After suffering an injury in a car accident, you may be seeking compensation for your losses with a personal injury claim. The amount of money you eventually receive will largely depend on who you choose to be your lawyer.
An experienced local attorney can help you navigate the personal injury laws of Kansas City, MO. They can establish your damages, handle the insurance provider on your behalf, build a strong evidence-based claim, and negotiate to achieve a favorable financial outcome.
The wrong lawyer or law firm, on the other hand, may fail to win you a settlement that covers your losses in full. Worse yet, they may lose the case entirely. Your one chance at recovering compensation will then be gone, potentially leaving you in financial hardship.
You can avoid this unhappy outcome by following the ten tips laid out below. With a little research, due diligence, and careful questioning, you can dramatically improve your chances of finding just the right Kansas City lawyer for your case.
1. Focus on Specialist Car Accident Lawyers
When you start your search, it’s best to focus on lawyers who specialize in car accident claims. Personal injury law is a broad field that includes medical malpractice cases, slip-and-fall accidents, nursing home abuse, wrongful death claims, and other kinds of accidents.
Each type of case involves its own relevant laws, which are continually evolving. It’s therefore best to look for a car accident lawyer who deals with car accident cases and clients all day long. They’ll be able to evaluate your case faster, foresee obstacles more reliably, and deal with insurance companies more effectively than a generalist attorney.
You can usually find out what types of cases a lawyer or law firm handles from their website. You can also ask them when you visit their law offices for a free consultation. If you’re approaching a law firm rather than a sole practitioner attorney, understand that although the firm as a whole may handle many types of personal injury claims, they will often have specialist auto accident lawyers within the firm.
Specialist Car Accident Lawyers Can Gather Evidence
Successfully recovering financial compensation for traffic accidents usually requires proving the liability of the negligent driver. Experienced Kansas City car accident lawyers are very familiar with this process; they know how to investigate a car crash scene, and they know exactly what evidence is required to prove liability and recover compensation.
Proving liability often involves retaining an accident reconstruction expert and other expert witnesses. A well-established Kansas City car accident attorney will have a network of these experts to draw upon, including auto accident scene investigators, which is another reason to find a specialist rather than a generalist attorney.
You can narrow it down even further if you like. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, it might be best to find a personal injury attorney who mostly deals with motorcycle accidents. Likewise, for a truck accident, find a truck accident lawyer. Each case type has its own nuances, laws, obstacles, and strategies, which a specialist lawyer will know inside out.
2. Look for a Lawyer With Experience
Ideally, as well as expertise, you want the car accident attorney fighting your corner to be a seasoned veteran of many similar cases to yours. If you hire an experienced car accident lawyer with more than a decade of serving car accident victims in Kansas City, your chances of recovering fair compensation will be much higher.
Some experienced Kansas City attorneys may have been generalists for decades but only started practicing personal injury law recently. When speaking to a lawyer, ask how long they’ve been practicing personal injury law, and specifically car accident cases.
Prioritize Experience in Kansas City, MO
Every state has different laws when it comes to car accidents. Even within Kansas City, the laws are split between Missouri, which is an at-fault state, and Kansas, which is a no-fault state, requiring the injured victim to file a claim with their own insurance company first for a minor accident. Statutes of limitations also vary between states, as do other important aspects of personal injury law relating to car accidents.
It’s therefore important that the lawyer you choose has plenty of experience in the same state in which you live or were injured in. If you’re based in Jackson County or Kansas City, MO, find a lawyer with many years practicing there. Likewise, if you’re based in Kansas City, KS, speak to car accident lawyers with experience in that area and state.
3. Find a Lawyer Who Tries Cases in Court
The majority of car accident claims are settled out of court, but there’s always a chance you’ll need to file a lawsuit and take your case to be decided by a judge and jury. One reason for this is when an insurance company refuses to agree to a fair settlement figure. Another reason for a court trial might be because your attorney or law firm believes you can win additional punitive damages from the at-fault driver.
If you’re going to court, you’ll be facing a daunting adversary: the insurance company and its well-funded legal team. In order to win, you’ll need an experienced car accident attorney of your own who has tried and won many car accident cases in court.
