6 questions to ask when hiring a personal injury lawyer

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A search for personal injury lawyers in your city will likely generate pages of results. How do you narrow down the list?

Referrals from friends, family and coworkers help. Nolo's lawyer directory and the State Bar of California's lawyer referral services help. Once you get a few candidates, it's best to meet with them to find the best fit for you and your case.

During this meeting the lawyer will want to know the facts of your case. You'll also want to ask him or her a few important questions to find out if they have the right mix of experience and personality.

Here are 6 key questions to ask to find the right personal injury lawyer.

1. What experience do you have with my type of case?

Personal injury law covers many areas: car, bike and pedestrian accidents, wrongful death, assaults, elder abuse and workers' compensation issues, among others. While many personal injury lawyers have experience in multiple areas, find one with lots of experience with your type of case.

If a drunk driver ran a red light and hit your SUV, which then smashed the front of a 7-Eleven, hire a lawyer with extensive auto accident experience. Look for someone familiar with common legal issues associated with your case and with connections to investigators, expert witnesses and others who may assist.

2. Has your license ever been suspended or revoked?

If she says yes, she may have a good reason. Find out the details. Regardless of the situation, a suspension or revocation is a red flag.

3. Who will work on my case?
Many personal injury attorneys have assistants and paralegals to help with drafting and filing documents. If your lawyer delegates your entirecase to a junior associate, will you get the same level of experience?

I directly handle every case I accept. When you get a call from my office, most likely it's from me, not from my assistant.

4. How long will it take to resolve my case?
Your lawyer should be able to give you a rough estimate. Civil procedures can drag on, so make sure your lawyer is committed to resolving your case as quickly as possible.


5. What's your fee?

Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee, which means they earn a percentage of whatever amount they recover. The standard fee is one-third of the recovery.

6. Can you provide me with references?

If your lawyer has been in business for a reasonable amount of time, he should have a roster of satisfied clients. If he doesn't, it's a sign he's not providing a high level of service.

After 40 years of practice, I have a long list of references to provide, as well as multiple testimonials.

When you're injured or you're caring for an injured family member, the last thing you want to do is talk to a bunch of lawyers. But asking a few key questions of your top picks will ensure you have a trusted partner that will see your case to the finish.

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David G. Smith, Attorney At Law
2201 Broadway
Penthouse 1
Oakland, CA 94612

Phone: 510-431-2598
Fax: 510-893-2701
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