How to Hire a Georgia Personal Injury Attorney
Unless you have a personal injury attorney among your family or friends, or someone close to you has gone through the process of seeking compensation for their accident injuries, you’ve probably not given a lot of thought to how one goes about finding an attorney to represent their case. However, if you’ve found yourself in need of an attorney, now you’re asking: How do I do this?
Let’s walk through the process together.
What Are You Looking For?
A criminal defense attorney can’t represent you in your personal injury case, because that’s not within the realm of his or her practice area. A contract lawyer likely won’t help you much, either.
What you need is a lawyer who practices in the area of personal injury. These lawyers deal with the process of obtaining compensation for accident victims who were injured due to someone else’s negligence.
The many tasks involved in providing this service include evaluating injury-related expenses to determine how much to seek, collecting and organizing evidence that can show that someone else’s negligence caused your injuries, negotiating a settlement with an insurance company, and litigating your case in court if necessary. Some of the qualities your personal injury attorney must have are:
- The license to practice law in your state
- A working understanding of medical terms used to describe both your diagnosis and your prognosis to properly value your case
- Extensive experience both in negotiating settlements and litigating cases like yours
- In-depth knowledge of tort law, particularly when it involves negligence
Do Your Research
Should you begin your search for a personal injury attorney online, here are some pointers:
- A search for personal injury attorneys in your area typically will yield not only attorney websites, but reviews from others who have used that attorney’s services as well.
- When visiting the attorney’s website, you can generally see additional reviews as well as examples of settlements and awards that they have helped their clients recover. Remember that each case is unique. The award or settlement in any case reflects the compensation for the damages that were caused in that particular situation. There is no standard amount that each client receives.
- You can also check the state bar or court system’s database for disciplinary actions taken against the attorney. You can find the Georgia State Bar disciplinary action search here.
Attend a Consultation
Personal injury attorneys commonly provide a free initial consultation for prospective clients. This allows you to ask questions about the attorney’s experience in cases like yours as well as how the legal process works and your options for pursuing compensation. It is also a time for the attorney to learn more about your case.
These consultations are generally short, so bring the documents pertaining to your case and a list of questions you want to ask. Take these documents with you to give the attorney a better idea of the details of your case and the damages you’ve suffered:
- Medical documents such as bills, diagnostic reports, lab results, emergency room intake forms, prescriptions, and a schedule of upcoming appointments.
- A formal accident report provided by the investigating officer in the case of motor vehicle accident injuries, or a report filled out by you in other injury cases.
- Written professional opinions regarding your accident or injuries, such as an opinion from an accident expert, or an opinion from a medical professional regarding your prognosis. Include contact information for the professional, in case the attorney needs more information.
- Bills for property damage you sustained in the accident, such as car repair bills if you were in a car accident.
- Pictures taken by you or someone else of the accident scene.
- Written statements and contact information from anyone who witnessed your accident.
You may not have all of that information. Bring as much as you can, and your attorney may assist you in obtaining the rest, if necessary, appropriate, or available.
Your list of questions to ask the attorney may include:
- What is the statute of limitations for my case?
- What practice areas do you specialize in?
- Do you feel like I have a strong case, based on your experience?
- How many cases do you handle at one time?
- If you take my case, will you be the only attorney working on it?
- Who will be my point of contact, and how do you handle communication with clients?
- What is your fee structure, and what payment options are available to me?
- Do you expect my case to go to trial?
- Do you have past clients who can provide a reference for your services?
Attending a consultation with an attorney does not place you under any obligation to hire him or her. Prospective clients may attend consultations with multiple attorneys before deciding which one they’d like to work with. The attorney is also under no obligation to represent you, even if you’d like to hire him or her.