When you ask about this, the best car accident lawyers will be ready and willing to try your case in court. They should also have an excellent courtroom win rate speaking in their favor. Some of the very best Kansas City trail lawyers are National Trail Lawyers. See if you can find an attorney who belongs to that prestigious organization.
Bear in mind that many personal injury lawyers rarely try cases in court and therefore lack the skill and experience to properly handle a challenging court case. Such a lawyer may advise you to accept a lower out-of-court settlement than you might otherwise have obtained from a court-awarded payout.
4. Ask for Client References and Testimonials
With all potential lawyers you meet, request testimonials and references from prior clients. An experienced and reputable Kansas City car accident lawyer or law firm with a strong track record should be prepared for this request and promptly provide many examples. You’ll often find testimonials displayed proudly on their websites as well.
You can also ask attorneys to share a recent success story with you, outlining how they won a car accident case that was similar to yours. Although they won’t share the particulars of a case because of attorney/client privilege, they may still outline the broad strokes of what happened.
Hearing about how an attorney or law firm worked with other car accident victims in Kansas City, MO should give you an idea of the attorney’s competence and work process. Any attorney who responds evasively or less than willingly to requests for testimonials, references, or prior case stories should probably be avoided.
5. Research Their Reputation Online
You may be able to discover more prior client opinions regarding a Kansas City attorney with a little online research. You can search for client reviews online.
It’s also worth checking with the state bar association to make sure that any potential car accident lawyer is in good standing with their state bar. The state bar holds Kansas City lawyers to a high ethical standard and disciplines any lawyers who break that code.
If a lawyer breaches the ethical code, they’ll be disciplined or disbarred, and you’ll see this when you search for their name on the bar website. Lawyers in Kansas City, MO are registered with The Missouri Bar (MoBar.org).
Another online resource is Missouri Lawyers Weekly. A well-reputed local lawyer may be mentioned in this publication.
6. Find Out What Other Lawyers Think of Them
Successful car accident attorneys know many of the other reputable lawyers in their region. When one Kansas City car accident lawyer or law firm has too many clients, they often refer new clients to peers in the Kansas City area whom they respect. At a later date, the favor will be returned.
Because of this peer-to-peer support system, any well-reputed and experienced attorney will receive regular referral business. You can ask attorneys you talk to what percentage of their business comes from other attorneys.
If someone doesn’t receive any referral business, you might wonder why. It may be that they’re just starting out and have yet to build a name for themselves in Kansas City, or it may be because they have a poor reputation with other attorneys.
There are also a few good websites where lawyers rate their peers. Search on SuperLawyers.com, Martindale.com, and BestLawyers.com to find out what others have to say about a prospective attorney or law firm.
7. Ask How Much They Believe Your Case Is Worth
When you visit the law office of a Kansas City attorney or law firm, it can be enlightening to ask what they think your case is worth. Ask how much they think you might be able to recover in total damages.
Your damages are the sums of money you can seek to recover from the at-fault driver to compensate you for your losses. Your medical bills are often the most important damages. This might include future medical expenses if you’ve suffered serious injuries that require long-term treatment.
You may also seek financial compensation for property damage to your car. Lost wages damages cover any income you’ve lost because your injury prevents you from working. This may also include future lost wages if your long-term capacity to work has been reduced.
Kansas City car crashes may also result in non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, and disability damages. If the other driver acted with gross negligence, you may even have a right to pursue punitive damages.
An experienced attorney will quickly be able to estimate the potential value of your damages. When they do so, ask them to explain how they come to that figure. You’ll learn a great deal about their confidence in your claim this way.
Do They See Any Weaknesses in Your Claim?
It can also be telling to ask an attorney what weaknesses they see in your case. It’s a good sign if an attorney is forthright with you about potential problems you’re likely to face.
It’s also beneficial for crash victims to learn about potential weaknesses in their personal injury claims as early as possible. While free consultations do not involve formal legal advice, they can still provide valuable insights. As well as asking about potential obstacles, ask the attorney how they would overcome those obstacles.
