After an accident, you may want to hire a lawyer to help you recover the damages you deserve. But how do you go about finding the one that will best represent you and your interests?

Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

Many accidents are minor “fender benders” with negligible damages that can be handled through your insurance company. Some, however, involve more serious personal injuries, significant damage to the vehicles or to surrounding property, or even fatalities. In these cases, the process of recovering damages is typically much more complicated.

An experienced lawyer can help in a number of ways, including the following:

  • Negotiate: Your lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company to be sure you get the compensation you deserve. Otherwise, you may end up with the lowest payment amount the insurance company can get away with paying.
  • Guide: A lawyer will understand the state laws, and will be able to guide you through them to be sure you don’t run into roadblocks. Each state has a statute of limitations, for example—a time limit for filing a lawsuit. A lawyer can inform you of these limits and make sure you are prepared. He or she can also help you understand all the potential damages available to you.
  • Protect: Some insurance companies will drag their feet in an attempt to avoid payouts. They’re main goal is to keep costs down so they will remain profitable. They may deny your claim based on technicalities, refuse to pay medical bills, or engage in other forms of client mistreatment. Your personal injury lawyer can help protect you from these types of tactics.
  • Serve: An attorney can take over all the paperwork involved in recovering damages after an accident, freeing up your time to deal with your medical and financial issues and family needs. He can take your statement, get the police report, and correspond with the insurance companies on your behalf. He can also help prove liability.

Finally, a lawyer can help you take care of all the loose ends that may exist after your accident, including settling all the claims and making sure all bills are paid.

How Do I Find a Good Lawyer?

Once you decide that you need a good lawyer to protect your interests in a serious car accident, how do you go about finding one?

  1. Does she have the right kind of experience and resources? Ask the lawyer how long she has practiced personal injury law. Look for experience, and ask to see references. If your accident was severe and/or involved wrongful death, look for someone with longer experience. Does your lawyer have the staff and resources to go up against the largest insurance companies and win?
  2. How is his track record? Experience with personal injury law is good, but it’s not enough to protect your interests. Look at your attorney’s track record. Does he have a history of securing favorable verdicts and settlements? Has he handled cases similar to yours?
  3. What kind of reputation does he have? Check websites to see how your attorney is rated by other clients and by other lawyers.
  4. Does she return calls? How well your lawyer and his or her staff communicates with you can make a big difference in whether you are satisfied with her performance. Busy lawyers are often good lawyers, but you should be able to schedule a time to discuss issues.
  5. Is he honest? Does your lawyer speak openly and honestly with you about your case? Does he tell you where the challenges lie, and what obstacles you may encounter? Beware those that paint too rosy a picture—they may not be able to deliver.
  6. How is the staff? A lawyer’s staff says a lot about her. These professionals order records, answer routine questions, schedule depositions, and conduct other day-to-day tasks that are important to your case. They also serve as a doorway to your lawyer. Are they efficient and helpful?
  7. Do you feel comfortable with him and his team? This is probably the most important question. You will be working with your lawyer and his staff for several months or longer to resolve your case. It’s important that you feel comfortable with the person, and that you feel you can trust him and his team to do their jobs well.