After a car crash, you may not know your legal rights. Alternatively, you may have some idea of your rights, but know that it’s a good idea to consult with a lawyer for such an important matter. In either situation, it’s always important to find the RIGHT lawyer for your situation.
Sorting Through the Many Different Lawyers Available
Not every car accident lawyer handles all types of traffic cases. Some lawyers only handle small cases involving minor injuries, but start to struggle if a case becomes more complicated or the injuries require more treatment than expected. In addition, if an accident involved multiple vehicles, a commercial truck, or drivers who were on the job, the insurance claims can immediately become more challenging. You always want to find a car accident law firm with plenty of experience handling large complex cases, even if your accident seems straightforward at first.
But how do you go about finding that car accident lawyer—the one who’s right for you? There are nearly 100,000 licensed attorneys in Texas alone, and hundreds of thousands more in the other states. How do you find the lawyer who is the best choice for your case?
Fortunately, many resources out there can help car accident victims narrow down the extensive list of personal injury attorneys available.
When it comes to finding information, Google is the king of the internet. You probably hit up Google for recipes, the hours of a nearby store, fitness tips, driving directions, and so much more. So, it only makes sense that you would turn to Google to find legal services.
However, when you type “car accident lawyer” into the Google search field, more than 260 MILLION results will come up. Many people simply start at the top of the list, though ranking high on Google doesn’t necessarily mean that a lawyer will be a good fit. You could spend hours combing through Google results and law firm websites, but it’s difficult to get the information you need this way. The good news is that the internet also has many other tools that can help you find an attorney to help you.
Look Through the State Bar Website
Every attorney who practices law should have a valid license in that state. The bar association for a particular state has records of all active attorneys and this can be a great resource for car accident victims. For example, the Texas State Bar website has a “Find a Lawyer” function that helps the public connect with potential legal help. This service can take into account the following information:
- Why do you need a lawyer?
- Your location
- Education or certification preferred
- Languages spoken and accommodations
- Fee options offered
You can fill out the relevant fields that are important to you and a list will pop up. However, know that this list can be intimidatingly long, as well.
The state bar website can also serve another important purpose when searching for a lawyer. Maybe you liked the tone of some websites you found through Google and have the names of those attorneys. But how do you find out more information about these lawyers? You can bet that attorneys aren’t going to put any negative information about themselves on their own website, though the state bar publishes additional information about licensed attorneys who have had difficulties.
You can search for an attorney by name and learn whether they have had any complaints, suspensions, or other ethical issues. This can give you a good idea of what to expect from a lawyer’s services. Some ethical complaints may include:
- Failing to communicate with clients
- Not filing petitions or motions with the court on time
- Breaching attorney-client confidentiality
- Not informing clients of all of their options
- Losing important paperwork
- Failing to comply with the attorney-client agreement
Attorneys can also get suspended for other issues, including substance abuse problems, criminal cases, or other types of unethical activity that can put a client’s case in jeopardy. There are plenty of lawyers available who abide by the rules of ethics and always put their clients’ interests first. It’s a good idea to look into a lawyer’s history through the State Bar before you hire them to handle your car accident claim.
Browse Online Directories
There are also many companies that focus on putting together online directories of lawyers and law firms to help consumers. Some of these directories are simply referral services while others require lawyers to pay for membership. They can also provide ratings, reviews from past clients, and more information about the firm and their business. There are many options for online lawyer directories, and the following are some of the most common:
Several directories are specific to personal injury lawyers, which is the type of law firm that should handle your car accident case. Consider looking at the following:
- Find a Personal Injury Attorney
- National Academy of Personal Injury Lawyers
- Find a Car Accident Attorney
- Personal Injury Warriors
These are only some of many lawyer directories that could be helpful after a car accident.
Ask for Personal Referrals
Many of us know other people who got injured in car accidents. Even if they didn’t talk about it, they likely had a lawyer help them with an insurance claim or a lawsuit. Talking to them about their experience can be helpful.
