Should I hire a lawyer directly or a lawyer or medical referral service after a car accident?

A car accident is often a sudden, life-changing experience that effects anyone and everyone. It has no boundaries. Whether you are a lawyer yourself, accountant, store clerk, administrative assistant, or even homeless, you could be the victim of a car accident. So what happens if you were hurt in a car accident? What doctor should you call? What lawyer should you hire? This article strives to explain some of your options.

With so many options, it may seem overwhelming to try and choose the best lawyer. It is a very important decision. The right lawyer can be the difference between a very low settlement and a high settlement, between getting no money in your pocket or getting a lot of money, and between feeling stressed and consumed about your accident case versus simply worrying about getting better and knowing your lawyer is helping take care of everything else, to name a few concerns. Having handled more than 5,500 personal injury cases, I will explain some of the background of where we came from to where we are now to help you make the right choice for you in selecting the best personal injury attorney for your accident case.

Choosing the best personal injury attorney
Back in the 'old days', choosing the right attorney for you was often limited. If you knew an attorney, your were lucky enough to get a recommendation possibly. For most who did not, choosing the top attorney was often a choice from the biggest phone book ad or the attorney who ran the most tv commercials. You knew very little about the lawyer or their qualifications from their advertising. It was a choice sometimes between hiring a big firm with a big ad, or a small firm with a one line name listing. Did this really mean anything? Do you choose the biggest ad because they must be good if they have enough money to pay for the big ad? Do you choose the one line name listed lawyer because you may get more personalized attention?

The Internet has made choosing the best lawyer for you much more transparent. With a simple Google search, you can find a lawyer's website with pages of content, information on the lawyer's background and qualifications, prior results, news articles, philanthropic groups supported by the attorney, client reviews, published articles, and a significant amount of details on the lawyer. It is no longer about who has the biggest ad, and seemingly more about who the best lawyer is for you.

When a simple search for the top Florida personal injury attorney, or a similar search, can bring up a listing of several attorneys who may fit your criteria, there does not seem like a big reason any longer to call a referral service for a recommendation. A referral service may be like playing a game of chance. You don't know who you are getting, if they are good, if they are experienced, or even if they are qualified to handle your case. Their qualification may be that they have a bar license and signed up for a list. 
 
Florida Lawyer Referral Services
Florida has several options for lawyer referral services. You may have heard many of them advertise on tv, radio, on billboards or even online. They may advertise that you could get up to $10,000 just for making a car accident claim, or should call them after calling 911. Often, these referral services will recommend an attorney and an accident clinic, and you may never have heard of any of them.

Some examples of Florida lawyer or medical referral services may include 800 Need Help, 800 411 Pain, 800 Ask Gary, 800 Ask Koby, Legal Match, Findlaw, Florida Medical Association, Physician's Group, and the Lawyer's Group. 411-Pain, for example, may refer you to a lawyer in their network and a medical clinic. Several lawyer referral services are actually run by chiropractors or business people with no legal background. How do you know if you are getting a referral to a great personal injury law firm without knowing anything about that firm?

It is not to say you can't get a referral to a good injury lawyer from a lawyer referral service. You just don't know who you are getting until after the referral. Has the attorney handled 10 personal injury cases or 1,000? You wouldn't have surgery on your heart by a bone doctor, or have a neurosurgeon treat you for a common cold, would you? What if the lawyer you were referred to only handles 10 injury cases a year, but spends 99% of their practice handling divorces. How would they know all of the hundreds of nuances of personal injury law, or how to negotiate with an insurance adjuster who themselves probably handled thousands of claims? 

While calling 800 Need Help or 411-Pain, for example, may be options, you should still research the attorney you were referred to and make sure they are experienced accident lawyers in Florida. If not, you can always switch attorneys or get a second opinion. 

Don't pay for a consultation or representation
Sounds like it's too good to be true, but in fact it is the way many of the top Florida injury lawyers do business. The motto is simple: the more we get you, the more we get us. I've seen very inexperienced personal injury lawyers charge clients for initial consultations, and even thousands of dollars in retainers just to pursue the case. When a lawyer could charge someone $2,500.00 in fees when the total value of the case many be less is unfortunate. Clients may just not know better, or they are so sure of their case and completely disregarded the advice of their prior attorneys and are willing to spend their own money out of principal (I would like to believe the latter is the case).

My best advice, having resolved more than $50,000,000.00 in gross settlements for clients, is that you should never pay $1.00 out of pocket in costs or fees to a good, reputable personal injury attorney. Why pay out of pocket when there are so many who don't charge out of pocket and who waive all fees and costs if there if no recovery. If the only lawyer willing to take your personal injury case wants to charge you a retainer or fees up front, you should take a hint that your case may not be that good, or you may just be searching wrong or looking for the wrong type of attorney.

Florida Bar Association Referrals
If you need a lawyer recommendation and have nowhere to turn, I suggest calling the Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 800-342-8011 or by calling your local Bar Association. Many have lawyer referral listings too. Keep in mind though that the lawyer you are being referred to may have very little experience in personal injury law. To be listed in a Bar referral list, the lawyer may only need an active Bar license, a limited amount of malpractice insurance and had to pay about $100 to get on the list.

Feel free to contact me with any follow up questions or if you want more information. With the right advice and best attorney for you, you could maximize your recovery, whatever that amount may be.