How to Find a Good Personal Injury Attorney California

Why Should I Hire a Personal Injury LawyerAfter an accident, you may need an attorney to help you get the money you deserve.

In this post, San Diego personal injury attorney Curtis Quay shares his tips on choosing a good accident lawyer in California. For the past 15 years, Mr. Quay has successfully handled thousands of personal injury cases. See his suggestions below.

Table of Contents

  1. Search Online
  2. Legal Directories
  3. Online Reviews
  4. California State Bar
  5. What To Ask During the Initial Consultation
  6. Preparing for the Initial Consultation
  7. Understand the Fee Structure
  8. Personality

1. Searching Online

Google

When choosing a personal injury lawyer, start by searching via a search engine like Google.

You can search by using terms like “good personal injury lawyers near me” or “personal injury attorney” followed by your City and State. So if you live in Pasadena, CA, you would simply type, “personal injury attorney Pasadena CA” into the search bar.

This type of search will usually give you a list of attorneys in your area and a list of legal (and non-legal) directories. See more about those below.

 

2. Legal Directories

Avvo

Legal directories are like mini-search engines of their own, but focus only on attorneys. We’ll go over the most popular ones and one non-legal directory, Yelp.

Avvo

Avvo is one of the more popular attorneys directories. Avvo offers a lot of great info including ratings, law school attended, and contact info. More importantly, Avvo tells you if the attorney has ever been disciplined by the California State Bar. Visit Avvo by clicking here.

FindLaw

FindLaw is another popular legal directory that may show up in the search results. FindLaw includes attorney contact info and a bio. FindLaw lacks the robust review system you’ll find in Avvo, but given FindLaw’s search engine placement, we included it in our list. Visit them by clicking here.

Lawyers.com

Lawyers.com is owned by Martindale-Hubble. They’ve been around for years providing info on attorneys. Lawyers.com provides contact info, client reviews, and peer reviews. You can see more by clicking here.

Yelp

Although not a legal directory, Yelp has established itself as a go-to location for those seeking an attorney. Yelp includes contact info, bio, and reviews. Visit Yelp them here.

 

3. Online Reviews

Yelp Reviews

Many of the online directories listed above include personal injury lawyers reviews. When looking at reviews, make sure you don’t just look at the amount of reviews or overall ratings.

Instead, take the time to read the reviews – especially the longer ones. A long review might give you more insight into an attorney.

Another way to find attorney reviews is by using Google Maps. Once you’re there, type “personal injury attorney” and you’ll see results below with reviews.

 

4. California State Bar Page

California State Bar

No attorney search is complete without visiting their profile on the California State Bar website. On this site you’ll see their official contact info, educational background, and further detail on their disciplinary history, if any.

You can lookup a lawyer by clicking here.

 

5. Asking the Right Questions During the Initial Consultation

People with with attorney

Most, if not all, personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation. This is a great time to ask a lot of questions regarding their practice and your case.

Here are a list of questions to ask a personal injury lawyer during the free consultation.

  • How many years have you been practicing?
  • Have you handled my type of case before?
  • Where did you attend law school?
  • Do you exclusively practice personal injury law?
  • How long have you exclusively practiced personal injury law?
  • Have you taken any cases to trial?
  • Have you been disciplined by the California State Bar?
  • Ask for a list of their previous victories – both verdicts and settlements
  • How much do you think my case is worth?

 

6. Be Prepared During Your Initial Consult

Prior to meeting with an attorney, take some time to learn a little about personal injury law in your state. For example, most personal injury attorneys will not take a car accident case which solely resulted in property damage.

Additionally, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with tort law and legal terms like negligence.

 

7. Understand the Fee Structure

Don’t sign a retainer agreement without making sure you understand the fee structure. We’ve all heard personal injury attorneys say, “I get nothing unless you win.” This means they work on a contingency basis. While that my be true, make sure you understand what they get in the even that you do win.

In California, an accident attorney will typically take somewhere between 25% – 40%. However, many attorneys will also require that you pay for any fees incurred throughout the process. Your attorney will charge these fees on top of the percentage. What you’ll want to know is exactly what these fees include. For example, it might include the cost for experts, private investigators, and depositions.

Make sure you don’t get blindsided, as these fees can significantly cut into your award settlement.

 

8. Personality

People meeting with an attorney

The last thing to consider is how well you got a long during the initial consultation. Did you find it easy to speak with the attorney? If not, you might want to consider continuing your search until you find someone who is a good personality fit for you.

 

Did We Miss Anything?

We hope that this guide will help you find a reputable personal injury lawyer in your area. Did we miss something? If so, please comment below.

