Consulting with a capable lawyer is one of the best things you can do to improve the likelihood of a favorable outcome in your personal injury case. When your case warrants engaging an attorney, choosing a reputable and experienced personal injury lawyer can add substantial value to your case.
In fact, studies have found that legal representation greatly increases the chance that an accident victim will receive compensation. Analyses of automobile insurance claims further reveal that settlement amounts are much higher for claimants who decide to hire a lawyer. That’s because a qualified personal injury lawyer understands how to build a case in a way that puts pressure on insurance companies to pay what the law allows.
On the other hand, an incompetent or unethical lawyer can certainly hinder your ability to obtain adequate compensation. The sad truth is that not every lawyer holds themselves to high standards of ethical conduct and excellence in their field. Fortunately, you can protect yourself if you start with learning the answers to some common questions about personal injury cases and keep an eye out for the following red flags:
They Offer Guarantees
The fact of the matter is that in personal injury suits, there are no guarantees. Trustworthy lawyers weigh the likelihood that a case will be settled in the claimant’s favor before they decide to take it on, but there’s no way to know for sure exactly how a case will turn out.
Among reputable lawyers and the Texas State Bar, it is considered best practice to include language in a client contract that expressly does not promise favorable results. While Austin accident lawyers may make predictions or estimate the value of a settlement, they should not offer any guarantees.
If a lawyer promises you specific payment amounts or guarantees some type of settlement, it means that he or she is not being honest with you about all the possible outcomes of your case.
They’re Hard to Get a Hold Of
Your lawyer should be held to the same standards of professionalism that you’d expect from anyone you hire. Therefore, you should expect your attorney to return calls quickly and to provide regular updates on the status of your case.
If your attorney will not answer or return your calls, it’s a bad sign. Not just unprofessional, it may indicate that your lawyer doesn’t truly think your case is worth pursuing — and hasn’t taken the ethical step to tell you so upfront. Failure to respond can also be a sign that your lawyer has more cases than they can handle, which means they probably do not have adequate resources to focus on your case.
They Expect You to Pay Right Away
Most reputable personal injury lawyers take cases on a contingency basis, meaning they don’t expect payment until (or if) you receive a settlement. In a contingency arrangement, legal fees are deducted from your settlement after you receive payment. Typically, these fees are expressed as a percentage of compensation rather than as an hourly rate.
This payment structure is not only beneficial to accident victims, who may be struggling with high medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses, but also serves as motivation for your attorney. Having a stake in your case should motivate your attorney work harder for a favorable outcome.
In fact, many personal injury lawyers will agree to review your case free of charge. That way they can provide information about the likely outcome of your case, which will help you decide if hiring an attorney is truly the best choice for you.
If a personal injury lawyer asks for payment upfront, or charges you for an initial case evaluation, it may be a sign that he or she is not the most trustworthy individual.
They Aren’t Clear About How They Bill
In most cases, the money accident victims recover is used to pay for outstanding legal fees, medical bills, and in some cases other expenses, like payments owed to insurance companies. Your lawyer should be able to explain how your settlement will be divided among these parties and exactly how he or she bills for services. Lawyers should also clearly state the percentage they will be paid from your settlement, and how fees will be affected if your case goes to trial.
Lawyers who work on a contingency bases are required by Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct (―TDRPC‖) 1.04(d) to present these terms in a written engagement letter or agreement. If you do not receive written documentation explaining the attorney’s fees and the contingency structure, that is a clear violation of Texas State Bar rules and indicates the lawyer is not to be trusted.
They Have a Poor Reputation Online
Online reviews can tell you a lot about how a firm operates. Hiring a lawyer is just like hiring any other professional: bad reviews are a sign that you probably won’t receive the best service. When deciding whether or not to engage a firm to handle your case, it’s wise to carefully read reviews on Yelp, Google, and AVVO, an online directory of practicing attorneys. A reputable firm like ours maintains excellent reviews on all three platforms, with stellar client feedback.
They Don’t Seem That Concerned About You
An accident is a trying time with many challenges, physical and otherwise. The best personal injury lawyers understand this fact and express compassion for your situation and concern for your individual well-being. That means being willing to answer any and all questions you have with sympathy and kindness. A lawyer who seems unconcerned about your questions or welfare is not someone you should trust with your case.
At FVF, we hold ourselves to very high standards for ethical conduct. We strive to be transparent, respectful, and honest with each and every individual who contacts us. As a part of that commitment, we offer a free case consultation, where we review your accident and explain your options — without any fees or obligation to engage our services. Our first priority is to ensure that you have the information you need to make the best choices for you. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to achieve such a strong reputation among Austin accident lawyers. To arrange your free case evaluation, contact us today.