It’s possible to end up in a vicious cycle of disability and financial hardship if you’ve been injured in a car accident. You might need medical treatment and therapy, but your injuries may prevent you from working. Without medical care, you can’t work, and without work, you can’t afford medical care.
But there’s another option. If your accident resulted from someone else’s negligence, you can hire a car accident lawyer and pursue compensation for your injuries. Learn how to choose the best car accident attorney in St. Petersburg to represent you in your claim.
The Role of the Car Accident Attorney
Before you choose a car accident attorney, you should understand the skills a lawyer must have to guide your injury case to a successful conclusion.
Florida uses a no-fault insurance system for auto injuries. When you buy auto insurance in Florida, your policy includes personal injury protection (PIP).
After a car accident involving minor injuries, you’ll file an insurance claim with your insurer under your PIP coverage. But accident victims can go outside the no-fault system and file a claim against the at-fault driver if their medical costs exceed their PIP policy limits or they suffer a significant and permanent injury.
Thus, there are three scenarios in which you might hire a car accident attorney:
- If your insurer denies your claim for PIP benefits, an injury lawyer may help you overcome the claim denial.
- If you fall into an exception to the no-fault system, an injury lawyer can file a liability claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance.
- If you can’t settle your liability claim against the at-fault driver’s insurer, an injury lawyer can file a lawsuit against the driver.
An injury lawyer must have several skills to perform these tasks for you, including:
A lawyer must know the law and how to apply it to a new set of facts. They must use case precedent and prior experience to predict how your case will be resolved, including how much money you can expect to recover.
A lawyer must be skilled in two types of communication.
First and foremost, they must communicate objectively when analyzing your case and providing legal advice, providing an open and honest assessment of your case and giving clear advice about how to proceed.
Second, they should advocate persuasively for your position when dealing with other parties, such as insurers, opposing lawyers, judges, and jurors.
When you file an insurance claim or a lawsuit, you must prove your claim with evidence.
Your lawyer needs to be able to collect evidence, like police reports and medical records, to support your claim. They must also be able to keep track of this evidence and produce it when needed, as well as adhere to docket deadlines and complete necessary tasks on time.
Finding and Choosing the Best Car Accident Attorney in St. Petersburg
Most accident victims never hire an injury lawyer. But when they do, they need the best one possible, as failure to secure compensation could result in medical difficulties and financial ruin.
Some steps to take when selecting a car accident lawyer include:
Create a Pool of Candidates
First, create a list of lawyers to meet. All lawyers learn tort law, which is the basis for all personal injury claims. You should pick one with experience in the law and a track record for winning or settling cases.
You have a few ways to find candidates, including:
Referrals provide the most valuable source of lawyers for your candidate pool. When friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers recommend a lawyer, you get a sneak preview of their characteristics and abilities. The people you trust wouldn’t recommend a lawyer unless they were happy with the results the lawyer produced.
Declining to provide a referral can also have value. If someone can’t recommend a lawyer they used, they probably have specific reasons.
Legal directories like Martindale-Hubbell and Avvo list lawyers and provide ratings from clients and peers. These ratings can give you some insight into which lawyers have a good reputation within the legal community.
Lawyer Referral Services
Lawyer referrals provide contact information for lawyers who have signed up for the service. The referral service will help you identify the type of lawyer you need and refer you to one who suits your purpose.
Referral services don’t actually evaluate the recommended lawyer, however. A lawyer can join a referral service by passing its basic listing requirements without necessarily being a “good” lawyer.
For example, The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service will include any lawyer who holds a valid law license, carries malpractice insurance, and has no pending disciplinary complaints.
Schedule a Consultation With Each Lawyer
After you identify potential candidates, arrange a no-cost consultation with each one. You have two main goals during your consultation:
Interview the Lawyer
Ask the lawyer questions that help you evaluate their ability to handle your case. Some example questions include:
- How much do you charge?
- What experience do you have with this type of case?
- Will you handle my case personally?
- How will I get updates about my case?
During the consultation, imagine how you would work with the lawyer. Remember that your relationship could last several months or even years as you work on your case.
Ask About Your Case
Ask each candidate about the outcomes you can expect from your case and discuss any problems your case might have. This discussion will help you understand the likelihood of success in your case.
It will also help you evaluate the lawyer’s ability to communicate clearly. If you get confused by their explanation, there’s a chance that a jury or claims adjuster might get confused as well.
Take Your Time to Choose
When you discuss your case with the lawyer, ask about any deadlines under Florida’s statute of limitations. Unless you have an impending deadline, take your time to make a prudent decision. Sort through the pros and cons of each one and pick the one that best matches your needs.
The right lawyer for your case won’t necessarily be the one with the biggest firm or the most billboards — it will be the one who listens to you and has the skills needed to win your case.