HOW TO FIND AND HIRE A SANTA ROSA PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
So you have been injured in an auto or motorcycle accident, maybe tripped and fell on a dark stairway, or injured by a defective product. You are thinking it would be a good idea to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to fight for you. This is generally a good idea! Most cases are going to be against a big insurance company with plenty of experienced insurance adjusters and lawyers. It is their job to avoid paying you or to pay you as little as possible. Get a good lawyer to handle your case. In most cases, the lawyer can recover enough additional money to cover his or her fees.
WHAT DOES IT COST TO HIRE A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER?
Most good personal injury attorneys handle cases on a contingent fee–if they do not win they don’t get paid and you owe nothing. If a lawyer suggests an hourly fee, keep looking!
In California, attorney fees, even contingent fees, are negotiable. That said, most Santa Rosa area personal injury lawyers charge a fee of one-third of the amount recovered with the fee increasing to forty percent and more depending upon whether the case gets filed in court or ends up going to trial. Note that the Court must approve the fees charged to in the case of an injury to a minor; most lawyers ask and get approved for twenty-five percent for children’s injury cases. Most good lawyers do NOT charge a fee on amounts recovered for your damaged vehicle.
HOW DO I FIND AND EVALUATE A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER?
If you have access to the internet through your computer or smart phone, there is a wealth of information available about lawyers and law firms online. Many personal injury lawyers have a contact form built into their website which allows you to enter your information, a description of your case, and request that the lawyer’s office call or email you.
Most lawyers have an on-line presence from which you can get information about their practice and see what other people think through their reviews and testimonials. You can use any search terms when searching for a lawyer but you should generally try a search like this: “personal injury lawyer Santa Rosa” or “Santa Rosa motorcycle accident lawyer”.
Including the name of your town (or the nearest larger town with many lawyers and a courthouse) will generally improve your results and screen out firms that are based elsewhere but troll for work in your town. For example, we have had many clients hire a Los Angeles firm after meeting a representative at a small satellite office only to learn later that that office is not always manned and they are unable to meet with their lawyer when they need to. We recommend that you hire a local lawyer that gives you needed access and is familiar with the local legal terrain.
Another good source for locating a Santa Rosa personal injury lawyer is the Sonoma County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service (707) 546-5297 or website.
MAKE CONTACT WITH THE LAWYER AND HER/HIS STAFF
Your first contact with a legal professional will usually be by telephone, whether you call the office or they call you in response to an internet contact form. Keep in mind that most good lawyers have a good staff member whose job it is to sort through the incoming calls, take basic information about your case, and make an initial judgment whether yours is the type of case they handle and whether they would consider your case. It is simply not realistic for a working lawyer to take every call from every potential new client. Rest assured that most legal assistants who field these calls are very knowledgeable and talking to them is not a waste of your time or theirs. These are generally very smart, capable people!
You should assess how the legal office treats you during the initial contacts. Consider if they are rude or short or difficult to communicate with at this stage, they are likely going to be worse once you are signed up as a client. Also, as a practical matter, during the course of your case you will likely communicate regularly with a staff member so make sure this is an office that fits with you and your needs.
WHAT IF THE LAW FIRM DOESN’T WANT MY CASE?
There are a number of reasons why a lawyer might not be interested in your case. Here are some of the typical reasons:
1. How the Accident Occurred
Since your personal injury lawyer only gets paid when you win, the lawyer will want to have some confidence that you have a winnable case. It is not enough that someone was injured, it has to be the result of the negligence (or other fault) of another party. For example, if you pull out from a stop sign in front of an oncoming vehicle, the collision is your fault and most lawyers would refuse that case.
2. The Injury is Not Serious Enough to Involve the Lawyer
Nearly every accident results in some injury, damage, and inconvenience. Not every accident is serious enough to justify involving a lawyer. Most lawyers look at the type of injury and the nature, extent, and costs of treatment for those injuries and make a judgment call on whether the case is worth the attorney’s time to pursue. While we realize that every case, and every injury is personal, we are not doing you a service by taking the case and causing you to net less in a settlement that you would have had without a lawyer. Some smaller cases are suitable for a Small Claims action where lawyers are not allowed.
We appreciate that every injury hurts, every accident is a huge inconvenience, no one wants to call a personal injury lawyer. So, when the lawyer or legal assistant tells you your case is “not big enough” please understand that we understand, we get it. In declining a case because the injuries are not “bad” enough, we do so with respect and understanding about what you are going through. We just cannot take every case. In other words, we may pass on your case because the expected monetary compensation will simply not justify the time or expense necessary for a lawyer to bring the case to a conclusion.
3. Other Problems with Your Case
There are a number of reasons why your particular injury claim might be declined by a lawyer. Some examples are that you have one or more significant gaps in the timeline of your treatment. It may be that you have a prior or subsequent injury to the same part of your body which clouds the picture of what was and was not caused by this accident. Most good lawyers will be candid with you about the reason they are unable to take your case. If you talk to several lawyers and they all cite the same reason for declining your case, you would be wise to consider their concerns before proceeding.
We hope that this article gives the consumer of legal services and better understanding of the process for locating and selecting a lawyer for a personal injury case. Please feel free to contact the Law Offices of Kevin McConnell, P.C., for a free, confidential, no obligation assessment of your case. If we can help you with your case, we will be glad to give our usual high-quality legal service. If we are unable to help you, we will do our best to give you some useful advice and point you in the right direction.