How to Get a Lawyer and File a Lawsuit
If you, your spouse, or your child has been injured, you could benefit from legal representation. However, it’s not always easy to know when or whether you need an attorney — or how you should take the next steps.
At Edgar Snyder & Associates, we understand how complex and confusing accident laws can feel, which is why we created this guide for injury victims and their families. In it, you’ll find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about personal injury claims in Pittsburgh, including when to seek legal help, how to find a lawyer, and how to file a lawsuit in Pennsylvania — for free.
Getting a Lawyer
You may be able to file a claim against the business or person who injured you. However, you should consult a qualified attorney before you begin this process, which is controlled by strict regulations. Only an experienced attorney has the training and resources necessary to gather evidence, meet filing deadlines, prepare legal documents, and advise you on important issues like settlement offers.
By handling your claim strategically, an attorney can improve your odds of recovering compensation, especially if you have incurred hefty medical bills, suffered permanent injuries that have compromised your quality of life, or other reasons. Without a skilled lawyer to guide and protect you, there’s a higher risk you won’t be compensated fairly — or worse, that your case could be dismissed altogether. There are several reasons why you may want to hire an attorney to help support you in your case.
Reason #1: You Have Large Medical Bills
Unfortunately, many injuries require costly treatments, such as multiple surgeries or expensive prescriptions. If your medical bills are substantial and the financial stakes for your family are high, you should strongly consider consulting an attorney.
Reason #2: Your Injuries Are Permanent or Disabling
While some injuries heal with time, others cause permanent impairment or disability, affecting your lifetime earning capacity over the course of years or decades. For example, if you lost a limb or the use of a limb, you may no longer be able to perform certain jobs. An attorney can ensure that your anticipated losses are more accurately calculated, protecting you from inadequate settlement offers.
Reason #3: Multiple Parties Are At Fault
When you file a personal injury claim, you must generally show that the other party was at fault for your accident. For instance, if you were injured in a slip and fall accident in your apartment building, you might need to show how the landlord was responsible. When multiple parties are involved — for instance, three or more drivers — a highly sophisticated investigation is necessary to properly determine fault.
Reason #4: The Other Party Has an Attorney
Insurance providers retain powerful legal teams to protect their bottom line and save the company money. Level the playing field and protect your rights by consulting an attorney of your own. As a fearless legal advocate, your lawyer will be ready to fight aggressively for you and your loved ones, no matter who you have to go up against.
Reason #5: You Were Injured at Work
If you were injured on the job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation, which is different from filing a personal injury claim. A lawyer can help you understand your options, including what to do if your workers’ comp claim is denied.
Reason #6: You Need Legal Advice
When you are suffering from a serious injury, the last thing you want to do is deal with a legal statute or insurance document while you’re focusing on your health. Let an attorney handle the work for you so you can focus on getting the care you need.
Finding a Lawyer
Not all attorneys are qualified to handle your claim. For example, some attorneys only deal with bankruptcy or business disputes, or do not practice law in Pennsylvania. However, there are a number of ways to find the right type of lawyer for your case.
- Advertisements. Attorney advertisements can be found online, in newspapers, on the radio, in print, and other mediums.
- Legal aid organizations. The Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network (PLAN) is a collection of independent groups that offer legal help for low-income families or individuals, such as the Community Justice Project.
- Legal directories and referral services. The American Bar Association (ABA) provides state-by-state bar directories and attorney finders. In addition, the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) provides a Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) which “refers callers to lawyers in the counties that do not have a referral service of their own.”
- Paralegals. A paralegal can help you find a lawyer in Pennsylvania, but does not have the qualifications to act as your attorney.
- Recommendations and testimonials. Recommendations from friends and family are an excellent resource, along with online client reviews and testimonials. You can view some of our testimonials from people we’ve helped here on our website.
How Much Does a Lawyer Cost?
Different law firms charge different rates, depending on their size, location, and other factors. Based on these sorts of variables, the average hourly cost of a lawyer can range anywhere from around $255 to $520. At Edgar Snyder & Associates, we work on a contingent fee basis, which means you don’t pay a thing unless we win your case.
What is a Reasonable Retainer Fee?
A retainer fee, or retainer agreement, is an upfront payment that some lawyers charge at the beginning of your case. An attorney retainer fee can range anywhere from around $2,000 to $100,000, depending on the case. Our law firm won’t charge you a penny unless we get money for you — period.
How Can You Ask a Lawyer Advice for Free?
If you’ve thought about hiring an attorney, you may have wondered how to consult a lawyer for free advice. If you think you could have a case, contact Edgar Snyder & Associates online or at to request your free legal consultation. We make it easy to get in touch with our team and ask a question before you retain our services. After your free consultation, you’re never under any obligation to use our services. If you do work with the Edgar Snyder team, you won’t pay a penny until we win your case for you.
