The beautiful City by the Bay, San Francisco, is the 8th most dangerous city for a motor vehicle driver with an average of 2,700 accidents per annum. From construction accidents to medical malpractice, going through any personal accident can be a stressful experience.
The last thing you need in your life after going through an accident is the headache of having to haggle with insurance companies. This is where personal injury lawyers come in. They have experience negotiating claim settlements with insurers and getting fair compensation.
This is why we’ve created a guide to help you choose the best personal injury lawyer who will help you get the true value of your case.
What does a San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney Do?
A personal injury lawyer is “a type of civil litigator who provides legal representation to plaintiffs who are alleging physical or psychological injury as the result of the negligent or careless acts of another person, entity, or organization.”
In simple terms, their job is to help people that have sustained injuries (emotional, physical, economical) in accidents recover their due financial compensation. A patient suffering from an injury will need these funds to pay for medical treatment, account for lost salaries/wages, and provide compensation for pain, suffering, and injuries.
Some of the types of injuries and cases dealt by personal injury lawyers are:
- Auto and aviation accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Brain and burn injuries
- Construction accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Nursing home abuse
- Pedestrian accidents
- Defective products
- Insurance/bad faith claims
- Medical malpractice
- Spinal cord injuries
- Wrongful death
Personal injury attorneys gather evidence, frame legal theories, and research case law. They draft pleadings, motions, discovery requests for their clients, and interview and depose witnesses.
Their job doesn’t just end with preparing for the trial. Personal injury attorneys support their clients pre and post-trial. This includes providing counsel and dealing with problems in the legal system and obstacles presented by their oppositions.
Personal injury cases are often complicated, so lawyers will mostly specialize in a particular niche of cases. For example, one personal injury lawyer may specialize in every auto accident-related case, while another would be the best personal injury lawyer for medical malpractice.
Now that you know what precisely a PI lawyer does let’s take a look at how you can pick out the best personal injury lawyer for you!
Where to Search for Potential Lawyers
When going through a tough time with your injuries, you don’t want to have doubts about your attorney’s trustworthiness.
Ask People You Trust for Referrals
The best method of searching for a potential lawyer is to ask trusted friends and acquaintances if they have previously hired a lawyer for their personal injury claims. Suppose the relative, coworker, or friend complements their experience. In that case, you can add that lawyer to your list of attorneys and arrange an initial consultation.
However, you cannot veto a decision about selecting an attorney only based on someone else’s referral. You may not necessarily like the same qualities in your lawyer as your acquaintance. So, meet with the lawyer, review your case, and decide whether you would be comfortable entering a working relationship.
Talk to Lawyers You Already Know
You might already know a lawyer in San Francisco. Maybe as an acquaintance, or as an ex-lawyer that represented you before in a legal manner. You may have had a great experience with that lawyer. It would make sense for you to hire them again to help you with your new injury claim.
However, your old lawyer may have little to no experience representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases. Plus, they may hang onto your case instead of immediately referring you to an appropriate personal injury attorney. This could be because of an unwillingness to disappoint you or due to thinking that their lack of experience isn’t significant. Regardless of the good work they had done before, that lawyer is not right for your current case.
Our advice is to instantly ask that lawyer to refer you to a San Francisco, personal injury attorney who can handle such cases. Lawyers will naturally know other lawyers, and they’re bound to know someone who would specialize in PI cases. Take their referrals, but as with those by friends and coworkers, do not heed them without your own research.
Look for PI Attorneys Online
Make use of online resources to search for attorneys. Make sure that they locally specialize in San Francisco and that they have all the required licenses.
The Bar Association of San Francisco has a database of all attorneys in the city. You can check their bar status, previous disciplinary measures, or get their contact details from the website. Comb through and find attorneys yourself or contact the bar association for advice. They can help connect you to a lawyer.
Another piece of advice is to watch out for reviews and testimonials. No client is required to write testimonials for their lawyer, so if they do write one out, it will be because they were happy with the service they received.
Reading reviews will allow you to gauge what the experience of clients generally is like with the attorney. Every lawyer will have bad reviews, so don’t get too turned off by them. Read the reviews to figure out whether they are real or if the reviewer seems like an unreasonable person. Not all reviews are authentic.
Nevertheless, an online search is no substitute for an actual conversation. Take time to talk to potential lawyers and ask the right questions before you pick one.
Check Peer Review Ratings
This is one of the most reliable ways to look at a lawyer’s credentials. You can check sources that rate personal injury attorney reviews based on what their colleagues say about them.
We need to mention that other lawyers’ peer review is the only official “rating” system for San Francisco personal injury attorneys. Let’s look at the peer review rating systems you can use:
- Superlawyers: Super Lawyers contains an annual listing of remarkable lawyers that have gotten a high degree of peer recognition in 70 different practice areas. Just 5% of the attorneys in a state are dubbed as Super Lawyers.
