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Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer

By Aaron Larson
March, 2005


Where To Look For A Personal Injury Lawyer

There is no guaranteed path to finding a qualified, competent personal injury lawyer. The following sources of legal assistance may be helpful:

Obtain a Referral from a Lawyer You Trust: The best way to find a personal injury lawyer is usually through a referral from a lawyer you know and trust. Although often a personal injury lawyer will pay a referral fee to another lawyer who refers a case, the referral fee should not increase the total attorney fee paid by the client. The referral fee also serves as an incentive to the referring lawyer, as the fee will typically be a percentage of the fee earned by the personal injury lawyer on a contingent fee basis. That is to say, the more money you recover with the help of the lawyer to whom you are referred, the greater the referral fee that will be paid to the attorney who sent you to that lawyer. A lawyer who will receive a referral fee thus has a strong incentive to send you to a good lawyer. Note also that not all lawyers who help you find legal help will request a referral fee - you may wish to ask the lawyer what arrangement, if any, will be made with the other firm.

You can find the names of attorneys from a variety of sources. You may seek advice from friends, or from your doctor or another health care professional. You may look in the Yellow Pages or an online lawyer directory. You may contact a State Bar lawyer referral service. There are many ways to seek a personal injury lawyer, but there are no magic answers to finding a good lawyer.

Referral Services: If you go to the website for your state's bar association, or to the ABA website, you will usually find information about referral services that they either operate or recommend. Most of those referral services will be operated on a non-profit basis, and will attempt to connect you with a lawyer based upon the facts and circumstances you describe to them.

Membership Organizations: Many membership organizations, such as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, offer online directories of their members. If you find a legal organization for personal injury lawyers, you may wish to explore that organization's website for member directories. You should still investigate the qualifications of any lawyer you find through a membership organization, as often the only thing you can know from an individual lawyer's listing is that the lawyer paid the organization's annual membership fee.

The Internet: There are a significant number of attorney directories, referral services, and websites available online, and you will often be able to find a number of law firms in your vicinity by browsing through an online directory or by using a search engine such as Google. Be wary of any "injury information" site that lists law firms or offers lawyer referrals, particularly if it does not make obvious the identity of its sponsor.

Lawyer Advertising: You may be able to find a lawyer through advertisements you see on television or in the phone book. We offer some assistance deciphering some of the claims you might see in a lawyer ad. You should be aware that it does not necessarily follow that the lawyer with the most TV ads or the biggest yellow pages ad is the best lawyer for your case - many of the best personal injury lawyers don't engage in any appreciable advertising, instead depending upon referrals to generate business. Also, some mediocre lawyers pay for a lot of ads, because that is the only way they can attract clients.

Find a Specialist Lawyer

It is important to recognize that, just like doctors, it is often best to seek a specialist lawyer when you have a specialized legal problem. Most personal injury lawyers do not practice medical malpractice law, and many do not handle workers' compensation cases. It is almost always in your best interest to seek out a lawyer or law firm which has significant experience with the specific type of injury case you wish to pursue.

There are personal injury law firms which focus primarily on burn injuries, or brain and spinal cord injuries. There are personal injury firms which concentrate primarily on car accidents, construction accidents, or litigation over defective products. There are also firms which only handle medical malpractice cases, or which only handle worker's compensation claims. You should ask the lawyer you consult if the lawyer or firm has experience with your type of injury before you make your hiring decision.

Questions To Ask A Lawyer

It can be difficult to ask questions about a lawyer's background and qualifications before hiring the lawyer to represent you. However, your initial consultation is very similar to a job interview - where you will be the boss and the lawyer will be your employee. Even if it feels awkward, try to learn about the lawyer's background and experience before making your hiring decision. Possible questions include:

Get It In Writing

A written retainer agreement will help you ensure that your rights are protected, and in many jurisdictions is required in order for a contingent fee agreement to be enforceable. Often, a personal injury attorney will use a relatively short fee agreement, but sometimes it will be long and complex. No matter how simple the agreement looks, you should carefully read the entire agreement before signing it. If there is something you don't understand, ask for clarification before you sign.

Recall that you do not have to retain an attorney just because you met with that attorney. If you are uncomfortable with the attorney after an initial consultation, say "Thank you for your time" and consult another firm.

About The Author
Aaron Larson is a Michigan lawyer whose practice emphasizes civil appeals and litigation consulting. Copyright © 2005, Aaron Larson, all rights reserved.
As legal advice must be tailored to the specific facts and circumstances of your case, information cannot substitute for the advice of qualified legal counsel. All information on this website is believed to be accurate as of the time it was authored. However, due to the possibility of changes in the law since that time, and as personal injury laws can vary significantly from state to state, you should verify any information you find on this site with a licensed legal professional in your state. All information on this site is presented on an "as is" basis. Your use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.