Tips on finding the perfect lawyer for your personal injury case
There are roughly 16,000 active lawyers in Indiana. The American Bar Association (ABA) recently reported that the number of resident Hoosier attorneys grew 26% in the last decade, tying the state with Texas for the 4th largest increase among all states.
Though 16,000 attorneys sound like a lot, it’s just 23 attorneys per 10,000 residents. So how do you find an attorney near you and how do you make sure you hire the right attorney for your personal injury case?
Though personal injury lawyers are sometimes disparagingly called “ambulance chasers,” the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (adopted by Indiana) actually prohibit attorneys from contacting you to solicit employment. This means that if an attorney hears, through the local news or some other channel, that you might need an attorney for a particular issue, the attorney is not allowed to contact you to offer their services. If one does, take that as a sign that the lawyer isn’t reputable or professional.
Do I need an attorney?
You might still be wondering if you really need a lawyer or not. If your accident didn’t result in any injuries or the injuries were minor, you may not need an attorney.
However, you should be careful when concluding that you weren’t seriously hurt.
Sometimes symptoms, including those associated with serious internal injuries, don’t appear until days or weeks following an injury. Once you accept a settlement from an insurance company or at-fault party, you won’t be able to sue for additional damages if you later learn that the injury was more serious than you originally thought.
Fortunately, most attorneys offer free initial consultations. These consultations allow you to talk through the details of your accident and get a feel for whether the attorney thinks you have a legitimate legal case or not.
Remember, personal injury attorneys usually work on a contingency fee basis. This means they don’t get paid if you don’t get paid. As a result, an attorney will generally tell you if they don’t think you have a case that warrants an attorney.
Finding a lawyer – where do I begin?
The first step to finding the right lawyer for your personal injury case is to locate a handful of licensed personal injury attorneys near you to consider for your case. Though the days of using the yellow pages are largely over, there are a number of resources that can help.
In Indiana, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is 2 years. This means that you have 2 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. While this may sound like a lot of time, it may take a lawyer a while to investigate your case, identify potential defendants, and draft and file a lawsuit. What’s more, the statute of limitations is significantly shorter in certain cases, such as claims against the government.
Let’s take a closer look at a couple of resources that can be used to locate licensed attorneys in Indiana:
1. Friends, family, and colleagues
Some lawyers don’t advertise and instead rely on word of mouth. Be sure to check with friends, family, and colleagues whom you trust to find out if they can recommend an attorney.
One of the benefits of finding an attorney through someone you know is that you can ask the person questions about the attorney and their experience that you might not be comfortable asking the attorney or a stranger the attorney provides as a reference.
2. Online directories
Using Google or another search engine to locate an attorney can be overwhelming. One way to find a licensed attorney in Indiana is to use an online directory— such as the free online directory right here on Enjuris.
The Enjuris lawyer directory allows you to search for licensed attorneys throughout the state of Indiana. Each attorney’s profile page includes useful information, such as contact information, main practice areas, attorney bios, and whether the attorney offers free initial consultations. If the lawyer has contributed articles to Enjuris, those articles will show up as well.
Another option is the Indiana State Bar Attorney Directory. Every attorney licensed to practice in Indiana is required to be listed in this directory.
The Indiana State Bar Attorney Directory allows you to search for an attorney by name and location. You can also specify whether you want the attorney to belong to a specific section or committee, such as the litigation section or the Latino affairs committee.
Once you click on a specific attorney, the page that pops up will show you whether the attorney has any disciplinary history (i.e., instances where the Indiana State Bar found that the attorney committed an act of misconduct). The page will also provide contact information for the attorney and show you whether the attorney is a member of any sections or committees.
How to get free or reduced-cost legal help in Indiana
There are a number of organizations in Indiana that provide legal assistance for free or at a reduced cost, including the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society and the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic. Each organization has different eligibility requirements, but generally your household income must be less than 125% of the federally recognized poverty level.
To learn more about the low-cost legal options that exist, visit the Indiana State Bar’s low-income legal resources page.
Narrowing your search
Personal injury cases can take years to complete. What’s more, it’s often necessary to discuss highly-personal information at length with your attorney. Consequently, you don’t want to choose just any attorney — you want to choose a qualified attorney who you’re comfortable working with.
To find which attorney is right for you, treat the handful of licensed attorneys you’ve found like job candidates. Most attorneys offer free initial consultations, which can be used to learn about the attorney and see if they’re a good fit.
Even if you haven’t hired the attorney, your initial consultation is confidential. This means that the lawyer you meet with is prohibited from revealing information about you and your claim unless you give informed consent. It’s important to be honest with the attorney so they can provide you with accurate information.
Here are some sample questions to ask during your initial consultation to help you get a feel for whether the attorney is right for you and your case:
- How long have you been a lawyer?
- What percentage of your practice is dedicated to my case type?
- Are you comfortable going to trial?
- Will I be interacting directly with you or someone else?
- What do you need and expect from me during the legal process?
- Can you provide me with references?
- How much will it cost to hire your firm?
Read more about negotiating fees with an attorney. A contingency fee may sound great but beware of exceptions and other complicated terms in your agreement.
Preparing for your first meeting with your Indiana attorney
Once you decide to hire a specific law firm, the attorney will most likely want to meet with you right away to get started on your case. The more efficient you can be during meetings with your attorney, the more time your lawyer can spend on your case and the more quickly your case can be resolved.
With that in mind, there are some things you should bring with you to your first meeting and some questions that you should be prepared to answer.
Still have questions? Check out these resources:
- List of Indiana personal injury lawyers
- How to choose a personal injury lawyer: Questions to ask
- 3 tips for finding a qualified attorney for your personal injury case
- How to talk to a lawyer: Hiring an attorney after an accident
- Preparing to meet with a personal injury attorney
- Initial consultations with personal injury attorneys