- The Martindale-Hubbell Bar Registry: Martindale-Hubbell has been present for over 130 years and is considered to be the most respected source of trustworthy information about over 1 million lawyers in the United States. Their “AV” rating classifies a firm and lawyers with a leading legal ability. It is the most coveted rating for lawyers as a reflection of experience, reliability, capability, and professional excellence.
- The Best Lawyers in America This website contains a list of the Best Lawyers as chosen by their peers in 57 different specialties, which includes personal injury law.
How to Choose the Best Personal Injury Lawyer
Avoid Firms That Send “Solicitation” Letters
Many law firms in San Francisco hire “gophers” who obtain traffic accident reports created by the local or state police officers. Once they have the accident report, staff from the law firm will search through the details to find the victim’s contact details.
Consequently, they will mail a “solicitation” letter letting the victim know that the law firm is willing to take on their case and represent their personal injury claim. You could receive over ten different letters of this kind. Some firms send letters to every single motor accident victim in San Francisco.
So, why are we asking you to avoid them? They seem like they care about your case since they’re sending you a letter, but the truth is it’s likely not a road you want to go down. These law firms generally rely on a “high-volume, quick turnover” model as they cannot garner reliable testimonials and reviews.
These firms are like mass case churners. They push cases through their system and settle them quickly at the end for less than their actual value. Insurance companies know these firms. They will purposefully offer you less money because they know your personal injury attorney will pressure you to settle the case quickly and take less.
Find A Trial Attorney, Not Settling One
Always go for a San Francisco personal injury attorney who will fight for you all the way to a trial; otherwise, you could end up with a lower settlement. Let’s take a look at two different scenarios with the two different lawyers.
Case #1: You choose a settling lawyer
Insurance companies keep tabs on settling lawyers. They know that they are not much of a threat since that lawyer will never go to trial. They can take advantage of this situation and offer settlements that are much lower than the true value of the case because your lawyer has no leverage.
Case #2: You choose a trial lawyer
The lawyer that fights your case will file a suit, get a jury to decide the worth of your case, and seek to retrieve its full value. The insurance claims adjuster knows they will have to spend a lot of money to hire a lawyer to defend the case as your lawyer has the full intention of fighting.
It is costly for an insurance company to fight a personal injury case. It’s best for them to pay you the full value of your case, rather than fight the case in court. If they know you are looking to go to trial, they will likely offer a bigger compensation.
You need to be able to judge every attorney you meet based on a consistent scale of factors. We’ve listed a few examples:
- Experience in the field: There’s a give and take here. A San Francisco, personal injury attorney with years of experience, will know all the trade ins-and-outs. Still, they may not be available all the time. A relatively inexperienced lawyer will be more readily available and hungry to take your case but may not have the same repertoire. It’s up to you to decide who will be the best personal injury lawyer for you.
- Disciplinary Record: Use the San Francisco bar website to search for any complaints, disbarments, or suspensions on the attorneys on your shortlist. Lawyers who act unethically can have ethics complaints filed against them with the San Francisco local bar.
- Ratings: Their reputation among the local population can easily be discovered online through reviews and testimonials. The better the reputation, the more trustworthy the lawyer will likely be.
- It’s all about results: At the end of the day, you want to get your full personal injury claim successfully. Look out for companies that consistently provide successful results in cases.
Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer
When you go in for an initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer, you need to ask as many questions as possible to figure out if they are a good fit for you. Do not be shy to ask awkward questions. Here are some examples of questions you can ask:
- How many years have you been in practice?
- How many personal injury cases have you taken on? What percentage were successful?
- How much experience do you have with cases precisely like mine?
- Is filing a lawsuit the only option?
- What are your charges? What is your payment structure?
- Are there any anticipated expenses? What are they?
- How much do you think my claim is worth?
- What types of resources do you use if the case goes to trial?
- Will you handle this case yourself?
- What is my case’s statute of limitations?
Follow Your Instincts!
Now it’s time to choose after having gone through consultations with a host of different lawyers. It can all seem overwhelming, and you might be going back and forth between a few options. At this point, we advise that you go with the lawyer that made you feel the best in your gut.
Go with the option you felt more comfortable with and one that best understood you. Follow your instinct to choose whoever you believe is the best personal injury lawyer for you!
Our final piece of advice would be: don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially about fees. The fee structure for many lawyers can be confusing, so always ask for clarification. We wrote an article explaining injury attorney fee structures and more information on how that works.
The San Francisco personal injury attorney office of Phoong Law Corp can help you immediately after going through a traumatic experience, although that can sound like a daunting task. Take time to evaluate your options carefully and schedule a free consultation with our lawyers, who will get you the real value of your claim.