Trauma Survivors Network - provided by ATS

Survive. Connect. Rebuild.

A Program of the ATS

Hiring an Attorney

If you or a family member has an injury as a result of an accident, you may need a lawyer to assist with financial or legal concerns, and in some cases file a civil lawsuit. In a civil suit you initiate and control all aspects of the case.

Legal assistance may be required if you have been denied medical or financial benefits, need to obtain power of attorney, or need to establish a trust fund. Once you have decided to look for an attorney, it is vital that you take the time to select an attorney who will best represent your interests and who specializes in personal injury. While making this selection can be daunting, there are things you can do to make the process easier.

One of the most critical aspects is to hire an attorney as early in the process as possible. Also, if filing a civil suit, each state has a statute of limitations that establishes a certain period after which you can no longer file a claim. To find legal counsel, ask for recommendations from someone you know who has good judgment or someone who has had a good experience utilizing an attorney in a similar case. Be sure to find an experienced attorney who specializes in personal injury and/or wrongful death cases, particularly those with expertise in your particular accident. It is important to feel comfortable with your attorney because you will need to have trust and confidence in him or her during a time of uncertainty and unrest.

Usually, attorneys do not charge a fee for an initial interview, but be sure to ask ahead of time if there is a consultation fee. Also, free legal aid is available to low-income families meeting certain criteria. Contact the Legal Aid Society in your area for more information.

Consider asking a trusted family member or friend to accompany you to the attorney interviews. During the interviews, be sure to ask questions about the attorney's experience, fee structure, percentage of cases settled before going to trial, and his or her percentage of cases won. Be sure you understand the cost involved and the method of payment required. It is a good idea to take notes during the interviews. Meeting with several attorneys in a row can get confusing, and your notes will help you remember details so you can select the right person for you.

After reviewing your case, an attorney should be able to tell you if your case is worth pursuing. If the attorney does not think you will have a good legal outcome, consider getting a second or even third opinion.

If you finally decide to hire an attorney and file a claim, expect to pay the attorney on average one third of your settlement. However, this percentage will vary depending on the case and is only owed once a settlement is made. If you lose the case, then you are required to pay all out-of-pocket legal expenses. These expenses should be determined at your initial attorney meeting.

Remember These Helpful Hints When Hiring an Attorney:

  • Seek referrals from someone you know who has good judgment.
  • Call your local bar association for referrals.
  • Interview several attorneys before making a final decision and bring a family member or friend along to interviews.
  • Take good notes during all initial interviews.
  • Hire an attorney early in the process.
  • Hire an attorney with experience and specialization in personal injury.
  • Understand the cost involved and payment method required.
  • Consult with an attorney before signing any settlement agreement(s).