Whether in a traffic crash, by a dangerous feature on someone’s property, or due to a defective product, people are injured in Seattle by someone else’s negligence every day. If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by negligence, you may be eligible to receive compensation for the damages you suffered. Your best chance of receiving a settlement or damage award that fairly compensates you is with the guidance and assistance of a personal injury lawyer.
Most people don’t think about hiring a personal injury lawyer until they need one. So, now that you are looking, what should you look for and what questions should you ask? Read on for tips about how to find the personal injury lawyer who is best equipped to handle your case.
Negligence is the foundation of most personal injury claims and is defined as a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. A successful outcome to your case depends on your ability to prove that another party was negligent.
As noted by Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, this is done by satisfying these four elements:
It is not unusual for a person’s injuries to be the result of more than one person’s negligence, and even for the injured person to be partially to blame themselves for the accident that caused the injury. Washington follows the pure comparative negligence rule, which allows an injured person to seek compensation for their injuries from an at-fault party even if their own actions were partially to blame.
Some situations a personal injury attorney can help injured victims with include:
Some damages an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you recover include:
Once you have determined that your accident was at least partially caused by another person’s negligence and that there are damages you may be eligible to recover through an insurance claim or legal process, it’s time to look for a personal injury lawyer to help you with your case. If you know someone who has used a personal injury attorney before, ask if they would recommend that attorney. You can also search online for personal injury attorneys who are licensed to practice law in your state and who work in your area. Additionally, many review sites such as Yelp or Angie’s List can provide leads.
Once you’ve gathered a list of personal injury attorneys who are licensed in your state and who work in your area, you should visit their websites to find out what kinds of cases they take. You can also usually find reviews of that attorney’s services on their website, as well as on third party sites like Yelp. Another part of your research should involve checking with the legal directory made available by the Washington State Bar Association, or, if you live in another state, your state’s bar association, to ensure that the attorney you’re considering has an active state bar license and that their license is in good standing.
Many personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation and case review for prospective clients. This is a time for you to meet the attorney and share details about your case so that the attorney can determine whether your case falls within their practice area and that they can provide you with the services you’re seeking. It is also a time for you to ask the attorney questions of your own to determine whether they are the person you want to hire to represent you in your case and provide you with legal guidance.
Once you’ve pared down your list of potential attorneys to two or three with whom you’d like to have a consultation, you should call the attorney’s office or contact them online to schedule a time to meet. Be sure to confirm that the consultation is, in fact, free or that you’re aware of the cost of the meeting. When preparing for your consultation, be sure to gather and take with you all the documentation you have that’s relevant to your case, including:
Because the time for your consultation is limited, you should also prepare a list of questions you’d like to ask the attorney, as described below.
There are many questions that the attorney you’re meeting with will likely anticipate and provide answers for without even being asked. However, it is still good to be prepared by having all of your questions written down ahead of the meeting. These questions will give you a lot of insight as to the experience your attorney has in working on cases like yours, how comfortable they are with pursuing settlements or litigation, their track record on this type of case, the services they can provide for you, and how they expect to be paid.
Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they will not charge you a fee for their services unless they achieve a successful outcome to your case. However, it is important to never assume that your attorney works this way or that the contingency fees cover all costs associated with the representation the attorney is providing. For example, many attorneys who work on a contingent fee basis expect clients to cover the costs of copying, filing fees, or deposing witnesses no matter what the outcome of the case is. It is always best to ask for a complete run-down of expenses you will be expected to cover.
The questions you should ask a personal injury attorney you are considering hiring include:
Once you have selected the attorney you would like to hire and they have agreed to take your case, they will likely let you know if there is additional information or documentation you need to gather. If they do not let you know, ask whether they have everything they need to begin working on your case. You will be given some paperwork to read and sign. It is vitally important that you understand everything contained in the paperwork and that you get answers to any questions you have before you sign.