Finding and hiring a personal injury attorney can be overwhelming, especially if you have just been injured or experienced the loss of a loved one. However, when meeting with a prospective injury attorney, it is important to ask the right questions so you know you are getting representation compatible with your communication style and your desired outcome for your case.
What is Your Assessment of My Case?
As you begin searching for a personal injury lawyer, find out whether you can recover for your injury at all. Perhaps the type of injury you received cannot be legally compensated. Maybe you were at fault or partially at fault for the accident.
On the other hand, your case could be very strong but very complicated. In that case, the attorney might not have the resources to help you at that time. If that happens, the lawyer should refer you to someone who can take your case.
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Can You Handle My Case?
Early in your conversation with the attorney, decide whether he or she has both the available time and the appropriate experience to deal with your case. An experienced lawyer with a moderate caseload can handle your case more efficiently than a new attorney who is too busy to work on your case.
What happens if my case goes to trial? Will the fees change? Will you take my case to trial yourself?
Not all attorneys in a law firm are trial attorneys. If the personal injury firm you are considering employs a lot of attorneys, it is likely they have litigation specialists on staff. Find out who those people are and ask about their experience and track records.
Also, inquire how frequently you can expect to be updated on the status of your case. The answer may be different if your case is in pre-litigation or litigation, since the pace in litigation tends to be slower.
Similarly, find out what you need to do to speak with the attorney handling your case. Some attorneys may have you contact them directly while others may require you to make an appointment prior to speaking with an attorney.
How much time can you devote to my case? What is your current bandwidth?
Find out how long it typically takes the lawyer to resolve a case and how quickly they go to trial if the need arises. Also, make sure this particular personal injury attorney has the capacity to take on your case. Attorneys are generally very busy, so ask questions about the attorney’s caseload and how often they expect to work on your case in a typical week.
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How long have you been practicing personal injury law?
Find an attorney with experience not only in practicing the law, but practicing particularly in personal injury law. Do not assume that a divorce lawyer can take your personal injury case and provide the professionalism you need.
Prior experience in an area of law provides the attorney with a better estimate of your case’s success. He or she can remember resolutions to past issues in personal injury cases and rely on an existing network of expert witnesses if your case goes to trial.
What’s the best way to keep me updated about my case?
Different clients have different preferred methods of communication. Your personal injury attorney should be flexible in how he or she is willing to communicate with you to update you about your case. The attorney might also have a preference of communication style.
Decide with your lawyer whether email, phone calls, text messages, or mail is the best way to communicate. Also ask your attorney how often you can expect to receive updates. You might call or email your attorney throughout litigation if something new arises or you have not heard from the attorney in a while.
How much do you charge for your services?
Once you have established the attorney has the experience and ability to take on your case, ask questions about fees and expenses. You may not be financially prepared to hire a personal injury attorney, so paying an hourly fee might be difficult.
Most personal injury attorneys offer to work on a contingency fee basis. If yours does, ask how much their fee is. Standard fees are 33% for pre-litigation, 40% for litigation, and 45% for appeals.
Contingency fees often do not include case expenses. Ask your attorney if case expenses are deducted separately from his or her fee. Also find out whether you are responsible for case expenses if the attorney loses your case at trial.
Have You Handled Cases Similar to My Case?
As you speak with your potential attorney, inquire about their experience with your specific type of case. Ask how long they have been working in that particular practice area.
Also, request examples of similar cases they have handled and the outcomes of those cases. If the attorney has experience, you will want to ensure he or she is going to aggressively pursue your case.
Can You Show Me Some of Your Client Testimonials?
If you are speaking with an attorney, you may have already read online reviews regarding that attorney or the attorney’s firm. Sometimes, you can find testimonials from past clients online and learn about an attorney’s success with cases similar to yours. However, beware of anonymous or uncertified online reviews, since they may come from competitors or people who were never clients at the firm.
Perhaps you came across the attorney through the recommendation of friends or family. While it is helpful to receive such referrals from the people you trust, you might be looking for different traits in your lawyer. Regardless of how you found the personal injury lawyer, you should be able to receive additional feedback about the attorney’s performance from the attorney herself.
If the attorney has experience, he or she should have at least a few client testimonials that reflect how the lawyer was able to help them. Pay attention to what past clients say about the lawyer’s availability and aggressiveness in pursuing the claim.
Also, note how similar the past cases are to your present case and the type of outcomes those clients received. See if any past cases went to trial and ask the lawyer whether you would retain the same attorney at trial or need to work with a different lawyer at the firm.
What’s My Role in the Lawsuit?
Ask your attorney about your anticipated level of involvement in your claim. Some attorneys will allow you to step in and help in the lawsuit when it helps speed the process along. Alternatively, you can stay removed from the suit and allow the attorney to handle as much as possible.
For example, if you have been in a car accident, it is helpful for you to gather as much evidence as possible while you are still at the accident scene. Take pictures, exchange information with the other drivers involved, and call the police to file an accident report. As you make trips to the doctor to treat your injuries, keep careful documentation of every visit, diagnosis, treatment plan, and cost so that your attorney can calculate your damages.
You will probably participate in depositions and/or interrogatories about the accident as everyone involved in the accident gathers evidence. During this stage, each side is attempting to determine who was at fault for the accident and how to prove fault based on the facts of the case. Your attorney will work with you to help you answer questions without hurting the strength of your case.
Once both sides have all the evidence they need, your attorney will begin negotiations with the other party or parties involved in the accident. You should not have to communicate with the other parties directly, and you can accept or reject settlement offers through your lawyer.
At Zinda Law Group, our personal injury attorneys are experienced and have handled many cases involving personal injury victims. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you determine what to do next and to help you recover the best possible outcome for your case.