If you’ve recently been injured in a car accident that was caused by the negligence of another driver, you have a right to seek financial compensation for your medical bills, vehicle damage, lost wages, emotional distress, and other losses. The success of your case and the size of the settlement you win will depend largely on the lawyer you hire to represent you.
An experienced and skillful car accident attorney can provide support, negotiate effectively with the insurance company, represent you in court if necessary, and fight tooth and nail to maximize your final payout. On the other hand, choosing the wrong personal injury lawyer may result in a more stressful legal journey, poor legal advice, an insufficient final settlement, and subsequent financial hardship down the road.
To help you find the right lawyer, this article provides a detailed guide on how to choose the very best car accident attorney for your case. Included below are steps to take, mistakes to avoid, questions to ask, and useful resources to help in your decision-making process.
Following your accident, you may have received several solicitation letters from personal injury lawyers offering their services. These lawyers obtain road accident reports from the police to gain the injured victim’s contact details.
A personal injury lawyer who primarily gains business through solicitation letters often works with a high volume churn of new clients. They aim for quick settlements and therefore fail to gain a steady inflow of business from referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations.
So it’s usually wise to avoid letter-solicitation attorneys. Finding a good car accident lawyer will take a little more research and due diligence.
To begin, spend some time searching online for potential car accident lawyers. Build a list of candidates, which you can then whittle down to a shortlist using the criteria outlined below.
Focus on lawyers who practice in the state where you live or where you were injured. This is important as personal injury law varies from state to state.
For example, when it comes to car accident cases, Texas is an at-fault state. This makes it easier for injured victims to gain compensation from the negligent driver who caused their injuries. In no-fault states, you must first file a claim with your own insurance company no matter who was responsible for the crash.
There are other laws specific to Texas, so when seeking a car accident lawyer, hiring locally is usually the best path forward. Ideally, look for lawyers in or close to your own county.
It’s quite possible that someone you know has experienced a car accident and won fair compensation with a good car accident attorney. Texas alone sees around 500,000 road accidents each year with 20,000 serious injuries, many of which result in successful insurance claims and lawsuits.
If you can obtain a personal recommendation from someone you trust, add their auto accident lawyer to your shortlist. You might also want to ask them about the details of their claim and how they successfully obtained a fair settlement from the insurance company.
Personal injury law is a complex field of law that continuously evolves. As such, the right car accident lawyer should ideally specialize in dealing with personal injury cases on a daily basis.
Some general practitioners of law deal with all kinds of other cases and only a small portion of their business is spent helping injury victims. No matter how impressive such a lawyer may appear, it’s unlikely they have as much relevant skill, expertise, resources, and experience as a specialist personal injury practitioner.
And even within personal injury law, you have many different kinds of cases. Apart from auto accidents, there are slip-and-fall, medical malpractice, product liability, wrongful death, and many more case types.
So it’s best to look for attorneys with a great deal of experience winning car accident cases just like yours. And if you’ve experienced a truck accident or motorcycle accident, look for evidence of experience in those particular case types as well.
You can usually find out a good deal of useful information about a potential attorney on their website. They may have presented how much settlement money they’ve successfully won for prior car accident clients.
Take the time to browse their areas of practice, locations served, blog content, and pro bono work. This will provide you with a strong sense of their successes, areas of expertise, and overall level of professionalism.
At this initial stage of research, you can also check various sites for client reviews of any lawyer you’re looking into. When finding a good attorney, the opinions of other lawyers can also prove valuable.
Before approaching your shortlist of personal injury attorneys, one final step is to check that they’re registered with the bar association in your state. The State Bar of Texas can be found at TexasBar.com.
On the state bar association website, you can search any lawyer’s name to see if they’ve had any disciplinary actions filed against them. The bar ensures that attorneys adhere to a code of ethical standards in how they practice law and treat their clients.
Lawyers that have been disciplined or disbarred have usually broken this code of ethics. It goes without saying that this would be a red flag.
Most personal injury attorneys will offer an initial consultation at no cost to evaluate your case and answer your questions. Schedule a free consultation with each car accident lawyer on your shortlist.
Prepare a checklist of questions to ask them during the consultation. Don’t be shy about interviewing them and don’t hesitate to ask about anything related to your case. Remember, this decision may well have a huge impact on your finances and your future.
Some car accident victims begin the claims process before even speaking to a personal injury attorney and later come to regret it. Without legal representation or full knowledge of your legal rights, all it takes is a single mistake during the filing process to hinder the value of your claim and your chances of winning a full and fair settlement.
