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No one wants to think about the possibility of being in an accident, but unfortunately, they do happen. When a costly accident upends your life, you deserve the help of trustworthy car accident attorneys. Choosing the right lawyers at the right law firm can significantly affect the long-term outcome of your case. Choosing the wrong lawyers can result in you paying costly medical bills out of your own pocket, from an accident that wasn’t your fault.

So how do you determine who the “right” car accident attorneys in Oregon are for you? It’s a process that can feel daunting if you’re just beginning the search. If you’ve been injured in an accident in Oregon be sure your car accident attorney can answer questions about the three “E” s: Experience, Expertise, and Expectations.

Use these nine handy questions below to choose a personal injury attorney, and during your search, consider the attorneys from one of Salem’s oldest firms: Swanson, Lathen, Prestwich, PC.

9 questions to ask when choosing a car accident attorney - cartoon with two people involved in a car accident surrounded by questions to ask attorney - SLP Law


Choose a lawyer with enough experience to handle any curve balls that the opposition or the Oregon legal system can throw at you or them. Assess their experience quickly with these three questions.

How long have you practiced personal injury law?

Your lawyer should be able to tell you how long they have practiced law personally and how long the firm has existed. Clarify whether the experience they’re claiming includes any law practice or whether it’s specific to personal injury law. A lawyer who just switched to personal-injury practice but specialized in divorce for most of their career may have a lot of experience, but it won’t be very relevant to your case.

Choose a law firm with as much experience as possible. For example, Swanson, Lathen, Prestwich, PC has existed as a Salem-based personal injury law firm for more than 60 years, and our practicing partners each have nearly 20 years of experience. Almost all of that experience has been focused on personal injury law.

The more experience a lawyer has in personal injury cases, the more likely they are to get you the best outcome for your case.

How many car accident cases have you handled?

Years of experience are good, but actual casework is even better. Someone who’s worked as an attorney for years but handled only one case won’t have the wisdom that only comes from repetition. Lawyers who work on a lot of cases, especially the same types of cases in the same city, develop practices that streamline the process and lead to success. They know whom to talk to, where they are, and how to talk to them. They know how to write up your case documents in a way that appeals to the same opposing lawyers they negotiate with regularly.

Personal injury attorneys who have successfully won numerous claims can put their wisdom and contacts to work on your case and give you a better chance of winning.

Which members of your staff will handle my case?

Choose a law firm whose lawyers work on the cases. All the legal experience in the world won’t matter if the lawyer hands off all of your casework to an intern and hits the golf course. Ask the attorney themselves how they plan to handle your case. If you don’t get the chance to talk to the lawyer, the firm will assign to your case; that’s a bad sign.

This is a case where bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes working with smaller firms means you get more personal attention from the lawyers.


Ensure the lawyer you choose can get the job done. Ask for proof of their expertise.

Do you have a record of success handling personal injury claims?

Having experience is one thing; having success is another. A long history of failing is nothing to bet on. Choose an attorney who can show you proof of claims they have previously won. For example, Swanson, Lathen, Prestwich, PC has worked and won hundreds of cases over the past 50 years—winning millions of dollars for our clients in the process.

Based on your assessment of my case, what types of damages could I expect?

The specifics of your case will determine if you’re likely to reach a settlement or win a cash award at trial. Predicting the specific amount of money your case could be worth can be very difficult. A good attorney should be able to assess your case and identify all the types of potential damages you should claim to maximize your chance of winning and your overall payout.

Do you foresee any potential issues with my case?

You deserve a lawyer you can trust. Every case has potential pitfalls. Your lawyer should prepare you for them. If your attorney makes your case sound too good to be true, they might be exaggerating your chances just to get your business.


Your attorney should help you feel comfortable through your legal journey. Part of helping you feel comfortable is laying out what to expect as your case unfolds. Stay away from lawyers who won’t openly and honestly discuss your case’s process and possible outcomes.

What is your fee structure?

You need to know what your attorney fees will be, so ask. Some personal injury cases require upfront fees and some work on a contingency where you only pay if you win.

With a contingency fee agreement, the lawyers may front many or all of the costs of the case, then take reimbursement for those costs and their attorney’s fees out of the final settlement amount. If you work with an attorney through a contingency agreement, identify what percentage of the settlement or award your attorney plans to take. Also, ask if they will expect reimbursement for upfront costs if you lose the case.

Know what you’re paying for.

How long will my case take to resolve?

Timelines in personal injury cases can be hard to predict. Still, an experienced attorney should be able to lay out a general timeline for a case and discuss how the specifics of your case might affect it.

The duration of your case can be significantly affected by things outside the lawyer’s control, like court scheduling. Still, they should be able to explain the steps involved in your case and how long those steps have taken in their previous cases.

Will my case go to trial?

Similar to predicting your case’s timeframe, predicting your case’s course can be challenging. Lawyers with experience can tell you what caused previous cases to go to trial and explain how your case may be similar to or different from those cases. Still, reaching a pretrial settlement requires an agreement from both parties, so they aren’t always predictable.

Choose an attorney who will be honest with you about what they can and can’t predict about your case.

What to consider when choosing a car accident attorney - experience, expertise, expectations - SLP Law

Get all three “E”s with SLP

The simplest way to choose a personal injury law firm is to choose one that ticks all the boxes when it comes to experience, expertise, and expectations. Swanson, Lathen, Prestwich, PC advocates for Salem residents and people all over Oregon and have since 1958. Our seasoned Oregon car attorneys have the skills and compassion to get every bit of compensation you deserve. We have a record of successfully winning cases for our clients and a dedication to transparent and open communication with our clients.

Swanson, Lathen, Prestwich, PC has the reputation of success you deserve in your personal injury case. Contact Swanson, Lathen, Prestwich, PC today to start with a free consultation.