Can You Get a Lawyer for Free?
Many law firms provide pro bono legal services, or free legal aid, on a volunteer basis. Pro bono services are available in all U.S. states, including Pennsylvania, where they can be located through bar directories and legal aid organizations like PLAN. Edgar Snyder & Associates offers free consultations and have a contingency fee policy: you don’t pay unless we win.
How to File a Lawsuit
Determine if You Have a Good Case
If you’re in one of the following situations, you could have a strong case. However, filing a lawsuit or claim doesn’t mean you’ll have to go to court. In fact, most personal injury cases settle outside of court — often before litigation even starts.
You Have Legal Standing
To file a personal injury lawsuit, you must either be an accident victim, or be authorized to represent the victim. This usually means being the victim’s spouse, child, or parent, or being the executor of the victim’s estate.
You Have Time to File
A deadline called the statute of limitations restricts how much time you have to file a lawsuit in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania personal injury statute of limitations is generally two years from the date of injury, with some exceptions.
You Suffered Damages
You won’t have a case unless you suffered injuries or financial losses, which are called “damages” in legal terminology.
Figure Out Who to Sue
Determining who to sue can be easy or complicated, depending on how an accident happened and who was at fault. For example, if you were injured in a car accident, your options might include:
- Filing a claim with your own insurance company
- Filing a claim against the other driver’s insurance company
- Suing the other driver directly, if he or she is uninsured
Determining the person or entities to sue depends on factors like how seriously you were injured, what type of insurance coverage you have, how many vehicles were involved, and other aspects of Pennsylvania’s unique “choice no-fault” insurance system.
As another example, you might have a medical malpractice case against your doctor, a slip and fall case against your landlord, or a product liability case against the product’s manufacturer. However, third parties might also be partly to blame for your injuries. For example, who is liable for a truck accident? The truck driver, the trucking company, or both? If you think you might have a lawsuit, but aren’t sure who it should focus on, contact Edgar Snyder & Associates for a free legal consultation today.
Steps to File a Lawsuit
Step #1: Complaint
Your case begins when you, the plaintiff, file a Complaint or a Writ of Summons in court with help from your attorney. The complaint states the material facts of the accident and the damages you claim in your case. The complaint must be verified by you before it is filed with the court. The summons, which gets served on the defendant, it is simply a notice that you are starting a legal proceedings against the defendant and subjects the defendant to the jurisdiction of the court.
Unlike a complaint, a summons does not provide any details about the nature of the case for your damages. It simply notifies the defendant that you are starting legal action against him or her.
Step #2: Answer
Once you’ve filed your complaint, the defendant must file a response. The response from the defendant will either take the nature of preliminary objections in which defendant asked the court to dismiss the complaint raising a legal defense, or the filing of an answer in which the defendant response to the allegations of the complaint and asserts any defenses they may have to the lawsuit. In most instances, the defendant simply filed answer and generally denies liability and damages and demands that plaintiff prove the case at trial.
Step #3: Discovery
During the discovery phase, opposing counsel is required to exchange information about the case. That means each legal team can ask questions or request records from the other.
Either side can make or receive several different types of discovery requests. These types include:
- Interrogatories. Like the name suggests interrogatories are written question served on the opposing party requesting detailed information about a certain issue in the case.
- Document Production. A request for production of documents is a request for opposing party to supply (“produce”) specific records in their possession.
- Admissions. An admission is a request on your opponent to admit or deny certain facts of the case.
Step #4: Response
It’s extremely important to reply fully, promptly and truthfully to any request you receive during discovery. You cannot hide information by failing to respond, because the other party can file a Motion to Compel: a request for the judge to force (“compel”) you to provide the requested information.
If there is a dispute regarding the discovery responses, the judge may require a hearing, and issue an Order. Failing to obey a judge’s orders can lead to penalties dismissing the action or limiting evidence and making it harder for you to get compensated. An attorney can advise you on what steps to take — and what missteps to avoid — so that your case moves forward smoothly.
Step #5: Conclusion
Contrary to what you might see in legal dramas, most lawsuits never go to trial. In fact, more than 90 percent of personal injury cases are resolved by negotiating out-of-court voluntary settlements, which typically compensate pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.
In the event that settlement negotiations fail — for example, if the other party completely denies liability — going to trial may be the next step. If your case reaches or proceeds directly to this stage, you are strongly advised to seek legal help. The courts require filing of detailed pretrial statements and you will be up against seasoned trial attorneys, facing complex rules the court will not interpret for you. Fight back by hiring a Pittsburgh personal injury lawyer who has an established track record of success.
Still Have Questions? Schedule a Free Consultation Today!
Get answers to all your legal questions about filing a personal injury claim in Pittsburgh and / or western Pennsylvania. Contact Edgar Snyder & Associates online for a free consultation, or call toll-free at for 24/7 legal support throughout Pennsylvania.