Key Questions to Ask Personal Injury Counsel on an Visit
Litigation can be a scary and complex process to navigate. Visits to a law firm and court can make litigants, particularly inexperienced ones, apprehensive and anxious. One way to diffuse the anxiety and nerves is through preparation and research. Because counsel bills for the commodity of time, the fee "meter will be running." The initial consultation may or may not be offered as a free service to prospective clients. It is prudent to inquire specifically about charges for that visit, rather than make costly assumptions. It is also advisable to be as efficient and productive as possible during consultations. It is the initial consultation that will shape the client's decision of which counsel to retain and that sets the tone for the entire representation.
The following list comprises questions for personal injury clients to consider asking counsel candidates at initial consultations:
How Long Has Counsel Been Practicing Law in This State? And Overall, if Licensed in More Jurisdictions?
Many clients in big personal injury cases prefer to retain counsel with a certain amount of litigation experience. Credibility with opposing counsel, insurance companies, and the court can translate into real dollars. The stakes are high in litigation and particularly in big cases, so it is advisable to choose counsel to help navigate the process very wisely.
What Portion of Your Practice Focuses on Personal Injury?
This is a fair question of junior attorneys because they may not have decided upon an area of concentration. For general practitioners in smaller localities, it is also prudent. In today's down-turned economy, in which many lawyers are being forced to take whatever cases walk through the door, even if outside their areas of practice, the question makes good sense. A client wants assurances that counsel knows the substantive law in the field without spinning wheels, and is familiar with key cases, experts, and effective strategies and negotiation tactics. An attorney stretched in many directions with markedly different types of cases may not be perceived as having the time and dedication to the field and client's case.
How Many Trials Have You Had? How Many Were Jury Trials? How Many Did You Win?
Most cases settle and do not go to trial—some figures say as many as 90 percent. Still, you never know if your case will be one that needs to be tried. So, you want an attorney with experience at each stage of the case, all the way through verdict or ruling and preparation for appeal. Counsel holds the ultimate value of your case in terms of verdict, settlement, or ruling. This affects quality of life for the litigant and his family for a significant period, if not lifetime. It is wise to hire an attorney who has won consistently high verdicts or rulings and negotiated favorable settlements.