10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
Choosing a Personal Injury Lawyer to hire is an important decision. Here are the things you should know before making that decision and why.
Do you offer a free and confidential case review?
A reputable and honest personal injury lawyer will offer you a chance to discuss your case for free. This confidential evaluation will give you an opportunity to ask questions and determine whether hiring a personal injury lawyer is the right course of action for you. Before hiring a law firm, you want to be sure to actually speak to a lawyer and not just a case manager or paralegal. While it is fine to give basic information to non-legal staff, we feel like you should actually speak with a lawyer when you are deciding to hire the law firm. If you cannot speak to or meet with a lawyer, that’s probably not a good sign.
What is my personal injury case worth?
This is a great question to ask because it is very tough for the lawyer to answer since each case is different and each person’s injuries are different. Generally speaking, the value of a personal injury case depends on the extent of your injuries and how those injuries will affect you throughout your life. Although your lawyer should never make promises or guarantees about the level of compensation to which you’re entitled, an experienced accident lawyer can give you a range of damages that are realistic for your type of case. If the lawyer guarantees you a certain amount, that should be considered a red flag.
What are your fees and how are they calculated?
Most personal injury lawyer will charge between a third and forty percent of the recovery, depending on their experience, past results, and whether a lawsuit needs to be filed. One thing to keep in mind is how costs and expenses are treated. The lawyer can either deduct their portion from the gross recovery, or after fees and expenses are deducted. You should be aware of this and it should be clearly spelled out in your engagement agreement.
Who will actually be working on my case?
There are several different types of personal injury law firms. Some are the huge mills that advertise on television, radio, and billboards. If you hire one of these firms, it is very unlikely that you will work with the person that is the face of the firm. They often have a number of younger associate attorneys and a full team of paralegals and support staff that do the legwork on your case. Alternatively, there are smaller firms that also have paralegals doing most of the work and the attorney will have little involvement in the actual details of your case. It’s important to ask the lawyer who will do the work and how much involvement the lawyer will have, just so there are no surprises along the way.
How often will you update me on my case?
Most bar complaints result from a lack of communication. It’s important to establish early on how much communication you can expect, what methods you prefer (phone call, email, text, etc.), and how long it should take the law firm to respond to you.
What percentage of your current caseload is personal injury cases?
Personal injury is a specialized field of law. Although it may seem like every lawyer practices in this field, it’s important to find someone who not only knows what they’re doing, but who does it all the time. You probably wouldn’t want to hire a pediatrician to perform your brain surgery, so why hire a general practitioner when you are seriously injured?
How many lawsuits have you filed in the past year?
Somewhat surprisingly, many lawyers don’t want to go to court. Some won’t file a lawsuit on your behalf even if they fail to settle your case for a reasonable amount. These lawyers will either pressure you into taking less than you deserve, or they will refer your case to a lawyer who litigates, and they will split the fee when your case concludes. You should ask how often your lawyer files lawsuits to make sure they will be invested in your case for the long run, not just a quick settlement.
Have you handled cases similar to mine?
If your case is a standard run of the mill motor vehicle accident, then this may not matter. But if you’re injuries resulted from another type of accident, whether a tractor trailer accident, motorcycle accident, dog bite, slip and fall, etc., you should make sure your lawyer has worked on that particular type of case before.
How should I expect the process to go?
Although each case is different, your lawyer should be able to give you a roadmap for how your case is likely to go, the different stages, and how long the process should take. This is important so you know what to expect and don’t feel disappointed or surprised.
Have you ever been disciplined by the state bar?
If you don’t feel comfortable asking this question, you can usually find out whether the lawyer has been disciplined by looking them up on the state bar’s website. You can search members of the State Bar of Georgia at https://www.gabar.org/index.cfm. Using the Member Directory search feature, you can verify that the lawyer is currently licensed to practice law and see whether they’ve been disciplined.