There are thousands of personal injury lawyers in the US. IBISWorld reported that as of 2023, there are more than 62,800 personal injury law firms in the US. Of the 50 states, California had the most at 22,334 law firms, followed by Florida and Texas.
Given these numbers, finding the right lawyer for your case should be a cinch. Unfortunately, not all lawyers will fit the bill. This article tackles what to avoid in a personal injury attorney. It also provides an overview of accidental injuries and deaths in the US and the role of personal injury lawyers.
Statistics on Accidental Injuries and Deaths
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated 31,785 people died in car accidents as of Q3 2022. Although it only translated to a 0.2 percent decrease from 2021’s data, thousands of auto accident victims may have initiated a personal injury claim.
Moreover, the National Safety Council (NSC) reported that in 2020, 4.8 million medically consulted injuries were due to vehicular accidents. The total expenses for these injuries amounted to $473.2 billion.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recorded 5,190 fatal work injuries in 2021, 426 more than in 2020. Consequently, the United States Courts stated that civil filings increased by 16 percent, including an increase of 45,523 cases in personal injury and product liability filings.
These filings represent months or years of work behind the scenes, depending on the case’s complexity. If you are filing a personal injury case, it would be best to retain an experienced attorney. They can protect your rights and help you get fair compensation for medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and other expenses.
Role of a Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury law applies when a person suffers an injury due to another’s intentional, negligent, or reckless behavior. An individual or entity may also be liable for personal injury for committing an action covered by strict liability.
In tort law, a plaintiff may be strictly liable when engaging in abnormally dangerous activity. It also applies when a defendant produces a defective and unsafe product.
For example, a car manufacturer sells vehicles with faulty brakes. Suppose someone buys a car from that company and sustains injuries due to defective brakes. In that case, they can file a personal injury case. This way, they can demand compensation for medical bills, property damage, and funeral expenses.
Other causes of personal injury include auto accidents, slip and fall incidents, construction site accidents, medical malpractice, and wrongful death. For instance, a healthcare professional that makes a medication error resulting in the patient’s injury committed medical malpractice.
A personal injury lawyer can provide legal advice and investigate the circumstances of your case. They can prove the elements of medical malpractice and other legal doctrines by collecting evidence. Relevant evidence includes medical records, police reports, and witness testimonies.
Moreover, a personal injury attorney can negotiate with the insurance company regarding your claim and get a fair settlement. They can also send demand letters and prepare pleadings to aid your personal injury lawsuit. Lastly, they provide legal representation by presenting evidence in court and examining witnesses.
13 Red Flags to Avoid in a Personal Injury Attorney
A personal injury lawyer plays a critical role in directly affecting the success of your case. As such, you must be aware of the warning signs that a lawyer may prove more of a liability than an asset. They can help you avoid common mistakes when hiring a personal injury attorney.
Lack of experience
Your personal injury lawyer must have the experience to represent your legal interests in and out of court. Although most parties in personal injury cases decide to settle out of court, your attorney must be ready to provide evidence and examine witnesses during a trial. Moreover, attorneys who always settle often secure a smaller settlement than warranted.
Experienced lawyers know what evidence to collect, the best strategy to persuade the judge and jury, and the angle to win a case. Hence, you should only hire an attorney with court experience.
Unresponsive to messages
Your lawyer should give regular updates to let you know the status of your personal injury lawsuit. Moreover, they should willingly answer your questions because you hired them for their legal knowledge and experience. It will help if they have staff who can answer your calls or schedule an appointment.
Hence, it would be best if you refrained from choosing an attorney who does not reply to your messages promptly. If they do not return messages and calls, they will likely not have time to handle your personal injury case.
Practices in many areas of law
Although general practitioners are still knowledgeable about tort law, they usually do not possess the expertise you need in your case. For example, if you were involved in a truck accident, you would need a seasoned truck accident lawyer.
Specialists in personal injury know the applicable laws and doctrines to your circumstances. Ideally, they have litigated and won cases similar to yours. As a result, you will have a higher chance of winning your case. You may miss these benefits if you rush to hire the first lawyer you contact.
Careless in handling tasks and documents
Suppose you suffered injuries due to an auto accident or a slip-and-fall incident. In that case, you would want a lawyer who examines every detail of your personal injury claim.
They should also review statutes and doctrines for possible inconsistencies or loopholes. Even a single misplaced word or symbol can change the trajectory of your case.
For example, Oakhurst Dairy truck drivers received a $5-million settlement due to the lack of an Oxford comma in the relevant provision. Although not a personal injury settlement, it shows the importance of having a lawyer who analyzes every case in detail.
Has other commitments
Suppose you schedule a meeting with your lawyer, but on the day of the meeting, your attorney says they cannot meet with you. As a result, you will only talk to their paralegal or associate. This scenario may indicate that your lawyer lacks time for all their casework.
Remember that your lawyer should take time to listen to your concerns and explain their strategies. They should be able to focus on your case, so you can get the best legal representation possible.
Unclear pricing terms
Unethical billing practices include vague pricing terms and hidden charges. As a result, you may be surprised at the amount you must pay. Hence, you should hire a personal injury lawyer who is upfront and clear about their pricing structure.