First, if they had a bad experience, talk to them about why. Perhaps they were annoyed they heard from their attorney so regularly even if nothing was happening. If you would like that quality of constant communication, maybe that doesn’t count the lawyer out. If they thought the attorney didn’t communicate enough, you might like that as you don’t need to waste time on the phone if there are no new developments in your case.
If the bad experience was due to serious problems, it’s a sign that the law firm is not for you. The following may indicate you shouldn’t bother calling a particular attorney:
- They were disorganized and lost paperwork
- They missed important dates or deadlines
- They refused to answer calls for weeks
- They tried to charge more than the fees in the agreement
- They didn’t fight hard enough
Knowing who you SHOULDN’T call can save you time and energy.
On the other hand, if a trusted friend or family loved their experience with their car accident attorney, that can be a good place to start. Remember that people look for different qualities in a lawyer, so someone who was right for them may not be right for you. But it’s still a great idea to speak with that law firm since you have a personal referral.
Beware of people who try to suggest lawyers when they have no experience with car accident claims. You will find that anyone who knows ANY attorney will come out of the woodwork and tell you who to call. However, just because your friend liked her divorce lawyer doesn’t mean that lawyer can handle a car accident case. Your cousin’s best friend just graduated from law school and started a personal injury firm, but do they have the experience needed to handle your claim? Always use discretion when others give unsolicited referrals, as they might not be in your best interest and following those leads can be a waste of time.
Read a Law Firm’s Website Carefully
Whether you find a website through Google, a personal referral, or an online directory, you should carefully examine the site before deciding to call them. Any attorney can pay someone to design and create a flashy and shiny website, and this doesn’t necessarily reflect the firm’s record of success, experience, or ability. You should always dig deeper to find additional information.
Lawyer’s bio – While a lawyer can provide a lot of information on their bio page, keep in mind that they can also be selective about what they choose to say or not to say. Some attorneys will proudly put their law school information on their site to show their years of experience and that they went to a reputable institution. However, if a lawyer recently graduated or went to a low-ranked school, they may choose to leave that information off. Also, if a lawyer doesn’t specifically mention their reputation, experience, and other attractive qualities, it may be a sign that they don’t have an established reputation or extensive experience.
Size of the firm – While the size of a law firm does not guarantee success or good customer service, it can be one indicator that a personal injury law firm is at least good and highly experienced. Just as with any other business, it does take some level of success and professional skills to build a law firm to a certain level. The one possible downside of hiring a larger firm, however, is that you may end up getting “lost in the shuffle” or may have difficulty with communications. For this reason, you should ask about these issues up front, and make sure you do your research.
Relevant pages – If you are looking for a car accident lawyer, you certainly want to visit the car accident page of their website. Does it seem authoritative? Is it a short blurb or does it provide comprehensive information about car accidents in your area? Also, look to see if the firm has only one car accident page or other types of car accident pages, as well. Some lawyers will have many specific pages, such as:
- 18 Wheeler accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Drunk driving crashes
- Bicycle accidents
If you see a page that addresses your specific type of accident, you can have more confidence that the firm handles that type of case.
Blog articles – Many law firms handle a wide variety of cases, such as personal injury law, criminal defense, and estate planning all at one firm. Often, these firms have areas they focus on more than others, and a blog can be a strong indication of this. Does the firm primarily blog about criminal defense or family law? Are the personal injury blogs mostly about medical malpractice or products liability? This may be a sign that they don’t handle many car accident cases
On the flip side, if a firm does regularly blog about car accidents, it can show this a major part of their practice. Read some to see if the firm seems knowledgeable about the subject. Do they discuss relevant legal development or news stories? Do they address a wide range of car accident topics, including some that pertain to your situation? These are all good questions to ask yourself.
The overall tone of the site – The choice of a lawyer should be based on your own personal preferences. Some people like a lawyer to treat them like family and give them highly personalized and compassionate attention. Others are all business and want the basic information they need up front, and then for the lawyer to only contact them when necessary. You can often learn a lot about a lawyer’s demeanor and whether they might be a good fit by the tone and feel of their website.
Once you find some websites you like, make a short list and start calling. Initial case evaluations should ALWAYS be free for car accident victims and with no obligation to hire that attorney.