As much fun and enjoyment as people get from riding motorcycles, there is always the potential for an accident. When a motorcycle rider has an accident, the rider and passenger’s injuries can be catastrophic. An accident between two cars might be labeled as a “fender bender” with no injuries to the occupants, but rarely does the rider of a motorcycle escape without a hospital trip for treatment of fractured bones lacerations, or even more severe injuries.
If you are injured in a motorcycle accident, the compensation you ultimately receive from a negligent driver depends on the experience and skills of the motorcycle lawyer you hire to represent you. This article gives you the information you need to make an informed decision and help you find an attorney capable of getting you the maximum compensation for your injuries.
What to Consider When Hiring a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
The process of becoming an attorney is an arduous one. After graduation from law school, an applicant wishing to practice law must pass the bar examination to demonstrate an applicant’s legal knowledge. There is also a background check and an investigation to determine if the applicant is of good moral character. Individuals who complete the process are admitted to the bar, which means they are legally entitled to practice law within the state.
Anyone admitted to practice law is authorized to appear in court to defend someone charged with committing a crime or represent a motorcycle accident victim. What sets some attorneys apart from others is their experience handling cases in a specific area of the law. For example, anyone can take on a personal injury case, but if you are seriously injured in an accident, you want the attorney handling your claim to have insight into the negligence laws and the courtroom and trial skills that can only be developed through years of experience representing accident victims.
There are three key factors you must consider before hiring a lawyer to handle your claim for damages from a motorcycle accident:
- Location: YYou might have seen or heard commercials advertising the services of motorcycle accident lawyers. Some of the ads are for lawyers from other states (or parts of the state that are hours away from your hearing location). Out-of-state law firms usually refer your case to another firm located within your state, leaving you with little say over the choice of attorney. Choosing an attorney located within the city or county where your case will go to court means you are represented by someone who knows the local court procedures and is familiar with the judges.
- General Practitioners: Many lawyers and law firms function as general practices. They might handle real estate, criminal defense, wills and estates, and personal injury. A lawyer who handles an occasional motorcycle case is not going to have the same level of familiarity with the law or possess the same trial skills as an attorney who exclusively concentrates on personal injury law. The easiest way to find out about a lawyer’s practice is to ask questions, including asking what percentage of the attorney’s practice is motorcycle law.
- Good Reputation and Experience: Finding a motorcycle accident lawyer requires some work to ensure you are getting someone who can achieve the best results. In addition to asking the lawyer questions, you also need to do your research by checking online reviews and testimonials from as many sources as possible.
You want to compare a few attorneys before concluding which of them has the three criteria you want in the attorney who handles your motorcycle claim.
The pool of attorneys from which to choose a few to interview to select the motorcycle accident lawyer to handle your claim is enormous. There are approximately 1.3 million lawyers in the U.S., with almost 170,000 of them practicing in California. Of course, only a small percentage of them handle motorcycle law, but who do you call? There are a few ways to narrow your search, including:
- Friends and Relatives: Chances are that someone you know, either a member of your family or a close friend, has used the services of a motorcycle accident lawyer.
- Lawyer Referral: The lawyer who represented you in the purchase of your home or the one representing your business might not handle motorcycle accident claims, but they should be able to recommend an attorney who does.
- Bar Associations: Most state and local bar associations have lawyer referral services you can contact for the name of local motorcycle accident lawyers. For example, The State Bar of California provides a statewide list of local attorney referral services organized by county.
- Google Search: Everyone seems to rely upon Google when searching for something, so typing “motorcycle accident lawyer” and your location into the search box will bring results. One limitation of a Google search is you must sort through the results by looking at websites to determine which of the many firms and attorneys you want to call.
- Lawyer Directories: Another source from which you can obtain the names of lawyers and law firms is one or more of the online lawyer directories. A lawyer directory allows you to find a local lawyer based upon his or her area of practice. Some of the directories, such as Martindale-Hubbell and Avvo, offer client and peer reviews and ratings of the attorneys.
One source you might want to be wary of is solicitation letters from law firms offering their services. State bar associations establish rules for lawyer advertising, which includes solicitation letters. For instance, California requires that lawyers make it clear that such letters are a form of advertising. Keep in mind that the contents of the letter are meant to entice you to retain the firm’s services
Tips on Hiring a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
Interview Several Lawyers Before Hiring One
Now that you have a list of lawyers you believe meet your criteria as far as location and practice area, it’s time to choose the lawyer to handle your motorcycle accident case. The only effective way to do this is by interviewing each lawyer.
Most lawyers offer free consultations, so schedule appointments with several lawyers from your list. Prepare for the meetings by assembling documents to bring with you that will provide the lawyer with information about the accident and your injuries. Documents you might consider bringing with you include:
- Police reports of the accident
- Photographs of the accident scene, the vehicles, and your injuries
- Medical reports you might have that explain your injuries
- Records showing your regular wages and time lost from work due to the accident
Ask the Right Questions
The interview’s purpose is to learn as much about the lawyer as possible –don’t be timid with asking questions. Some important questions to ask at the beginning of the interview include the following:
- How long has the attorney been practicing law?
- What percentage of the practice is devoted to motorcycle law?
- Will the attorney you are interviewing be the one handling the case?
- How many motorcycle accident cases similar to yours has the attorney previously handled?
- What percentage of the motorcycle accident cases handled by the attorney results in a settlement?
It should be noted that the vast majority of motorcycle accident cases end in a settlement. Still, one factor contributing to a settlement that is favorable to the accident victim is the reputation of the lawyer as a trial attorney. An attorney who settles all of the motorcycle cases that come into the office could be an excellent attorney, but it could also mean the law firm favors quick settlements over taking a case to trial when necessary to maximize the amount recovered by the client.
A motorcycle accident lawyer should have experience conducting trials on behalf of accident victims. Building a reputation as a lawyer capable of achieving a successful outcome at a trial affects the willingness of claims adjusters to settle cases. Claims adjusters who know a lawyer does not have a great deal of recent trial experience might be tempted to make low settlement offers believing the attorney will not push the case to a trial.
Inquire About Fees During the Interview
The reality is that practicing law is a profession, but it is also a business. It is essential to discuss what the motorcycle accident lawyer will charge as a fee and other expenses you could be responsible for paying.
Most motorcycle accident claims are handled on a contingency fee basis meaning the attorney gets paid when and if your claims end with a settlement or verdict after trial in your favor. Ask for a copy of the attorney’s written contingency fee agreement.
Contingency fee agreements in UK must be in writing and contain the terms of the fee arrangement between the attorney and the client, including the percentage charged as a fee and what responsibility the client will have for costs and expenses. Costs and expenses could include expert witness fees, court costs, and other litigation expenses advanced by your attorney. If you win your case, the costs would be deducted from the settlement or verdict, but if you lose, you could be responsible for repaying the attorney out of your pocket.
The percentage charged as a fee and responsibility for costs and expenses are negotiable between you and the attorney. The interview is an excellent time to ask the lawyer about the office’s usual practices regarding contingency fees and discuss how they would apply to your case in the event you agree to retain the firm.
Gauge Your Comfort Levels with the Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
One of the essential elements of the relationship between a client and an attorney is communication. If your interview with the attorney was constantly interrupted by telephone calls or staff coming in to ask questions about other cases, this could be a sign that the attorney is too busy to take on your case. You want an attorney whose full attention is on you and the questions or concerns you have about your motorcycle accident claim. An attorney who shows a willingness to listen to you and makes you feel comfortable asking questions during the interview is probably the person best suited to represent you. Once you complete your interviews and have gathered the information needed to make an informed decision, it is time to choose a motorcycle accident lawyer.