For anyone who’s suffered injuries in a car wreck due to someone else’s negligence, recovering compensation will require proving that the other driver was acting with negligence when the accident happened. Negligent motorists may be found guilty of distracted driving, aggressive driving, or drunk driving, but only if you can prove it. This is sometimes easier said than done.
Potential Weaknesses in a Car Accident Claim
Some accident victims face difficulties in their claim because they failed to gather evidence at the scene of the crash when the accident occurred. Sometimes they even neglected to take pictures of the vehicles, talk to eyewitnesses, or call the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
This leaves them with no police report and very little other evidence for their attorney to work with. If the defendant and their insurance company are denying liability, proving them wrong may become an uphill struggle.
Some injured victims make the mistake of filing their claim before speaking to an attorney, and then they speak to the insurance provider and admit to a degree of fault for the accident. When shared negligence is declared in this way, the value of a claim can be ruined.
Another common mistake is failing to seek immediate medical attention following an accident. This would mean you have no medical records linking your injuries to the accident, so the insurer could claim that the other driver bears no responsibility for your car accident injuries.
A car accident case might also be made more challenging by complexities such as multiple negligent parties involved or large trucking companies involved with strong legal defense teams. Top car accident lawyers may still be able to overcome all of these obstacles. It will just take more time, work, and persistence.
8. Look for Sincere Interest in Your Case
When meeting potential lawyers at their law offices, take note of how sincerely interested they appear to be in your case. The best auto accident attorneys are passionate about helping and serving Kansas City residents who’ve suffered injuries in car collisions.
They’re prepared to fight tooth and nail to win you the compensation you deserve. This is the kind of positive energy you should be looking for in your legal representation. Beware of any indication of disinterest when you meet with prospective attorneys.
Kansas City car accidents are unfortunately common, and some lawyers seek quick settlements for as many injury victims as possible with a rapid turnover of new Kansas City clients. Such a lawyer is unlikely to show much personal interest in your claim. You’re unlikely to gain sufficient compensation with a disinterested lawyer, especially if you have serious injuries with high ongoing medical expenses.
9. Make Sure Your Lawyer Is Easy To Work With
You’ll be depending on your chosen attorney throughout a very stressful time of your life. It’s important that you find them to be transparent, accessible, and easy to communicate with.
Ask questions about how they usually handle the entire claims process, how often they’ll provide you with updates, and how you can get in touch with them. A good Kansas City attorney will be very transparent about all of these details and easy to reach.
If face-to-face meetings are important to you, make sure they have a Kansas City law office in a Kansas City area that’s convenient for you to get to. Unless you’re bed-bound by your injury, visit their law office or law firm for our free consultation. You can learn a lot about someone when you meet them in person and see where they work.
Also, personal injury law can be rather complex for most injury victims. Your attorney should be able to communicate clearly with you, explaining complex legal matters in an easy-to-follow way. Ideally, you should gain a sense that they’re ready and willing to answer any questions you might have.
Find Out Which Lawyer You’ll Be Working With at a Law Firm
If you meet someone at the law offices of a personal injury law firm, understand that during the consultation, you may be speaking with one of the firm’s top car accident lawyers. When your case begins, however, you may be assigned a different, less senior lawyer.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just ask to meet the specific lawyer you’ll be working with to make sure the two of you get along well. Also, ask how much support they’ll get from more senior lawyers at the law firm.
10. Understand Their Payment Structure
For almost all clients injured in car accidents in Kansas City, MO, the lawyer or law firm will work on a contingency fee basis. This means they take their legal fees from the final settlement payout once it’s won, and if for some reason you fail to win compensation, you won’t have to pay anything.
This payment arrangement takes a great deal of financial strain off injured victims of car accidents who are already facing the pressure of medical bills and lost wages. When you speak to any Kansas City car accident attorney, always check that their legal representation fees and case-related expenses are to be paid on a contingency fee basis.
If you’d like a highly skilled car accident lawyer fighting to protect your rights, contact Holman Schiavone, LLC today at 816-399-5149 for a free consultation. Our team of experienced trial lawyers fights tirelessly to recover full and fair compensation for injury victims in Kansas City, MO, and the surrounding region.