Every single day, people experience serious personal injuries thanks to the negligence of others. That may mean time off work, prolonged recovery, and physical pain. The entire experience can be frightening and confusing. What’s more, though, is that several decisions have to be made immediately, including whether to hire an attorney. Is a lawyer necessary? If you have been seriously injured, seeking assistance from an experienced personal injury lawyer is wise because you are more likely to receive the maximum compensation for your injuries than if you went alone. Just the need for an attorney, though, may lead to several additional questions. Most people want to know which lawyer is best and where to even begin the search. As you start looking for a personal injury attorney to take your case, it can help to develop a list of questions for each of the attorneys you consider. This list of commonly asked questions may help you create yours.
1. What type of law do you practice?
There are many types of lawyers, and many specialize in select fields. For example, if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you want to see a personal injury lawyer and not someone who practices real estate law. Different lawyers usually specialize in different areas of the law, and as a result, have specialized skills related to those areas. For the best results, you will want an attorney who specializes in personal injury law. Lawyers whose practice is limited to personal injury have good insight into the different cases, the rules to follow, and outcomes.
2. Do you have experience with similar cases?
You essentially want a personal injury lawyer with experience and not someone who is just fresh from law school. You also want a lawyer who practices full-time and not part-time. While there is no guarantee that a full-time lawyer will have more success with your case, chances are that he or she will be better prepared and be able to foresee any potential issues.
3. Who will represent me?
On TV, it appears that lawyers are always available to take on cases, but in reality, most lawyers work with a team of other staff, including paralegals. But you want to make sure that the lawyer will still be overseeing the case and not just sign off the case to a junior team member.
4. How long will it take to resolve the injury case?
Every personal injury case is different, and it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the case will be resolved. Every personal injury case requires an extensive amount of paperwork, obtaining reports from doctors, contacting the other parties, tabulating your medical expenses, communicating with your insurer, etc., and all this takes time. Plus, lawyers often have several other cases going on at the same time; however, based on prior experience with similar cases, he or she will be able to give you an estimated time of completion.
5. What is your track record of success?
There is no harm in asking how successful the lawyer is at winning personal injury cases. And most will be able to provide you with a list of their success stories. More importantly, insurers also know which lawyers have a good track record and, in such scenarios, may be more than willing to settle than risk going to trial.
6. Do you work on a contingency basis?
This is a very important question to ask as it concerns payment. Many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee- what this means is they get paid a certain percentage from your award. This means you do not have to make any huge payment upfront. However, you also need to ask what percentage is the contingency fee. A reasonable amount varies between 25-35%; if it is higher, then you need to find another lawyer. The other thing you do not want is a lawyer who charges by the hour- this can make it very costly for you as the fee per hour can vary from $250-$400.
7. Will my case go to trial?
The majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court. It is a rare, complex case that needs to go to court. Settling out of court is also a much faster and cheaper process for the client.
8. Do you have courtroom experience?
This is an important question to ask because if your case goes to trial, you want your lawyer to know how to prepare for it. If the lawyer has never been to court or has no experience, this may not be the best professional. You also want a lawyer who knows when to settle the case out of court and when to go to trial.
9. Can you give me any references?
Many lawyers are willing to provide references from past clients, and you should make every opportunity to read them. If you ask a lawyer about references and he or she declines to provide you with them, then perhaps they have something to hide.
10. What happens if the case is lost?
This is a very important question; in some jurisdictions, the lawyer will not hold the client accountable for expenses incurred during the trial. However, in other jurisdictions, the client is responsible for the lawyer’s cost, whether the case is won or lost. While some lawyers may not chase the client for the expenses, others may actively pursue the client for the payment. So you need to have the costs written down in a contract so that there are no surprises at the end.
Before you walk into a lawyer’s office, have the questions written on paper. Feel free to ask what is important to you, and in most cases, personal injury lawyers will respond appropriately. After all, they only make money if they win cases for their clients. You should select someone who makes you feel comfortable and has answered all the questions to your satisfaction.