal injury cases? 
  • What kind of experience do you have with cases like mine?

Is it Better to Hire a Big Law Firm or a Small One?

One way to narrow down your search for a personal injury lawyer is to decide whether you would prefer to hire a lawyer from a large firm or a smaller one. Obviously, I think the latter is better because a smaller firm will generally take more time to get to know you and your case. 

With my firm, for example, initial conversations are handled by a law clerk, but I review your information personally and will be the next person you talk to if your initial intake looks like you might benefit from legal help. I am also the actual lawyer personally representing you and building your case throughout the entire process. That means I will not take on your case unless I believe that I am going to be an asset for you and that you have a good chance for a successful outcome.

Of course, there are great lawyers in the big firms, too, and for many people it may come down to a matter of what makes you more comfortable and what your needs are. If you have never been in this kind of situation, you might be uncertain about what you need. At the end of the day, make sure that you are comfortable with the person or team you will be working with throughout the duration of your litigation process, which could take several years. 

In addition to your comfort, what really matters is this — does the lawyer resolve cases efficiently, fairly, and effectively? Ask for examples. If you ask up-front, lawyers can often provide you with lists of case wins that are relevant to your situation. If you get the feeling that the lawyer doesn’t have much experience dealing with your kind of case, trust your instincts and find a lawyer who makes you comfortable that he or she has done this — successfully — before.

Some questions to ask lawyers you interview: 

  • Who are the people directly handling my case?
  • How often should I expect updates on my case?

Will the Lawyer Meet with You for a Free Initial Consultation?

Not all lawyers offer free consultations, but you can verify that before you are ever charged for a lawyer’s time. Your first conversation with a law firm may not be very long, but it can still be a little uncomfortable. Once you make that intake call, they will ask you targeted questions designed to help them understand if your situation and their firm are a good fit. Remember that good lawyers want to ensure they are not wasting your time as much as they may want new clients.

After the intake call, you may be asked to schedule a longer consultation. At my firm, this means I saw something in your intake that makes me believe I may be able to help you. During our consultation, I will ask you about your injuries, your psychological state, your job, your medical coverage, and other related subjects. These consultations are usually an hour, and I like to say they should be treated like a conversation over coffee or tea with your favorite confidant. 

But is the free consultation really free? That depends. 

Some firms specifically advertise a free 30- or 60-minute consultation. While it is not exactly common, I have seen enough firms offer free “timed” consultations only to go over time and charge for it. Thirty minutes is not very long for an injury consultation; in fact, my 30-minute consultations are usually only that short if I know I can’t help — and that is usually because new info has surfaced since your intake call that I have used to make that determination. 

No matter how long the consultation, you should walk away feeling listened to and treated fairly. It is just a consultation, and there are going to be lots of unanswered questions about your case, but if you leave the meeting feeling more confused and powerless than before, it’s probably not a good fit. You’re probably dealing with a lawyer who may have all the technical knowledge but doesn’t communicate it well. While they may steer your case through to a good conclusion, it will probably be more stressful for you than it needs to be because nothing will be clear. 

Some questions to ask lawyers you interview: 

  • Will I be charged if my consultation goes over the advertised time?
  • Who should I contact if I need additional questions answered before making a decision about who to hire?

How Does a Lawyer Advocate for Their Clients?

Personal injury lawyers have the privilege and honor of helping people through some of the most difficult times anyone can imagine. This responsibility should not be taken lightly, and it relies on lawyers who are willing to be transparent with clients about their cases. The sooner you find a lawyer you trust after your injury, the sooner they can start advocating for you. 

Sometimes, advocating for clients means helping them understand how their actions can help or hurt their case. I see plenty of people make common mistakes after motor vehicle accidents, but I make sure to educate them as soon as possible about how to make sure they are working in their own best interests from now on. 

I started my personal injury law practice after gaining experience working for big insurance companies on the other side of the table. I know what lengths they will go to when it comes to protecting their interests, and I know how they think. Educating clients about their potential case outcomes helps them make decisions about what is best for them and their families. 

Another way I advocate for people who have been injured is by not taking them on as clients if I do not believe I am the best lawyer for their case! I have a strong and trusted network of personal injury lawyers, and if I get a case I think is better suited to another lawyer or that will not fit into my current caseload, I let the client know. 

Some questions to ask lawyers you interview: 

  • What happens if my case goes to trial?
  • What are some difficulties I might encounter with my case?

Does Your Lawyer Clearly Explain the Payment Structure?

If a lawyer is evading the issue of payment, watch out. Luckily, most lawyers are up-front about how much a case will — or potentially will — cost you, but it is important for you to ask the right questions, anyway. Many people are concerned about the cost of hiring a lawyer, but a lawyer with your best interests in mind will generally offer a free consultation and will not take your case unless they believe in your ability to be successful in your claim. 

Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee schedule, which means they get paid only when they win a case. That’s usually a good thing because it means if they take you on as a client they have a pretty good feeling about your case. Still, that does not necessarily mean that you will not be responsible for any fees throughout the process. You may also need to account for the legal fees when considering the final settlement amount you can expect to receive. Understanding the contingency fee process is important, and you should be prepared to ask any lawyer you speak to about their fee arrangements.

When you are struggling with denied disability claims or paying your medical bills, you deserve to feel comfortable with the lawyer you hire to help you recover, and that includes how much you might expect to realistically recover at the end of the process. 

How Can Derek Wilson Personal Injury Law Help?

Everyone deserves an opportunity to have an advocate to stand up for them, especially in the worst circumstances they have probably ever experienced. That is why I founded my law firm. I take what I learned sitting at the table working for big insurance companies and use it to make sure that when bad things happen to everyday people, they have someone ready to help. I represent a relatively small number of clients annually so that I can continue to give each my personal attention. 

When you reach out to Derek Wilson Personal Injury Law, your intake will be conducted by one of my law clerks. If your intake indicates that your situation might benefit from legal representation, we will ask you to schedule a longer consultation with me directly. I’ll ask you to share more of your story with me, and together we can talk about your options. Call us at 855-769-0418 to schedule your free consultation, or get in touch online.

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4 thoughts on “3 Step Guide: How To Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer”

  1. I agree that you should use your network to find a lawyer. When looking for my divorce lawyer I had a great recommendation and it worked out well. When talking to people with experience in cases you want to know who was good and who wasn’t.

    • For sure, Tim. It’s one of the reasons why it’s often less stressful to use a local lawyer (we’re more known in the community). I’m glad your divorce lawyer was able to help you resolve things, and thank you for the comment.

  2. “Only the three step guide to find a perfect personal injury lawyer!” It was just my own reaction after reading your Heading. But for sure, after reading this full post I have no doubt about your experience level and your thoughts. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thanks Brent. My goal is to make it easy for clients, rather than over-complicating what is already a complicated process for them (as you no doubt understand). I imagine what it is to walk a mile in their shoes and that’s how I brainstorm blog topics. Appreciate the feedback!

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