Deciding to hire a personal injury attorney can often be stressful and confusing. Not only have you been injured in some kind of accident, but you are also trying to decide how often you should go to the doctor, how you will pay the medical bills, and whether the insurance companies will offer enough of a settlement but you may also be wary about hiring an attorney.
You might be wondering which one is the best, which one will actually spend time helping your case, and whether you even need an attorney. For example, you wouldn’t want an attorney like the one in this New York Times article that delayed the proceeds of the settlements, but you also want to be realistic about how long the case may take.
To help you narrow down the choices, we have created a list of the key questions to ask the attorney before hiring them.
1- What areas of law do you specialize in?
Even though you probably know that you wouldn’t want an intellectual property lawyer or a corporate lawyer to handle your personal injury case, there are different specialties even within personal injury.
There are a variety of personal injury cases since it is defined as the “situation in which a person’s body, mind, or emotions are hurt, usually due to someone else’s negligence or carelessness.”
This can include medical malpractice, slip and falls, car accidents, dog bites, injuries on the job requiring worker’s compensation or even assault and battery cases. Most personal injury attorneys will focus specifically on one. Make sure your case lines up with their specialty.
2- How long does a case like mine typically take to settle?
Your attorney should at least have a set of guidelines for how long a case will take, though of course each case is slightly different. You want your attorney to be up front with you about how long it will take. For example, the case may require you to finish treatment, to gather all the medical records and put together a demand and only then will your attorney enter into negotiations. All of that takes time.
However, what you don’t want is for your case to sit on the paralegal’s desk for two years before anything happens. Many cases will have a definite statute of limitations, but if you need to file a lawsuit it can be beneficial to file sooner rather than later.
3- Is my case likely to go to trial? If so, will you be the attorney to act on my behalf and take the case to trial?
Not all cases need to go to trial but when they do, it is a lot of extra work. Many attorneys won’t even go to trial, they will simply pass on the case to someone else. You need to know if your case is going to settle without requiring a trail and if it does require one, make sure the attorney will be representing you.
Often the attorney names you know might not be the best fit for you. They might meet with you for the initial consultation and then pass your case off to one of the newer and less experienced attorneys.
4- Will you actually be the attorney handling my case?
Reinforcing the previous question, you want to make sure the attorney you meet is the one who will actually handle your case. Though the attorney may often work on a team with a variety of other attorneys and paralegals, it is important to know who you will be communicating with.
You need to know who will be handling your case, who will be your point of contact and who will be speaking with you on the phone.
5- What is my case worth?
Though your attorney may not be able to have the exact amount of your case available at the first meeting because there are many different factors like the extent of your liability, injuries, and treatment to consider, your attorney should at least have a ball park range of the compensation you can expect.
At the very least, your attorney should be able to explain some of the unknowns to you. Often attorneys may make large promises in their advertising that simply wouldn’t be possible for your case. Don’t be fooled by the attorneys who make promises that are too good to be true.
6- What is your contingency fee?
Most attorneys will work on a contingency fee agreement where there is no legal fee unless there is an actual monetary settlement. Most contingency fee agreements are between 25% and 40%. Sometimes they are negotiable and your attorney will be willing to reduce the fee. Often, the stronger your case is the more willing your attorney will be to negotiate the fees.