Post-Accident: What to Know When Looking for an Attorney
When an accident occurs, most people are understandably flustered. With over 107,000 accidents per year in Arizona, but only 777 being fatal, the type of accident and injury could vary greatly. Indeed, the accident could be as serious as going to the hospital, or it could be just merely finding out which friend has the backyard mechanic. Despite the broad variance of possible injuries that could occur in an accident, however, an attorney could be needed no matter how serious the accident is. Thus, what to know when looking for an attorney becomes extremely important and will possibly be the determining factor in the outcome of your case.
But how do you choose? Between all the ads, friends of friends who know attorneys, your cousin who is in law school, or that friend who suggests they’ve acquired a law degree through binge watching “Law and Order: SVU” on Netflix, sifting through the mud to find the right attorney may be harder than one realizes. The right attorney will always have one focus: you, the client and injured victim. Additionally, it is not what is said, but what is in the contract between you and the attorney. We outline three things to identify that not only protect you, but help you find the right attorney.
- Fees—The Attorney Shouldn’t Receive More than the Client: In recent years, the advertising coming out of law firms has increased, but there seems to be one consistent message: fees. Fees can vary from firm to firm, and, further, from attorney to attorney within the same firm. However, the focus should not be on the attorney’s fees; instead, your focus should be on “net equality.” Net equality is a concept that the attorney will charge fees at their designated rate, but vows not to take more than the client (you). This seems like a fair deal, right? Well, sometimes, cases go so far that the attorney’s fees actually outweigh what the client is to receive in a settlement. Thus, without a “net equality” clause the client will literally turn over their entire settlement to the attorney. To avoid situations such as that, make sure there is a “net equality” clause in the contract you sign. And, given its importance, it should be in the beginning pages of the attorney-client representation agreement, not buried somewhere for you to never see. The Law Offices of Michael Cordova go as far as putting it on the main page of their website. Additionally, the language should be fairly simple for you to understand with straight forward verbiage: “attorney’s fees shall not exceed the net amount that client will receive.” (1st page of our own attorney-client representation agreement). Not only will a “net equality” clause provide you a guarantee of a fair and equal outcome between yourself and your attorney, but it also speaks volumes of the attorney’s character.
- Attorney Facetime: This, again, seems like a pretty reasonable request; however, frequently, clients go into a firm, get assigned an attorney, but never meet. Instead, the client’s entire interaction is with the secretary, and paralegal. This is personally objectionable to me, and it should be for you, as well. A personal injury is just that—personal. Thus, when you are injured, you most certainly should have some facetime with the attorney who is going to make you whole. Moreover, looking someone in the eye while they tell you the terms of the contract will build a sense of trust, and build the relationship needed for such a personal subject. This is, yet again, just another personal guarantee from the attorney that they are there for you.
- Due Diligence: Never rush when choosing your attorney, though recognize that time is against you in how far down the road you can bring suit. The importance of this is even more so when dealing with a personal injury. The very nature of a personal injury makes someone susceptible to making a quick, and possibly wrong, decision due to nervousness, concern, or confusion arising out of the accident. Therefore, pumping the brakes (no pun intended) to make the right decision pays huge dividends in the end. Using due diligence can take many forms, but some of the best places are: reviews, and attorneys’ bios. In looking for reviews, check your favorite downtime activity—social media wondering. Businesses use social media to get their message out there, but clients and customers use social media to either praise, or criticize their interaction with businesses. Twitter enables you to speak your mind instantaneously, while Facebook and Google+ come with the more traditional “review” system consumers have come to know. But, don’t write Twitter off! Instead, use it for something that can be fixed immediately, like: “I haven’t heard from my attorney in 35 days.” If this doesn’t get a response, you might want to reconsider your options. Thus, social media is a great tool to find candid reviews of what people think about the law firm. To get a closer look into the law firm, gander on over to their website and find the attorneys’ bios. Here, you can get a unique sense of the attorney’s character, their experience, commitment, and even other activities in which they are involved. If you didn’t walk away with a sense of trust when you met the attorney, as indicated above, check out the attorney’s LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is unique, in that it amalgamates consumer reviews and peer reviews providing the top-rated qualities of the attorney.
Getting into an accident is a horrible experience; teaming up with the wrong attorney could be an accident waiting to happen. To avoid finding yourself with the wrong attorney, and possibly prolonging your process of getting back to your everyday schedule, there are three simple things to bear in mind post-accident: checking for a “net equality” clause; meeting your attorney and being informed of their availability, and; committing yourself to performing some due diligence. Combining these three simple notes, along with partly trusting your gut, anyone can find the right attorney with the right focus—you.