California sees thousands of car accidents every year. In 2015 alone, nearly 2,000 people were killed or injured by vehicle accidents in Bakersfield. Being in an accident can change your life forever, and you may rightly consider getting a car accident attorney and seeking recompense. The first step to getting help is finding the right attorney, and here’s how you can do this.

Start online

You should start your search by looking for a Bakersfield car accident lawyer. This will help you narrow down your search to local attorneys who specialize in relevant fields of law and who have experience with local judges and courts. You’ll also have the chance to check out online reviews and see what kind of experiences others had with specific attorneys in your area.

When you look at reviews, always read with caution. Read reviews all the way through, especially the longer ones. Ask yourself if they ring true. A fake positive review is usually short, both in total length and in specifics. A fake negative review often has a whiff of irrationality or a feeling of revenge about it.

Check with the California State Bar

The California State Bar is the largest such association in the nation with more than 165,000 active members practicing law in the state. The state bar oversees the disciplinary system that helps protect the public from attorney misconduct.

Good lawyers in California will have a profile on the site. This will show their educational background, their contact info, and whether or not they’ve been disciplined by the bar association. Use this to make sure the lawyers you’re looking at are trustworthy, qualified, and well-respected.

Ask good questions

Most lawyers will be happy to give you an free initial consultation. This is a chance for you to get questions asked and for the lawyers to determine whether your case has a good chance of succeeding. Some good questions you can ask include:

  • How long have you been practicing law?
  • How often do you handle cases of this type?
  • Do you have experience working cases in Bakersfield?
  • How often do you take cases to trial?
  • Who will actually be handling my case?
  • Tell me about some cases you’ve won.
  • Tell me about some cases you’ve lost.
  • How much do you think my case is really worth?
  • What is your fee structure like?

Speaking of fees

It’s a good idea to find out as many details as you can in advance. Some lawyers will expect a fee no matter what happens with your case. Others won’t get paid unless you win or successfully settle.

The typical car accident attorney in California will charge between 25 percent and 40 percent of your settlement. This is often negotiable, so be sure to ask questions up front. Just remember that the better a lawyer is, the higher the fee he or she can command.

Get a feel for personality

It’s important that your lawyer has education and experience. But it’s also important that you feel comfortable enough with him or her that you can talk openly. If you find the lawyer’s personality irritating, or if you feel intimidated, it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere.

The same is true if you find you’re having trouble communicating. Sometimes two people just have trouble understanding each other’s ways of thinking, and this isn’t anyone’s fault. Make sure you’ve got a lawyer you can easily speak to.

Don’t wait too long

It’s important to search carefully for the lawyer you need, but it’s also crucial that you not wait too long. California’s statute of limitations only allows you to bring a claim for up to two years after an accident, one year after the discovery of an injury, and only for six months if the at-fault party works in government. If you’ve been injured, it’s important that you start the process as soon as possible to ensure you get the help and compensation you deserve.