7 Tips for Finding an Ethical Car Accident Attorney in Missouri and Illinois
When someone is hurt in a car accident, their top priority is to recover and feel well again. The more severe the injuries, the more important it is to have a personal injury lawyer who can get full compensation for whatever treatment is necessary to accomplish that. Victims need someone who will fight for a fair and complete settlement, either with the insurance company or in court. But it is equally important to find an ethical car accident attorney.
If you are looking for someone to handle a car accident case in Missouri or Illinois, you are sure to find a lot of options. Most lawyers are honest and above-board. But, unfortunately, there are some who may push the boundaries of ethical behavior. Weeding those out to find an ethical car accident attorney can take some research, which can be a hassle. And even then, you might worry whether or not you’ve made the right choice. The peace of mind from knowing what to look for—and following our tips—is well worth the time and effort.
What to Look for in an Ethical Car Accident Attorney
Unethical behavior by an attorney can not only get the attorney in trouble (and possibly disbarred), but it can also cause problems for their clients. It is far better to find someone ethical than to take a chance that could jeopardize the outcome of a case and any potential settlement.
Many people only deal with a personal injury attorney once in their life, but we do it every day. Our practice interacts with all types of lawyers, both good and bad. This experience has resulted in this list of ways victims can tell if they have found an ethical car accident attorney in Missouri or Illinois.
1. There Are No Ethics Violations Under Their Name
Any attorney can say they are ethical, but it is not necessary to rely on their claims alone. There are resources available that report ethics violations or disciplinary actions against lawyers. When considering legal counsel, first check that they are in good standing with their state’s court system and bar association.
The Ethics and Discipline page on the Missouri Courts Judicial Branch of Government website lists all Missouri attorneys who are suspended, on probation, or facing disbarment. The Illinois Bar Association website has a similar page.
If everything checks out, the following steps will help narrow the field of potential attorneys.
2. They Take Time to Review Your Case
If there is insufficient evidence and little chance of a successful claim, an honest attorney will say so. An ethical lawyer will not take a case if they feel it has no merit.
Ethical attorneys do a thorough review of a victim’s case. They will want to hear the entire story from the victim’s point of view and will ask questions until they understand exactly what happened. Only then will they offer their opinion of the chances of winning a settlement.
3. Initial Consultations are Free
Sitting down to discuss the merits of a case should not cost a victim anything. Ethical car accident attorneys conduct these initial consultations as a courtesy to potential clients. Charging for this service is considered unethical by most personal injury lawyers. An attorney should never “sell” their consultation time before knowing whether or not the case is worth taking on.
Billing for legal services typically begins after the free initial meeting—only after the lawyer agrees to take the case and the victim officially decides to move forward.
4. They Only Charge if You Win
Ethical car accident attorneys charge their clients on a contingency basis. This means that they get paid a percentage of the total settlement a victim receives as compensation. The typical fee is 33%, but it can vary between about 25% and 40%. A more complex case will take more time and effort to prepare, so the charge might be on the higher end. Something clear-cut where it is easy to prove who is at fault might be less. Sometimes the victim can negotiate with an attorney for a reduced percentage.
Some personal injury lawyers might ask for an upfront payment or retainer, but there are plenty of attorneys, including Hipskind & McAninch, who do not. It is not unethical to ask for a retainer or to bill for additional out-of-pocket expenses like court reporting fees and administrative services. But an ethical lawyer will let their clients know in advance what to expect and put everything in writing. It is best to ask to make sure there are no hidden fees or surprise bills for services when the case is over. And any money paid to the attorney in advance should be subtracted from the final payment.
5. They Don’t Make Unrealistic Promises
Part of a personal injury lawyer’s job is to calculate what a claim is worth. If they are ethical, they will not try to inflate the amount and will be honest if they are not confident they can win. If an attorney says a settlement is “guaranteed”, will only take a certain amount of time, or promises an amount of compensation that seems high, they might not be ethical. A skilled attorney can often get a large amount of money for a client, but the results and time it takes for insurance claims and court settlements are never 100% certain.
6. You’re Not Asked to Do Anything That Feels Wrong
A good attorney cares about their clients and will make sure they get the proper medical care for their injuries. However, an unethical attorney might coax a victim into embellishing their story or exaggerating their injuries.
It is true that victims are not always aware of all of the items they can be compensated for. For example, they can receive money for future medical treatment or lost wages if they missed work for follow-up doctor appointments or physical therapy. However, ethical car accident attorneys will not suggest that a client’s situation is worse than it really is.
7. They Don’t Go Against Your Wishes
Some victims of car accidents want nothing more than to get a quick settlement and move on with their lives. Others want to be sure they get full compensation, even if it means filing a lawsuit.
An ethical car accident attorney will not push a client to go against their wishes. Let’s say a victim wants to accept a settlement offer, but the lawyer thinks they can get more. The attorney can make a recommendation to wait, but it is ultimately the victim’s choice. Ethical attorneys will not mislead or bully a client into making a decision. It is also unethical for a lawyer to not inform their client of any settlement that is offered.
Good Personal Injury Lawyer or Just Good Advertising?
Anyone in Missouri or Illinois can probably name at least half a dozen law firms they’ve seen on TV or on billboards. It is important to remember that just because a law firm spends a lot of money on advertising, it is not an indication that they are a good fit for a particular client.
Ethical lawyers can be found at both big-name law firms and at smaller ones like Hipskind & McAninch. Finding the best attorney for you is a matter of finding someone you feel comfortable with, who explains things so you can understand them, and who will give your case the attention it deserves.
Hipskind & McAninch are licensed in both Missouri and Illinois and have recovered millions of dollars in settlements with a 99% success rate. As dedicated and ethical car accident attorneys, they fight every case with their clients’ physical, emotional, and financial well-being as their top priority.