Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Illinois Auto Accident Attorney
Before hiring an Illinois auto accident attorney, you should schedule a preliminary meeting, also called an initial consultation. The purpose of this meeting is to learn more about the lawyer's skills and experience representing auto accident victims, tell the lawyer about the specifics of your accident, and decide whether to hire the lawyer to handle your case.
If you've never before hired a lawyer, you may not know what questions to ask or how to know if a lawyer is qualified to handle your case. This article suggests dozens of questions that are appropriate to ask an Illinois auto accident attorney. Don't feel compelled to ask every question included in this article. Instead, focus on the ones that will best help you decide whether to hire a lawyer. And remember to add any questions that are specific to your situation.
As you interview Illinois automobile accident lawyers, pay attention not only to the substance of their answers, but also to your gut instinct. Use common sense when listening to how he or she answers your questions. Does the lawyer respond in a straightforward manner? Does the lawyer seem to know what he or she is talking about? You also want to think about how comfortable the lawyer makes you feel. Does he or she explain things in terms you can understand? Does the lawyer seem like someone you could trust with your case?
Background & Experience
Begin the meeting by asking about the lawyer's education and professional experience. Suggested questions include:
- Which law school did you attend, and when did you graduate?
- How long have you practiced automobile accident law?
- Does your practice consist solely of representing car accident victims, or do you also handle other types of personal injury legal work?
- Do you frequently handle cases similar to mine?
- On average, how many Illinois car accident victims do you represent each year?
- How many car accident lawsuits do you settle each year? How many cases do you take to trial each year?
- Do you belong to any bar associations or professional organizations? If so, which ones?
- Do you have any special experience representing victims of car accidents who have back injuries, neck injuries, or other injuries that may cause lifelong medical problems?
Assessment of Your Illinois Automobile Accident Case
Take some time to describe your accident and the injuries that you suffered, then ask the attorney for his or her opinion of your case. Questions to ask include:
- What is your assessment of my case?
- What size financial award can I realistically expect to receive?
- What factors work in our favor? What factors could work against us?
- Is it likely that we'll have to go to trial?
- Is arbitration or mediation an option?
- How long do you expect it would take to complete my case if we go to trial? If we settle the case?
Legal Philosophy & Style
Discuss the lawyer's approach and style when it comes to practicing law. Among the questions to consider asking:
- How would you describe your philosophy or approach to practicing personal injury law?
- What is your approach to handling automobile accident injury cases?
- What is your style when working with clients? Will you ask me to make decisions or will you to tell me what I should do?
- Do you prefer to settle automobile accident lawsuits or to take them to trial?
If you're comfortable with how the meeting is going, move on to asking questions about how your automobile accident lawsuit will be managed. Questions might include:
- Will other attorneys in your firm or experts work on my case? What work will they do?
- Will you personally manage my case, or will another attorney manage it?
- Will you handle negotiations and court appearances?
- Will you be my day-to-day contact?
- Will you provide progress reports? How frequently? What will be included in progress reports?
- What is the best way to reach you? How quickly do you typically respond to messages or emails?
Most personal injury attorneys, including Illinois auto accident attorneys, work on a contingency fee. This means they take a percentage of any settlement or judgment you receive and receive no money if your case is ultimately unsuccessful. Questions to ask about the estimated cost of your case include:
- Do you charge a contingency fee or hourly rate?
- If we do not get a settlement or win the case, will I have to pay you any money?
- Do you charge a retainer fee?
- What other expenses will I have to pay? Can you estimate their total?
- Based on your estimate of how much money I could win, how much money would I take home after legal fees and expenses if we settle the case? If we go to trial?
Wrapping Up the Meeting
Before the initial consultation ends, ask the attorney if there is anything important you didn't discuss. Is there anything you should know before deciding which attorney to hire? If you think you might want to hire the lawyer, ask the lawyer to put you in touch with a past client. Speaking to a former client can give you greater insight into a lawyer's skills and personality.
After the meeting is complete, but before too much time elapses, take some time to make some notes and record your impressions about the lawyer. What did you like and dislike? Did the attorney tell you anything particularly memorable? How much did the attorney estimate you could win, and how much of that would you get to keep?
Hiring an Illinois Auto Accident Attorney
Once you've met with all of the automobile accident lawyers you're considering for your case, it's time to pick the one you want to hire. Reflect on your meetings, and think about whether there's one attorney who is the best person to handle your case. If there is, you'll have an easy time making up your mind.
If you're torn between several lawyers, think about both the objective criteria-Does the attorney have the necessary skills and experience? How much does the attorney charge?-and the subjective criteria-Did you feel comfortable with the attorney? Do you trust the attorney's judgment?
Once you've found the right auto accident attorney, you're ready to move forward with your case.