Securing fair compensation for your personal injury and other losses is a complex process. Only an expert attorney with considerable experience in handling personal injury cases will be able to represent your interests during the settlement negotiations with the insurance company or in court.
It is always best to consult a lawyer before filing a personal injury claim. However, the question that remains is – which lawyer should you hire? After all, you will work with him/her closely and need to feel comfortable disclosing your details to him/her.
It makes sense to interview a few lawyers before zeroing in on the right one.
Mentioned ahead are a few questions to ask potential personal injury attorneys.
1) What Kind of Cases Do You Handle on a Daily Basis?
A lot of lawyers are actually general practitioners. They dabble in every area of law, including personal injury. This does not mean they specialize in personal injury practice, but that they do handle these kinds of cases occasionally.
Hiring a general practitioner may not be the best idea for a victim of personal injury. Ideally, you should go for a lawyer who has specialized in personal injury law and deals with related cases on a regular basis. Only he/she will know it in and out and will be capable of getting you the best results.
Think of it as deciding on a doctor. You wouldn’t hire a cardiologist or a general practitioner to perform orthopedic surgery!
2) Have You Previously Handled Cases Similar to Mine?
Asking this question is crucial. A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that the personal injury lawyer has already handled a case like yours. This presumption, however, is rarely correct.
Ask all prospective lawyers about their prior experience in dealing with personal injury cases and the results obtained. If you’ve been in a car accident, for example, you don’t want to end up hiring a personal injury attorney who has worked only on medical malpractice lawsuits.
3) Do You Have Jury Trial Experience?
People tend to harbor the notion that all personal injury lawyers frequently try cases in court. This is another myth. In fact, a lot of lawyers who claim to be trial lawyers or personal injury lawyers have little-to-no jury trial experience. This is why it is important to ask your prospective lawyer if he/she has tried in court, and if so, how often.
Know that insurance companies will try to find out which lawyer will represent your case and if they have jury trial experience. They do so to evaluate their risks, especially in the case of serious claims.
If the insurance company discovers that your lawyer will not hesitate to try your case in court, it will be more flexible during settlement negotiations. On the other hand, a lawyer who always settles and never goes to court will get you only the minimal settlement that the insurance company agrees to pay.
4) Who Will Handle My Case?
You will do well to find out if the lawyer you met will actually be working on your case or hand it over to someone else in his team. Once you know who will handle your case, you need to gauge his/her skills and experience.
Also, inquire if the lawyer who will work on your case is well-versed with the laws of your resident state in the US. If you live in Illinois, for example, look for an Illinois personal injury attorney. Only such a lawyer will know what statutes apply to your case and which regulations can work to your advantage.
Please know that there is nothing wrong with more than one lawyer working on your case. The top lawyers usually work with teams of lawyers who handle different aspects of the case. Senior lawyers may routinely delegate certain basic functions to junior lawyers. It is best to ask how the lawyer and his team functions.
5) How Often Do You Win Favorable Verdicts and Settlements?
You want to ask these questions because you want to associate with a lawyer who has a high rate of successful case outcomes for clients. Such an attorney is obviously well-versed with personal injury law, knows how the legal machinery works and has the necessary negotiation skills to bring you the desired results.
Ask your lawyer about how many personal injury cases he/she has handled and how many of these have been won/lost. Also, ask how many cases have been closed by settling and how many have been tried in court. This information will help you understand whether or not the lawyer is dependable.
6) Do You Work on a Contingency Basis?
Most often, the majority of personal injury lawyers will not charge you directly for their services, but take a part of the money you receive as settlement or a positive outcome at trial. This system of fee payment is known as a contingency, where the lawyer gets paid depending on (or contingent upon) you receiving the amount due to you.
In fact, a lot of personal injury attorneys also pay for doctor’s visits and other expenses before you have been compensated for your injuries. Do note that if an attorney charges an hourly fee, it can become extremely expensive for you at a time when your medical bills may also be swelling.
7) What If the Case Is Lost?
It is only natural to wonder as to what will happen to the money that you spend if you lose the case. In some jurisdictions, lawyers are allowed to promise the client that they will not have to bear the lawyer’s out-of-pocket expenses.
Other jurisdictions, however, prohibit this and hold the client responsible for every case-related expense, whether they ultimately win or lose. But even in those jurisdictions, some lawyers do ask clients for reimbursement of their expenses.
8) Are You a Member of Reputed Legal Organizations That Represent Injured People?
Whether it is at the national or the state level, certain legal organizations comprise several lawyers who are committed to serving victims of personal injury. The most prominent organization is the American Association for Justice (or AAJ).
These organizations sponsor several legal publications and educational courses. They also conduct lobbying activities for championing consumer rights. Hiring a lawyer who belongs to such groups will be a prudent move on your part.
9) Can You Provide References to Your Past Clients?
Make it a point to ask for references so you can better gauge the genuineness of potential lawyers. Any confident and truly accomplished lawyer will never hesitate from providing references from past clients. Their feedback can prove to be a good indicator of whether or not they were satisfied with the attorney’s performance. Their reviews will also help you understand the quality of the results obtained and the time taken to close the case, among other concerns.
Choosing the right lawyer to represent your claim and win the desirable verdict is no walk in the park. From having considerable trial experience to aggressive negotiating skills, you need to ensure you have a skilled person fighting on your behalf. Hopefully, asking the above-mentioned questions to prospective personal injury attorneys will make it easy for you to make an informed decision. Good luck with your case!