About the Author: Attorney Curtis Quay has over 15 years experience handling both plaintiff and defendant personal injury claims. Mr. Quay earned his J.D. at prestigious Temple Law School.

 

Reasons Why You Should Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer:

We put together this infographic dealing the benefits of hiring a personal injury lawyer after an accident. These reasons include:

  1. Medical Issues: A good attorney will work with a team of experts that can properly evaluate your injuries.
  2. Financial Issues: An attorney will help you with the financial issues that inevitably arise after an accident.
  3. Higher Settlements: An experienced attorney can often help you negotiate higher settlements with the negligent party’s insurance company.

 

Why Should I Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer?

What Is Negligence?

More and more people and groups are questioning the phrase “car accidents.” Planes crash, trains wreck, ships sink, so why should cars be involved in accidents? To be sure, most car crashes are accidental to the extent that they are unintentional. But one of the dictionary definitions of “accident” is “an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause,” with synonyms like “coincidence, mere chance, and twist of fate.” In most car crashes, someone is clearly at fault, so this definition is inappropriate.

We all make mistakes, and when we make mistakes, we must take steps to make things right again. That principle is the underpinning of negligence law. In court, what does the victim need to prove to obtain monetary compensation that makes things right?

Burden of Proof

Many people remember the double murder saga of former USC and NFL standout O.J. Simpson during the 1990s. After a lengthy trial, a criminal jury decided that Mr. Simpson was not guilty of the crimes he allegedly committed. Yet in a later proceeding, a civil jury determined that he was responsible for the deaths and ordered Mr. Simpson to pay $33.5 million. How could two different juries look at essentially the same evidence and make two opposite conclusions?

In criminal court, the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Definitions vary by jurisdiction, but essentially, the state must present such overwhelming evidence that there is no reasonable explanation other than guilt. However, in civil court, the plaintiff must only establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not. If there are two equally-full water glasses on a table and a person adds an eyedropper full of liquid to the glass on the left, it contains more liquid than the glass on the right, and that is a picture of preponderance of the evidence.

In most negligence cases, the plaintiff must establish four elements, each by a preponderance of the evidence.

Duty

California and Nevada typically impose a duty of reasonable care in these situations. This legal responsibility comes from the 1932 English case of Donoghue v. Stevenson. At the time, there were essentially no negligence laws in either the United States or the United Kingdom. In this colorful yet also rather nauseating case, Ms. Donoghue’s friend bought her a bottle of ginger beer at a local cafe. As she emptied the contents, she discovered a dead and decomposed snail at the bottom of the bottle. Ordinarily, Ms. Donoghue could have sued for damages under contract law, but since she did not buy the beer, she relied on the then-novel theory that the beer bottler had a duty to sell bottles of beer that did not contain dead animals.

In deciding the case in favor of Ms. Donoghue and against the beer bottler Mr. Stevenson, Lord Atkin articulated the “neighbour principle:”

The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law you must not injure your neighbour. . . .You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who then in law is my neighbour? The answer seems to be persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected.

The neighbour principle made its way into American law, and became the duty of reasonable care.

A higher duty applies in some situations. For example, in both Nevada and California, truck drivers, taxi drivers, Uber drivers, and other commercial operators are common carriers. These drivers have a higher duty of care with regard to the goods and/or passengers they transport from one point to another. Essentially, while the duty of reasonable care requires drivers to avoid crashes if possible, common carriers must take affirmative steps to ensure that their passengers arrive safely.

Breach

Duty is a legal question, and breach (violation) is a fact question. One way to breach the duty of care is to violate a traffic law, like speeding or making an illegal lane change. Drivers who are impaired by alcohol, drugs, or fatigue may also breach their duties of care, especially if they are common carriers.

Since this is a fact question, the jury must conclude that, by a preponderance of the evidence, the behavior was serious enough to breach the duty of care. For example, adjusting the radio is technically distracted driving, because drivers take their eyes off the road, take their minds off driving, and take at least one hand off the wheel while fiddling with the radio. However, such behavior may not constitute a breach of duty, in the minds of many jurors.

Cause

The third element is both a fact and legal question. Lawyers sometimes refer to the factual component as “but-for causation,” as in the crash would not have happened “but for” the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) action or inaction.

Legally, the plaintiff’s damages must be a foreseeable result of the tortfeasor’s conduct. Most courts in both Nevada and California use the majority rule from 1928’s Paslgraf v. Long Island Railroad. In that case, a court determined that negligent railroad workers were not responsible for an injury that took place on the other side of the train platform, because the link between a man dropping a package of fireworks and scales toppling over because of the shock wave was too indirect. A few courts use the more-inclusive “zone of danger” test, and in these jurisdictions, bystander cases are a bit easier to win.

