If you have been hurt in an accident you are probably going through a tough time. You are dealing with injuries. You are attending appointments with your doctors. You may be losing work. You may be having trouble paying bills. You probably are being contacted by insurance companies to discuss your case. Lawyers may be contacting you even though you have not reached out to them.
While all of this can be very stressful, at some point you will need to decide whether or not you want to hire a lawyer. We have prepared a separate blog to help you consider whether or not you need to hire a lawyer. (Insert live link here). That blog discusses the pros and cons of hiring a lawyer, the importance of hiring a lawyer early, and what you can expect the lawyer to do to help you.
Once you have decided that you might want to hire a lawyer, you need to determine how to select a lawyer. Selecting a professional to help you with your personal injury case is not always the easiest thing to do. However, we have some pointers to help you along the way.
We hope that you consider hiring us, but even if you don’t, these pointers should help you during the process of selecting your lawyer. Remember, you don’t need to hire the first lawyer you talk to, or the lawyer a friend refers you to. Do your due diligence as suggested below. Pick the lawyer you are most comfortable with and that you think cares about you and your case.
- Get a referral from a trusted source: Sometimes the best way to find a good lawyer for your personal injury case is to get a referral from a friend, especially if they have had a problem like yours. Also consider asking other trusted professionals including doctors, ministers, social workers, bankers, or business people you trust.
- Try the Alaska bar association lawyer referral service: If you are having trouble finding the name of a lawyer, you may call the Alaska bar association’s free lawyer referral service. In Anchorage, call 907-272-0352. Their toll free number in Alaska is 1-800-770-9999. They will give you the names of three lawyers who might be able to help you. See the Alaska Bar Association at: https://alaskabar.org/for-the-public/how-to-select-a-lawyer/
- Do computer research to locate a lawyer: Don’t be afraid to do research on Google or other search engines to find a lawyer. Be an educated consumer and review the information you see online carefully.
- Have a free consultation: all good personal injury lawyers offer free consultations. The consultations are usually at the lawyer’s office, and provide an opportunity for you to meet the lawyer and for the lawyer to meet you. At the free consultation you will have an opportunity to discuss your case and ask your questions. The lawyer will also ask you questions to more fully understand your case.
During the free consultations or sometime shortly thereafter, the lawyer should make a decision about whether the lawyer wants to accept your case and is willing to represent you. The choice about whether or not you want to hire the lawyer is then yours. Do not allow a lawyer to pressure you into agreeing to hire them. The lawyer should make you feel comfortable if you want to go home and think about thing sor want to shop around for other lawyers.
- Feel free to talk to multiple lawyers: a free consultation is not only an opportunity for the lawyer to interview you to decide if he or she wants your case, it is also an opportunity for you to interview the lawyer to see if you want to retain that lawyer. Feel free to have multiple free consultations with multiple lawyers. Pick the lawyer you feel most comfortable with.
- Consider the lawyers fee arrangement: personal injury lawyers generally work on a contingency fee basis. This means the lawyer does not get paid by the hour. Instead the lawyer gets paid by receiving a percentage of the total recovery the lawyer obtains on your behalf. In Anchorage, personal injury lawyers often charge one third (33.33%) of the recovery. However, some charge more and some charge less. The contingent fee percentage may be negotiable with the lawyer.
Some lawyers charge by the hour. Though most personal injury lawyers prefer to charge a contingency fee, if you want to hire a lawyer and pay by the hours you should search for a lawyer who is willing to do that.
If the lawyer wants to charge you an upfront fee for a retainer for costs, this may be a red flag. Most personal injury lawyers in Anchorage, Alaska do not ask the client for money up front, unless the case is unusual.
At Pentlarge Law Group our fee is usually 33.33% of the recovery. Occasionally we negotiate our fees upward or downward for special cases. At Pentlarge Law Group we never charge an upfront retainer for costs or attorney fees. If we feel we are able to help you and want to take your case we front the expenses of prosecuting your case entirely on our own until it is resolved. (See our blog on Contingent Fees here.)
- Make sure you are comfortable with the lawyer: Make sure you are comfortable with the lawyer when you meet the lawyer. Does the lawyer listen to you? Does the lawyer ask appropriate questions? Does the lawyer answer your questions? Do the lawyer’s answers make sense? Do you think the lawyer actually cares about you and your case?
- Do not let a lawyer intimidate you or pressure you into hiring them: Remember, you are the consumer. You are shopping for a lawyer to represent you. Do not let a lawyer intimidate you into hiring them at the first meeting. At the initial consultation, the lawyer should learn about your case, answer all of your questions, and let you know whether the lawyer wishes to represent you. The lawyer should encourage you to shop around. The lawyer should never make you feel like you need to hire that lawyer now or never. (An exception here is when the statute of limitations is close to expiring. See our blog on the statute of limitations: (Insert live link.) If a lawyer needlessly pressures you, perhaps it is not the right lawyer for you.
- Read the fee agreement carefully: If you decide you want to hire the lawyer, and the lawyer agrees to take your case, the lawyer will give you a written fee agreement. All ethical personal injury attorneys in Anchorage Alaska represent their clients only after their clients sign a written fee agreement. Make sure you understand it. The lawyer should answer any questions you have. Do not hire the lawyer unless you understand the fee agreement and are comfortable with it after reading it.
- Conclusion: Hopefully the above guidelines will assist you in hiring a personal injury lawyer for your case if you decide you want one. The Alaska bar association also has information on how to select a lawyer here: https://alaskabar.org/for-the-public/how-to-select-a-lawyer/
The American bar association also has some general information which may be helpful here: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/law_issues_for_consumers.html