For just this reason, insurance companies are hoping you’ll approach them before you hire a car accident lawyer. One significant way that insurance companies remain profitable is by paying out as little as possible on claims.
As such, the insurance adjusters they send to investigate claims may encourage injury victims to slip up and harm their claim. The insurance adjuster may encourage you to admit to a modicum of fault for the accident, for example, or to accept a lowball settlement offer.
You can avoid mistakes and start things off on the right foot by hiring an experienced lawyer before you file your claim. If you hire an attorney immediately following your accident, they can even send someone to investigate the accident scene to determine fault and start gathering evidence to prove the negligence of the at-fault party.
Important accident scene evidence often includes police reports, photo and video evidence, eyewitness reports, and any other evidence that helps prove the responsibility of the at-fault party. Medical bills from your very first hospital and doctor’s visits are also important evidence.
If a few days or weeks have already passed and you failed to collect this evidence, your lawyer can still help you obtain it and build a strong case. The police report from car accidents can be accessed at a later date as well.
The initial consultation with an experienced lawyer alone can provide auto accident victims with an incredible amount of value and clarity with regard to their legal rights and the strengths and weaknesses of their cases. During each free consultation, find out the following information about the lawyer and also look for the following qualities.
Almost all personal injury lawyers provide their services on a “no win, no fee” basis. This contingency fee arrangement means you only need to pay their legal fees if and when they win your case.
Their fee will be a percentage of the final settlement or court-awarded payout. This fee is typically around a third of the final compensation won. And if for some reason they fail to win your case, you needn’t pay them anything at all.
For this reason, when a good car accident lawyer agrees to take on your case, it’s usually grounds for confidence. They wouldn’t agree to work with you unless they felt certain about achieving a successful resolution and winning fair compensation for you.
The contingency fee basis for payment is, on the face of it, a full-proof way to align your lawyer’s motivations with yours: both you and your car accident lawyer want to maximize the final payout. And most of the time, this is true.
However, it’s important to be aware that some car accident lawyers would rather churn through as many injured victims as quickly as possible. In this way, they don’t mind if they earn smaller settlements and leave dissatisfied clients behind as long as they have a steady stream of new clients coming in.
This type of unscrupulous strategy is frequently favored by ambulance chasers and lawyers who primarily find accident victims with solicitation letters, as previously mentioned. But there’s no need for concern: you can avoid such sub-par lawyers with a little due diligence.
The best car accident lawyers will demonstrate the qualities outlined in this article and have plenty of experience winning insurance company settlements with car accidents and personal injury cases just like yours. You only need to ask the right questions to separate the wheat from the chaff.
While enquiring about a lawyer’s legal fees, also ask how case expenses will be handled. Case expenses are various costs accrued during the process of preparing a claim or lawsuit. These are additional out-of-pocket expenses, quite separate from the fees of your legal representation.
Case expenses might include filing fees, court fees, expert witness testimony fees, fees for medical records, and various other out-of-pocket expenses. Ideally, these fees should also be included on a contingency basis whereby your car accident lawyer will cover them. They’ll then be reimbursed for all expenses out of the final settlement payout.
Sometimes injury victims neglect to enquire about case expenses at the outset of their claim. They’re then faced with an additional financial burden during the legal process, especially if theirs is a drawn-out case with catastrophic injuries or multiple defendants.
If you’ve suffered a very serious injury, such as a brain or spinal cord injury, then you may be facing a very expensive court case and procedure. A personal injury claim which is complicated by disputed liability, excessively large damages, or the need for a jury trial will see steadily mounting expenses over months and sometimes years.
Sometimes your attorney will need to hire expert witnesses such as accident reconstruction experts or road safety experts to prove how the accident unfolded. Other expert witnesses such as specialist physicians, forensic accountants, or clinical psychotherapists might also be necessary to prove the full value of your damages. The fees for these expert witnesses can be some of the most costly expenses during a lawsuit and court trial.
It’s therefore essential that the car accident lawyer or law firm you hire has more than sufficient financial resources to cover these costs until the final settlement payday. If a car accident lawyer runs low on funds during a case, perhaps because they didn’t expect it to go to court, they might be tempted to cut corners on the quality of service they provide.
They might even be tempted to persuade you to accept a lower settlement offer than you might otherwise have achieved. For this reason, don’t be hesitant to inquire about the state of any lawyer’s financial resources before embarking on a lengthy case with them.