Damages

The plaintiff must sustain a physical personal injury, such as a broken bone or a brain injury, or property damage, such as a banged-up car, to satisfy this element. If there is a tangible injury, the plaintiff is also entitled to compensation for intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, emotional distress, and loss of consortium (companionship). In some cases, additional punitive damages may be available.

Understanding Pedestrian Accidents In Nevada

About one in four of the traffic fatalities in the Silver State are pedestrians, and that figure is well above the national average. Many, if not most, of these fatalities occur outside crosswalks in non-urban areas during non-daylight hours (between dusk and dawn), and most victims are either young children or older adults.

These facts mean a lot. Many vehicles slow down around intersections, especially if traffic is heavy, and speed up in non-intersections, especially if traffic is light or moderate.

Further, as a rule of thumb, visibility is about 300 times greater during daylight hours. And, since many non-crosswalk areas are unlit, the difference may be even greater when it comes to pedestrian accidents. Lack of visibility also explains why so many young children are victims, because it is simply harder for motorists to see them, especially if they are not really looking for pedestrians in the first place.

Injuries in Pedestrian Accidents

In collisions, several layers of glass, plastic, and steel, not to mention multiple restraint layers, protect vehicle occupants. However, in similar situations, pedestrians are completely exposed to the risk of injury. Some common wounds include:

Head Injuries: With no seat belts or airbags to hold them in place, nearly all pedestrians are launched into the air in these cases. The jarring motion when they land, even if they do not land on their heads, often causes permanent brain injuries.
Broken Bones: Fall-induced fractures in young people often heal quickly with little medical intervention. In almost all other cases, and for almost all other victims, surgeons must use metal screws, pins, or plates to set the bone.

After several weeks or months of near-total immobilization, most victims require weeks or months of expensive and painful physical therapy to regain a minimal amount of lost function.

Blood Loss: Because of the serious nature of the injuries, and because many of these incidents occur relatively far from first responders and hospitals, the victims often lose vast amounts of blood before they can be properly stabilized, and the weakened state of their bodies makes their other injuries even worse.

All these injuries often mean huge medical bills and significant time away from work, so victims are entitled to compensation for these economic damages. There are intangible wounds as well, such as loss of enjoyment in life and emotional distress, and victims are entitled to compensation for these noneconomic damages as well.

Fault and Liability in Pedestrian Accidents

Speed is a factor in about a third of fatal car crashes. First, excessive velocity greatly increases stopping distance, which is thinking distance (reaction time) plus braking distance (amount of time required to stop safely). At 20mph, stopping distance is about three car lengths for most passenger vehicles. At 40mph, stopping distance triples to nine car lengths, or even more in some cases. In practical terms, if a pedestrian is in the path of a slow moving car, for whatever reason, the motorist can nearly always avoid the crash by slowing down, stopping, or changing lanes. However, if a pedestrian is in the path of a fast moving car, a collision is basically inevitable.

Speed-induced crashes also have much more force, because of Newton’s Second Physical Law. That is why, as a rule of thumb, pedestrian accidents at under 20mph are typically survivable and often do not even cause serious injuries, and collisions at greater than 40mph are nearly always fatal.

Next, alcohol is a factor in about a third of vehicle crash fatalities. After only one drink, most people are unable to make good judgements because alcohol is a depressant and have problems controlling their motor skills because alcohol is a tranquilizer. After another drink or two, these symptoms significantly worsen and joined by blurred vision because of bloodshot eyes; most people are essentially comatose if they consume much more alcohol.

In terms of pedestrian accidents, the slowed reactions increase stopping distance, the impaired vision makes it more difficult to see pedestrians, and the impaired motor skills make it more difficult for drivers to control their vehicles in emergencies.

Distracted driving causes many other fatal and serious injury crashes. Cellphones garner considerable attention in this area, because these devices combine all three types of distracted driving:

Visual: People who are looking at screens are not watching the road. Moreover, at highway speeds, a vehicle can travel the length of a football field in the time it takes to send a text message.
Manual: In addition to using cellphones for communication or web-surfing, people also take their hands off the wheel to adjust the radio or air conditioner.
Cognitive: Both live and virtual conversations require concentration, so drivers take their minds off driving when they talk on cellphones, send messages, post on social media, or talk to passengers.

Hands-free devices, whether they are built into the vehicle or hand-held devices in speaker mode, are not much safer than hand-held devices, and because they give drivers a false sense of security, they may even be more dangerous.