Each year, approximately 17,810 new spinal cord injuries occur. This doesn’t include injuries that cause fatalities. Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of spinal cord injuries (SCIs), but falls, acts of violence and sports injuries are also top reasons for spinal cord damage.
When your spinal cord is injured, the consequences can be life changing. Choosing the best spinal cord injury lawyer is crucial to ensure you get full and fair compensation for the damages you endured if someone else caused your SCI to occur.
This guide to choosing the best spinal cord injury lawyer helps you discover everything you need to know about finding a legal professional to advocate for you.
Tips for Finding the Best Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer
Attorneys have different areas of specialization. If you are looking for a spinal cord injury lawyer, make sure your attorney has experience with claims similar to yours. You also want to make sure your spinal cord injury lawyer has a successful track record of getting fair settlements or damage awards for clients.
There are a few key steps you can take to find the right attorney with the type of experience you need.
Ask for Referrals
If friends or loved ones have ever used a personal injury lawyer, you can ask them for information about the firm they worked with. If you have a relationship with attorneys who specialize in other areas of the law, they may also know good spinal cord injury lawyers they can refer you to.
If you don’t have anyone to personally refer you to an attorney, you can also check with your local bar association or with professional attorney networks in your area to see which legal professionals they recommend who specialize in spinal cord injuries.
Understand the Fee Structure Up Front
In most cases, a spinal cord injury lawyer charges you on a contingent fee basis. This means you pay a fee only if your attorney helps you recover compensation for your SCI.
Attorneys structure contingency fees in different ways. Typically, you are charged anywhere from 33% to 40% of your damage award, with the exact amount based on how long your claim takes to resolve and how complicated the case. Be sure to find out exactly what percentage you will pay based on whether your claim settles before trial or goes to court.
You should also find out how legal costs will be handled. In some cases, you are required to pay expenses regardless of whether you win or lose, while that’s not the case with all injury firms.
Make Sure the Attorney Is Experienced In Handling Spinal Cord Injury Cases
Spinal cord injuries happen for different reasons, and you want a lawyer who focuses on the specific kind of accident you’ve endured.
For example, if you suffered a spinal cord injury due to a slip and fall, you want to hire a premises liability lawyer. But if your injuries occurred in a car accident, you need an auto accident attorney to help with your spinal accident lawsuit.
Ask About the Attorney’s Track Record
You want to work with an attorney who has successfully recovered substantial amounts of compensation for past clients.
You also want to make sure your lawyer has experience both with negotiating settlements and with personal injury litigation in case your case can’t be settled outside of court and a spinal cord injury lawsuit is necessary to get you the compensation you deserve.
Why You Need a Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer
It may be tempting to try to resolve your spinal cord injury claim on your own–especially if you are being offered a settlement by the insurer representing the person or company responsible for harming you.
But you absolutely need to get legal guidance in most situations for a few key reasons.
Your Attorney Can Help You Negotiate a Settlement
Once you accept a settlement, you can’t go back and get more money. So you need to make sure you’re fully compensated and you want to avoid accepting a settlement that’s smaller than the maximum you could receive.
Spinal cord injury lawyers know what your case is worth and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, send a demand letter to start negotiations on your terms and assist you in deciding whether to accept or decline a settlement offer.
Insurers know you are taking your rights seriously if you’ve hired a lawyer, so you are more likely to get a fair settlement offer if you have legal representation.
Your Lawyer Helps You Protect your Rights
Operating within the legal system can be complicated. There’s a statute of limitations that establishes a deadline for making a claim, and there are procedural rules you must follow such as filing your lawsuit in the correct court.
A spinal cord injury lawyer helps you work within the rules of the system so a technicality doesn’t prevent you from getting the money you deserve from those who hurt you.
Your Lawyer Assists in Identifying All Potential Defendants
There may be multiple potential parties responsible for compensating you for spinal cord injuries. For example, if your injury occurred due to an accident with a drunk driver, you could sue the intoxicated motorist as well as the restaurant who served that motorist under Dram Shop laws.
An attorney helps ensure you identify all potential defendants so there is enough insurance money available to fully compensate you for all the damages you’ve endured.
Your Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Helps Gather Evidence
It is up to you to gather the evidence necessary to convince the insurance company to accept fault and settle or to convince the court to award you substantial damages. This includes both evidence about how the spinal cord injury happened and about how it affected your life.
A spinal cord injury lawyer helps you gather the information you need to make the strongest possible case. The more evidence you have, the more likely it is you’ll be offered a generous settlement or that you’ll prevail in court and be awarded the money you deserve.
How to Interview a Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer
When you’ve narrowed down your short list, you should always talk with a spinal cord injury lawyer in person before engaging them as your attorney. Here are a few key questions to ask when you interview a potential lawyer.
Find Out Who will Handle Your Case
Be sure to meet with the specific attorney who will represent you. Find out if that attorney is actively involved with managing all steps of your case or if associates and paralegals will be doing most of the work.
Understand the Timeline
Ask how long your attorney thinks that your case will take to resolve and how quickly they can move forward with helping you make your claim. You don’t want to rush into settling before you know the full extent of your loss, but you also must make sure you act within the statute of limitations set by your state.
Discuss Expectations for Communication
Find out whether your potential spinal cord injury lawyer will keep you in the loop at every step even for more minor issues or if they’ll focus on updating you only when major case developments arise. Be sure you know how and when they will likely communicate with you and that you’re comfortable with this approach.
Remember, your spinal cord injury lawyer is your advocate and guide after you have sustained life-changing injuries. You deserve to have someone with whom you are comfortable and whom you trust looking out for you.