Most lawyers work on contingency.The lawyer receives a percentage of the settlement amount in this payment agreement. The fee may range from 20 to 50 percent of the award. Some may charge an hourly or daily rate, and others require a retainer fee for future legal services.
Whatever the arrangement, the critical factor is transparency. Get the lawyer’s fee agreement in writing before you start working with them. If the lawyer refuses to give you one, take that as a red flag.
Offers overly discounted services
You should beware of lawyers charging much lower than the standard for your area. They might not give exceptional legal representation because experienced lawyers do not underestimate their skills. Hence, it might be “too good to be true.”
Promises to win your case
State rules typically prevent lawyers from guaranteeing the result of a case. For instance, Rule 32:7.1 of the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct forbids attorneys from making false or misleading statements about their services. The law seeks to prevent legal counsels from using unscrupulous means to secure an excellent settlement offer or win a case.
Fails to provide references
An attorney’s past case results and former clients’ testimonials can give valuable insights into their professional strengths and weaknesses. If a lawyer fails to provide references, it may be because they don’t have the experience or success rates they claim.
It will also help if you ask about similar cases they have handled. For example, if you were involved in a car accident, inquire how many car crash cases they tackled successfully. This way, you can entrust your case to someone with a proven track record.
Lawyers who pressure clients to settle may have financial problems or lack experience in litigation. In some cases, they may lack the skills to negotiate with insurance adjusters.
Ultimately, the decision to continue with a lawsuit or accept a settlement offer is yours. A lawyer who puts undue pressure on clients to close are not acting in their best interest.
Aside from the technicalities, the emotional quality of the attorney-client relationship also matters. For instance, a personal injury lawyer should empathize with what you are experiencing. You want an attorney who cares for your well-being, not only for the fees they can receive.
You should also refrain from hiring a lawyer who shows a pessimistic attitude. It might be difficult for them to convince a jury or the judge to rule in your favor.
If your lawyer makes you feel like an annoyance to them, it might be time to move on. Find another law firm or solo practitioner with compassion and a positive outlook.
Exhibits disrespectful behavior
An ethical personal injury lawyer should negotiate and communicate with others respectfully. Consider it a red flag when colleagues or former clients do not accord an attorney professional respect. Those individuals have worked with your legal counsel, so they can attest to the attorney’s attitude and level of professionalism.
Works in an unorganized office
A messy law office can indicate inefficiency. It may also mean that the attorney does not have the proper resources to manage their cases. Hence, it would help to choose an attorney who exemplifies professionalism by having an organized office.
3 Ways To Find a Personal Injury Attorney
Some people might have difficulty finding a personal injury lawyer or law firm. However, you can try asking for referrals, contacting lawyers you already know, and visiting lawyer websites.
1. Referrals from friends and family members
You can contact your friends, colleagues, and family members who have hired lawyers for personal injury claims. Since these kinds of cases are relatively common, you likely know someone who has filed a personal injury lawsuit.
Take note that you still need to meet with referred attorneys to discuss your case’s unique facts. It also allows you to gauge if you can have a good attorney-client relationship.
2. Contact lawyers you already know
You might know any number of lawyers, but they may not have the expertise you need for personal injury claims. For example, the attorney you know might have expertise in labor law. Still, it is not related to your case involving an injury accident.
However, most lawyers know others with different specialties and may regularly work with them. Ask the lawyers you know for a recommendation for someone with experience in personal injury lawsuits. Professional referrals are particularly helpful because most would not risk their reputation by making a bad recommendation.
3. Visit lawyer websites
Lawyer websites typically have a directory of lawyers with different specialties in various states. The Personal Injury Center has a network of lawyers specific to personal injury and medical malpractice. It can match you with experienced personal injury attorneys to get you started.
Did you know?
Each state has a statute of limitations forbidding individuals from filing a personal injury lawsuit after a certain period. For instance, Arizona sets a two-year limit, while Missouri has a five-year limit on this kind of proceeding.
Hire Reputable Personal Injury Attorneys
A personal injury lawyer provides legal advice and representation, gathers documentary evidence, and helps secure compensation for your injuries. However, you must know how to discern if the attorney has the experience and skills to handle your case effectively. These 13 red flags can help.
You can also visit The Personal Injury Center to find an experienced attorney specializing in personal injury law. We understand the challenges of finding a lawyer to help you recover compensation or get a fair settlement. Book your free consultation today!
Do you need the services of a personal injury attorney? The Personal Injury Center offers free legal information to help safeguard your rights after an accident. Schedule your free consultation today.
FAQs on Personal Injury Attorney
Can you hire a personal injury attorney from another state?
You can retain a personal injury lawyer from another state, but they must undergo a process called pro hac vice admission. This allows a licensed lawyer in good standing in one state to appear before the court in another state for a specific case.
The process requires that a local lawyer in good standing acts as local counsel. The out-of-state lawyer must follow the rules and regulations of the case's jurisdiction, including local ethics and rules of procedure.
What are the qualifications to become a personal injury attorney?
You must earn a bachelor's degree and take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). After completing a law degree, you must pass the bar examination.
Some states require lawyers to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). Lastly, you must engage in continuing legal education.
How much compensation can you receive in a personal injury lawsuit?
The amount of compensation or settlement you can get depends on the circumstances of your case. For example, an immediate family member who filed a wrongful death lawsuit may receive a higher amount than a victim of a minor car accident.