When speaking to an auto accident attorney, always ask what value they’d place on your claim. This means how much they think the insurance company may pay in the final car accident settlement.
The final settlement figure is the total of all your damages, including any costs of medical treatment, property damage to your car, and lost wages from missed work. It may also include non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, impairment, loss of enjoyment in life, and more.
At the start of a case, it’s difficult to accurately predict what the final settlement will come to. But after examining the particulars of your case, an experienced car accident lawyer can draw upon their legal know-how and prior cases to give you a good ballpark figure. And when you ask them to explain how they came to this figure, you may gain extremely valuable insights into your case.
In the legal complexities of most personal injury claims, the claimant will face potential challenges and obstacles. A forthright and sincere auto accident attorney will not only explain the strengths of your case, but they’ll also explain any weaknesses it might have.
You might have a lack of evidence proving the other driver’s negligence, for example. Or you yourself may have been guilty of contributory negligence in some way. With more serious injuries and extensive damages, you might have an uphill battle proving the full extent of your future medical expenses, lost wages, or emotional anguish.
It’s generally a good sign if an attorney can clearly outline potential pitfalls. They should then be able to explain how they would handle those obstacles to achieve the best possible outcome for you.
Your chosen attorney is going to be working with you for several months, perhaps even years. If you’ve been severely injured, they’ll be legally supporting you through one of the most stressful times of your life. It’s therefore important that you feel comfortable with them and generally get along well with them.
The best lawyers can communicate very effectively, explaining your legal options in clear, easy-to-follow layman’s terms. Unfortunately, many personal injury attorneys who lack such communication skills like to use too much professional jargon in order to impress their clients.
If you find yourself getting a little lost and confused while speaking to a lawyer, it might not be a good match. Apart from their conversation, also pay attention to other aspects of their communication.
They should ideally be willing to answer all of your questions and encourage you to ask as many as you like, for example. And if you leave them a message or send them an email, notice how quickly they respond. Slow responses, signs of lacking professionalism, caginess, or awkward avoidance of topics should all be considered red flags.
The right car accident lawyer should also show enthusiasm and sincere interest in your case. You want the attorney fighting your corner to be fully engaged, eager to succeed, and doggedly persistent, even if your case becomes a grueling uphill battle.
During your consultation, any signs of disinterest or lack of personal engagement may indicate a lawyer who only wants to win a quick settlement, even if it’s less than fair compensation. Needless to say, this isn’t a good car accident lawyer to hire.
Poor communication or an air of disinterest might also indicate an otherwise good lawyer who is simply very busy. It’s unfortunate that many personal injury lawyers allow themselves to get overloaded with clients.
This naturally leaves them with less time and attention to devote to each individual client. If an overloaded lawyer takes you on, your case is unlikely to be among their top priorities.
So it’s good to ask potential attorneys how much time they currently have to dedicate to your case. Emphasize that you wish to get the ball rolling on your claim as soon as possible. And if a lawyer seems too busy, find one who isn’t.
When looking for the best car accident lawyer, you’re likely to speak to both sole practitioners and lawyers at law firms. The initial consultation at a law firm will often be handled by an experienced senior attorney with the aim of impressing new clients.
But if you hire the firm, your case might then be handled by a less senior associate, who you’ll be dealing with on a day-to-day basis. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it’s worth learning about the individual lawyer you’ll be working with. You can request to meet them and find out whether you get along and if they have the various qualities you’re looking for.
You might also ask the less senior associate how closely they’ll be supervised by one of the senior attorneys. And find out what kind of access to the firm’s other resources they’ll have during your case.
All other factors being equal, it’s generally best to hire a car accident lawyer with more experience. And make sure that’s experience with personal injury law, preferably with car accident cases similar to yours.
A seasoned practitioner of general law might only have two years of experience as a personal injury attorney helping car accident victims. In this case, it may well be better to hire an attorney with more successful car accident cases under their belt, even if they have fewer overall years practicing law.
The best car accident lawyers will have a long track record of successful cases. Ask them what their track record is and see how they respond. Also, try to find out what these successful cases are comprised of.
Ideally, they should have many successful prior cases similar to yours in accident type, scope, and conditions. If you were in a minor car accident, for instance, which resulted in relatively small medical bills, then it would probably be fine for your attorney to have a track record of winning excellent settlement payouts for minor injury clients.
But if you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury in a serious car crash with multiple vehicles involved, then you’ll be pursuing a far higher settlement figure in a much harder lawsuit. Your attorney should have the greater experience required to handle this challenge.
