If you are injured and need the help of a personal injury lawyer, you should take some time and make sure the firm you’re hiring will meet your needs. Before hiring any lawyer (including a personal injury lawyer), it’s important to gather some important information about them and their work: their work ethic and their personality. Choosing the right lawyer (or any professional) is a difficult process for most clients, but if you want to be better informed to pick the right personal injury lawyer, here are 9 questions to ask him/her/them before hiring a personal injury lawyer for your case (and ask them in your consultation):
1. How long have you been practicing personal injury law? It’s important to hire a lawyer that has experience in handling cases. Personal injury cases present a number of individual, discrete claims (e.g., workers compensation coupled with third-party liability, wrongful death, loss of consortium, etc.) as well as issues surrounding insurance, reimbursement, claim management and the like. Without experience, there is limited knowledge that one can receive.
2. Have you worked on cases similar to mine? Every case is different. Along those lines, each case needs to be worked differently and handled differently. Having experience in criminal law cases may not be as helpful when dealing with car accident cases. However, a lawyer that only ever does one thing his/her entire career might not have the interest or will to ask new (or sometimes fundamental) questions. Ask about and be comfortable with your attorney’s professional abilities (e.g., advocacy, intellect, organizational skills, etc.).
3. How likely is it that the case will be a success? No lawyer can ethically guarantee that a case will be a success, and, for a number of reasons, it is a foolish question to ask about the expected outcome as we all know anything can happen! However, it is a fundamental question that we get all the time and a good lawyer should make you aware of the good and bad aspects of your case. Remember, every potential reward has some level of risk, and personal injury cases are no different.
4. Who will be working on my case? Lawyers are professionals, but not every law firm operates the same. Some firms run like well-oiled businesses, but do not devote themselves to a personal service on a case. Researchers, paralegals, and many other professionals may assist your lawyer in working the case. If so, ask who they are and what role they will be playing in the case. The more you know about the people working your case, the better off you will be in the long-run.
5. What’s your contact information? Ask your personal injury lawyer what is the best way to get in touch with him/her if there is an emergency or general issue. Most times, your personal injury lawyer has a key staff person who you should get to know and who will help you get the easy answers or help you need; your personal injury lawyer uses this time to be better focused on the kind of work that helps move your case forward.
6. How much is it going to cost? Because there are few insurance programs that pay for legal services, costs are a huge factor in hiring any personal injury lawyer. You should ask about what the representation will cost and what fees or expenses you will be expected to pay during the representation. Usually you will find this information carefully laid out in a written fee agreement. If you have a significant injury, then you can expect that the costs to take a serious case to trial will not be negligible, and it is best that you and your lawyer have a conversation about those costs and your budget, at the beginning, during, and end of a case. Keep in mind that legal representation is almost never cheap.
7. What’s our course of action from here? We all benefit from roadmaps and it helps to ask your personal injury lawyer “Where are we going, and how will we get there?” Ask the personal injury lawyer to essentially lay out the process, procedure and plan for your case as they see it (to the extent they can, given the details). Remember, your personal injury law firm can only help you if you help them. Keep them informed and stay in touch.
8. What can I do to help? On the heels of foregoing, both the client and the lawyer have responsibilities in the case. Clients need to be sure they talk over important decisions with the lawyer or law firm before making them. For example, if you believe you are fully healed and just stop treatment in spite of your medical professional advice, then this is going to be of consequence in your case. Also, if your injury lawyer needs to ask you a question, it’s beneficial to give a response as quickly as possible to help move the process forward. The more you know and tell them, the better off you’ll be throughout the case.
9. How long will this take? Again, there are no guarantees or “standard” cases, but many fall into vague categories. Ask your personal injury lawyer about your jurisdiction where the case will be filed, how long a case will take to go to trial and other similar questions.
By the end of the consultation you should have a pretty good idea of how your lawyer works, who they are, and what they do. Hopefully, by getting the answers to these and other questions, you will grow comfortable with the lawyer who will personally be handling your case, the kind of person he/she is, and be informed about what you might expect if you go forward.