An attorney may opt not to take your case because:
- The case requires more time than his or her current caseload allows
- The case is not within a practice area that he or she feels comfortable working
When speaking with lawyers, remain wary of:
- Attorneys who cannot show results or experience in cases like yours
- Attorneys who state that your case will not go to trial. While the majority of personal injury cases settle out of court, you should hire an attorney who is comfortable with litigating your case, should the need arise
- Attorneys who have full caseloads, as this may result in delays in communication and progress in your case
- A senior attorney who meets with you but will turn the case over to another attorney and only become involved with your case if it goes to court
After You’ve Found the One
Once you’ve found the attorney you wish to hire and he or she has agreed to take your case, you will likely receive documents to sign. Be sure to read these documents carefully and understand them completely before signing. In addition, you should ask your attorney what happens next and whether he or she needs additional information from you.
If you’re looking for an experienced personal injury attorney, we would be happy to provide you with a free consultation. Contact us at The Champion Firm online or call (404) 596-8044.
Georgia Personal Injury Law FAQ
If you were in an accident, you certainly have questions that need answers. Here are some of the most common ones we hear from our clients.
What does “statute of limitations” mean, and how does it affect my case?
The statute of limitations is how long you have to file a personal injury lawsuit after your injury occurred. In Georgia, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is generally two years from the date of the accident. If you fail to file your case before that time period has passed, the court is unlikely to hear your case.
What is negligence?
Negligence is the most important part of your case, as you can’t sue someone for a personal injury unless their negligent actions led to the accident that caused your injury. Negligence is established by showing:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care.
- There was a breach in that duty of care.
- This breach led to the accident that caused your injuries.
Can I sue more than one at-fault party for the same accident?
Yes. You can sue any party whose negligence led to the accident that caused your injuries. Examples of multiple defendants in a personal injury case include suing a truck driver whose negligence caused the accident, and also suing the company the truck driver works for because he or she was on the job at the time of the accident. Another example is suing the driver who rear-ended you after following too closely, and also suing the manufacturer of your brake lights because they were defective and did not illuminate when you stopped.
If I hire a personal injury attorney, does that mean my case is going to trial?
Not necessarily. Before even filing a personal injury case, an attorney will attempt to negotiate a fair settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Many personal injury cases resolve without ever seeing the inside of the courtroom.
My boyfriend/girlfriend died in an accident. Can I file a wrongful death claim?
Typically, no. Wrongful death claims are generally filed by the decedent’s spouse or family members. Those who are eligible to seek compensation from a wrongful death claim include:
- The decedent’s spouse.
- The decedent’s children.
- If there is no surviving spouse or children, a surviving parent of the deceased.
- A personal representative of the decedent’s estate may also file a survivorship action, with compensation benefiting the next of kin.
How do you calculate how much my case is worth?
Many factors determine the value of a case, including:
- Past and future medical bills relating to your injury
- Lost wages due to missing work because of your injury and loss of future earning capacity
- Property damage involved in the accident, if applicable
- The amount of pain and suffering you endure because of your injury
- Any responsibility you bear for the accident that caused your injury
- Whether the defendant was willful in his or her negligence, which could result in punitive damages
Is there a minimum or maximum amount of compensation I can receive?
No. Georgia law does not place a cap on how much compensation an individual can receive or require cases to reach a particular dollar amount. However, the limits of the insurance policies involved do play a part in how much you are able to collect.
My health insurance policy has covered my medical treatments. Can my personal injury settlement reimburse them?
Yes, this often happens. It is known as a personal injury lien and most health insurance policies allow the insurer to recoup the cost of treatment if the personal injury case settles.
Should I speak to the at-fault party’s insurance company?
Not without speaking to your attorney first, and it is generally better to leave communication with the insurance company to your attorney. The insurance company is likely looking for a way to reduce the amount of money it must pay out on the claim, and it can use anything you say against you. For this same reason, avoid posting about your accident and your personal injury case on social media.
Do I really need an attorney?
In general, retaining an attorney is almost always a good idea. Insurance companies will often encourage a claimant to settle quickly and without the help of an attorney. This is generally a bad idea, because a quick settlement doesn’t take into consideration your future medical needs. Once you have settled, you cannot go back and seek more money for unexpected expenses that your injuries caused. An attorney will protect your right to collect compensation for your injuries if you are eligible for it and will make sure to properly value your case.
Injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence? Tell us about it. Contact us at The Champion Firm online or by calling (404) 596-8044 to schedule your free consultation.