As another example, if your personal injury case involves the complications of a drunk driver or other forms of reckless negligence, you might have a right to punitive damages in addition to your compensatory damages. It would then be best to find a lawyer with experience successfully recovering punitive damages in court for similar car crash victims.
An experienced attorney will often be happy to share at least one story of a similar car crash claim to yours, preferably where they’ve recently won their client a sizable financial settlement. Of course, the attorney/client privilege prevents any attorney from sharing the specifics of any cases.
But they can still share the broad strokes of a story with you. Sometimes they’ll even have full case studies prepared that can outline a client’s experience with them.
Not only do such stories help paint a picture of a lawyer’s expertise and competence, but they also give you a good idea of what kind of legal process you can expect if you hire them. Don’t be shy about making this request. Most competent professionals are ready and willing to recount their successes and achievements. And if an attorney has no recent stories to share, you might have found a red flag.
In order to choose the best car accident lawyer or law firm for your case, you need to have confidence in their abilities. Few things can build that confidence more surely than testimonials and references from past clients.
Ask if you can see a few testimonials and also request references for past clients and even current clients. Note how they react when you make this request. The right attorney will readily and willingly provide references as they’ve no doubt received the same request many times before.
Once again, ask for testimonials and references from similar clients to you. If you’ve had a serious accident, pay attention to the clients with a similar serious car accident claim. And make sure that testimonials mention winning a full and fair car accident settlement from the insurance company.
A good personal injury lawyer will receive plenty of referral business from other lawyers in their region. When one car accident lawyer has too many cases on their hands, they might pass a new prospective client along to another good car accident lawyer they know.
At a later date, the favor will often be returned. But this only works with two good attorneys. A poor-quality auto accident lawyer will rarely gain referral business. After all, no one wants to risk their own reputation by recommending a sub-par lawyer.
So a great question to ask any personal injury attorney you speak to is what percentage of their business comes from other lawyer referrals. Any experienced attorney should be able to give you a satisfactory answer.
About 95% of personal injury cases are resolved out of court with a settlement payout from the insurance company. But when an insurance company refuses to pay a fair settlement, a car accident case will sometimes be escalated to a full lawsuit and court case.
If a court trial becomes necessary in your car accident case, it will allow your car accident attorney to seek compensation for all of your damages before a judge and jury. A court case can be a costly and rather intimidating affair, but they also often result in a higher court-awarded payout, especially with more serious accidents with catastrophic physical injuries requiring extensive medical treatment and ongoing medical bills.
When insurance companies go to court, the plaintiff can expect to be facing a competent defense attorney. And if the defendant is a commercial entity, such as a large trucking company, you’re very likely to have a real battle on your hands.
It usually takes a skillful attorney with plenty of jury trial experience to argue a case before a jury and win full financial compensation for their client. But not all auto accident lawyers have court experience because so many personal injury cases never make it to court.
And so, it’s important to ask about court trial experience during your free consultations. Ask how often they try cases in court, what their rate of success is, and if they think your case might go so far.
Even if you don’t expect your case to end up in court, hiring a personal injury attorney with a reputation for trying and winning car accident lawsuits in court can often help with your negotiations. When plaintiffs hire well-reputed lawyers who try cases in court, they’re showing the insurance companies that they’re prepared to go all the way to the courtroom if necessary.
This often makes it easier to negotiate with insurance companies for a fair out-of-court settlement; insurance companies generally prefer to avoid expensive court trials when the odds are against them. So the right lawyer for car accidents is often an experienced trial lawyer, whether or not you expect to go to court.
And ideally, your chosen lawyer should be a member of the American Board of Trial Associates. This is a national association of experienced and well-respected trial lawyers and judges.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Texas, contact Brian C. Gutierrez today at 979-271-5338 for a free consultation and case evaluation. Gain the support and legal guidance you need with a seasoned and aggressive trial attorney fighting your corner.
If you have been injured in a car accident in College Station, Bryan, Madisonville, Huntsville, Buffalo, Caldwell, Navasota, Buffalo, Rockdale, Hempstead, or Brenham, it is important to speak with a lawyer who can help you understand your rights and guide you through the claims process. At the Law Office of Brian C. Gutierrez, Attorney Brian Gutierrez is committed to providing personalized legal services for victims of car accidents. When you work with our firm, you are working directly with Attorney Gutierrez. Our clients are like family—contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about the services we offer.
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