Any time an accident or injury looks like it's the result of someone else's carelessness or misconduct, it's a good idea to understand your options for holding the at-fault party responsible.
In some situations, getting the help of a skilled legal professional can be crucial, but:
This article answers these questions, plus a few more.
In some fairly rare scenarios, it might be a good idea to handle a personal injury claim on your own—when your injuries are minor, the other party was clearly at fault, and you're willing to fight for the best result from the insurance company, for example.
But in most instances, you'll probably want to put your personal injury case in the hands of an experienced attorney, especially if:
In most injury claim scenarios, there's simply no substitute for a lawyer's experience and expertise when it comes to:
Learn more about getting help from a personal injury lawyer.
You shouldn't turn to just any lawyer for help; look for someone who has experience handling your type of case—and who you feel you can trust.
There are several ways to get referrals to experienced personal injury lawyers. Once you get referrals, be sure to comparison-shop. Get the names of several lawyers and talk (via phone or video call) or meet with each of them in person to discuss your claim before making a hiring decision. And be prepared for rejection. Many lawyers do not take cases if they fall below a certain potential recovery amount, or if the claim is not crystal clear.
Here's where to look for referrals:
Talk with friends, family, coworkers, or anyone else you know who's been represented by a lawyer in their own personal injury claims. If your person has good things to say, put their lawyer on your list, but don't make a decision solely on the basis of someone else's recommendation.
Different people will have different responses to a lawyer's style and personality, so don't make up your mind until you've met (or at least talked with) the lawyer, discussed your case, and decided that you'd feel comfortable working with them.
Nolo offers two ways to find an attorney to handle your personal injury claim:
Another place to seek a referral to an experienced personal injury lawyer is through other lawyers you know. Lawyers commonly refer cases to one another, and most lawyers have a few personal injury experts in their network. As with referrals from friends or coworkers, however, do not simply take another lawyer's referral as the final word.
Most local bar associations have referral services in which the names of lawyers are available, arranged by legal specialty. There is a wide variation in the quality of lawyer referral services, however, even though they are supposed to be approved by the state bar association.
Some lawyer referral services carefully screen attorneys and list only those with particular qualifications and a certain amount of past experience, while other services will list any attorney in good standing with the state bar, as long as the attorney maintains liability insurance. Before you choose a lawyer referral service, ask what its qualifications are for including an attorney and how carefully lawyers are screened.
What you may not get from any lawyer referral service, however, is insight into the lawyer's philosophy—for instance, whether the lawyer is willing to spend a few hours to be your legal coach, or how aggressive the lawyer's personality is. Don't make a decision about a bar referral lawyer until you've spoken with them.
To find out whether a lawyer is right for you, sit down with them to discuss your claim and possible ways of handling it. Bring copies of all your documents, including:
Most lawyers do not charge for an initial consultation. If a lawyer wants to charge you before they'll discuss the basics of your case, look elsewhere.
After you and the candidate lawyer have discussed your case, you may want to learn a few things about the lawyer and their practice, including:
After you have discussed the facts of your case and the history of your settlement negotiations with the insurance company, you may be able to get some sense from the lawyer about how much your personal injury case is worth, and how difficult it may be to get the insurance company to pay that amount.
Now is the time to discuss your objective, and to get a sense of the likelihood that you might:
Part of this discussion will likely cover the pros and cons of settling versus pressing on and taking your claim to court by filing a personal injury lawsuit. Every situation is unique, so there's no one-size-fits-all strategy. Learn more about why most personal injury cases settle, and filing a personal injury lawsuit.
It's important to discuss issues like how your lawyer will get paid for their services, and how financial issues like case costs are handled. Most personal injury lawyers work under a contingency fee agreement, meaning they don't get paid for their legal services unless you receive money via settlement or court award. At that point, the lawyer takes an agreed-upon percentage as their fee.
Case costs (like filing fees, investigator/expert consultation services, and so on) can be a bit more complicated, so it's important to learn how right up front how everything will be handled on the financial side. Learn more about how personal injury lawyers get paid and how "costs" work in a personal injury case.
If you feel confident with the lawyer's experience, and comfortable with their idea of how to proceed with your case, chances are good that you've found a lawyer you can work with. Learn more about what to ask a potential personal injury lawyer.
Once you've found a lawyer you like, your job isn't entirely done. You'll need to create a clear, written fee agreement and then keep in contact with your lawyer as your case is progressing. Get tips on being a good personal injury client.
If you're just starting the lawyer search process and you're ready to reach out to a few potential candidates and discuss the basics of your case, you can use the tools right on this page to connect with injury lawyers in your area.