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You are driving down the road, you stop at a red light, you think about all the things you want to accomplish today, and then BAM! You hear the thud, you shake forward and back and you are a little in shock. You gather your composure and then realize that someone has crashed into your car.
All of the sudden, your big plans for the day are gone. You will spend the rest of the day waiting for the police to show up, figuring out what to do about transportation, cancelling plans and determining how badly you are hurt.
And if you are like most people, you really have no good idea what you need to do when you’re in a car accident. Your friends and family members encourage you to consult an accident attorney. But how do you find the right one?
The Wrong Way to Choose an Accident Attorney
Before I tell you the best way to find a car accident attorney in Nashville, let me tell you a story about a conversation I had with a friend of mine many years ago (before the Internet existed).
We were catching up and she lamented that she was going through a divorce and her lawyer was terrible. He wasn’t getting anything done and he wouldn’t return her calls.
I asked the natural question, “How did you find him?”
I was stunned by her response, “I found him in the Yellow Pages.”
I knew this person well enough to know she would not choose a hair stylist out of the Yellow Pages. Without a personal referral, she wouldn’t trust a stranger to cut her hair. But, she would turn over one of the most significant events in her life, one with far reaching consequences, to a lawyer she found in an advertisement.
When you think of it that way, it sounds crazy. However, I’m here to tell you, yesterday’s Yellow Page ad is today’s television commercial. Although there is nothing wrong with advertising, the fact that a law firm can pay for a TV ad has absolutely no correlation to the attorney’s abilities or just as importantly, his desire to help you.
How to Choose the Right Car Accident Lawyer
So, how do you find the right lawyer for your case? While it seems intimidating, it really is a pretty simple process.
1. ASK AROUND.
Get a personal referral. Speak to friends and colleagues and find out which attorneys they know and have used previously. Ask questions like:
- Were you happy with him or her?
- Did the lawyer keep you informed and up to date?
- Did you have regular communication with the attorney?
- Did he or she return your phone calls and emails in a timely fashion?
- Did the lawyer seem passionate about your case?
If the answer to even one of those questions is no, strongly consider looking elsewhere.
2. DO YOUR RESEARCH. WILL THE ATTORNEY BE A GOOD FIT FOR YOU?
Once you get a referral, don’t forget to research the attorney’s credentials. Conduct an Internet search for an experienced personal injury attorney in Nashville or for the best car accident lawyer in Middle TN. Then, be sure to read the various websites and spend time looking at the lawyer’s credentials. Look for:
- Has the attorney handled your type of case before?
- Does he regularly go to trial?
- Is she willing to go to trial or will she push hard to settle your case? It is well known that most cases settle. However, while many cases should settle, not all of them should.
- You need a lawyer who is known for a willingness to try cases, even difficult ones. You would not be afraid of a dog that didn’t bare its fangs. A claims adjuster is not afraid of a lawyer who won’t try a case. Ask for specifics.
- While it is important that you have a good relationship with your lawyer, you are not hiring him to be your friend. You are hiring an advocate.
- You need to make sure you retain a lawyer with a proven track record of success.
- Look for credentials such as board certifications, peer ratings from other attorneys, ratings from Avvo or Martindale and other legal awards.
- You have every right to expect, require and demand your lawyer be highly qualified. Simply getting your license to practice doesn’t mean you are qualified to handle a case properly.
The Money to Finance Your Case.
Most people don’t consider this when retaining a lawyer. However, car accident lawsuits are expensive.
- You want to make sure your lawyer can afford to handle your case from start to finish and that finances don’t influence his decisions. Taking depositions and hiring experts are expensive. Make sure you retain a lawyer who can afford to do so. How do you do this?
- Take a look around his office. Does he have a nice building, sufficient space, good location, and proper staff? If a lawyer doesn’t have these things, he likely can’t afford them. Hiring a lawyer who can’t afford your case may result in your claim being compromised. His financial challenges are not yours.
The Passion to Handle Your Case.
There are literally hundreds of lawyers to choose from.
- You want a lawyer who will fight for you and family, placing higher value on your recovery than his bank account.
- Many lawyers will tell you what you want to hear to get your case. Then, when he opens the file and realizes your injuries are not severe or there is a lack of insurance coverage, he quickly loses interest. This is not who you want to be your lawyer.
Remember that you are hiring a personal injury lawyer, not a paralegal.
- Make sure you hire a lawyer who will take your calls,
- Return your emails and
- Answer your questions.
Ask about the attorney’s policy with regard to this. For instance, I tell my clients I will return all calls and emails within 48 hours. I have a regularly scheduled appointment, either by phone or in person, every six weeks. If I understand you, and know what is going on in your life, I can best ensure you get the result you want and need.
Also, if you know what is going on with your case, it will help you to get through a very difficult time in your life and let you focus on your recovery. I get a number of clients who have been previously represented. The complaints about their prior lawyers are almost always the same -my lawyer wouldn’t talk to me, I didn’t know what was going on with my case. Don’t let that be you.