Questions to Ask when Hiring Personal Injury Attorneys
If you've never before worked with an attorney, you may be a bit unsure of what questions to ask when interviewing person injury lawyers. What are the important things you should know and look for? Once you start talking to personal injury lawyers, you'll discover that most of it is common sense. You want a lawyer who has the experience necessary to win your case, but you also want someone whose judgment and advise you can trust.
Before hiring a personal injury attorney, you'll want to schedule an initial consultation, which is a meeting intended to help you learn more about the lawyer and for the lawyer to learn more about your case.
Take some time before the meeting to make a list of questions you'd like to ask the lawyer. (This article contains many suggestions.) Your goal is to ask questions that help you get to know the attorney and decide whether he or she is the right personal injury lawyer for your case.
Background & Experience
Begin the meeting by asking about the attorney's background, professional experience, and legal skills. Questions to consider asking include:
- Where did you attend college and law school?
- When did you graduate from law school?
- How long have you been practicing law?
- Approximately how many personal injury victims do you represent each year?
- Do you handle any other types of legal work or just injury law?
- Do you belong to any bar associations and professional organizations? If so, which ones?
Legal Philosophy & Style of Practicing Law
Also ask questions about the attorney's professional style and approach to practicing law. Questions to consider asking include:
- How would you describe your personality as a lawyer?
- What is your approach or philosophy in handling personal injury cases?
- What is your style when working with accident victims? Will you present all of the options and ask me to make a decision? Or, will you recommend a course of action?
Assessment of the Case
Describe the facts of your case to the personal injury attorney. This will help the lawyer make an honest and complete assessment of the case. Questions to consider asking include:
- What is your opinion and assessment of my case?
- Is my case more likely to settle or go to trial? Is mediation or arbitration an option?
- What percentage of personal injury lawsuits do you settle each year? What percentage do you take to trial?
- What is a realistic settlement or judgment?
- What potential problems could affect the outcome of my case?
- How long would it reasonably take to resolve my case?
If you're satisfied with the answers you've received thus far, move on to asking questions about how your personal injury case will be managed. Questions to consider asking include:
- Are you available to handle my case?
- Will you personally manage my case, or will another attorney have that responsibility?
- Who else will be working on my case? What will they do?
- Will you personally handle all settlement negotiations and court appearances?
- Do you provide progress reports? If so, how frequently and what is included in those reports?
- Are you the day-to-day contact if I have questions or concerns?
- What is the best way to reach you? How quickly can I expect you to respond?
Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, but you'll want to confirm this in each meeting. Questions to consider asking include:
- Do you charge a contingency fee or an hourly billing rate?
- How much would you get paid if we win the case? Settle the case? Lose the case or are unable to settle?
- If I do not get a monetary award, will I owe you any money?
- What other expenses will you incur? Can you estimate their total amount?
- Do you require a retainer payment?
Finishing the Meeting
At the end of the meeting, ask the brain injury attorney if there's anything else you should have discussed. Does the attorney have anything else he or she wants to tell you before you make a decision?
Assessing Personal Injury Attorneys
Once you've finished meeting with personal injury attorneys, it's time to hire an attorney to represent you. Think back over the meetings to decide which attorney you want to hire. Among the factors to consider:
- Does the personal injury lawyer have the experience and professional skills necessary to handle your personal injury case?
- Did you feel comfortable with the lawyer's judgment and recommendations?
- Can you trust the attorney's advice, and do you feel confident relying on his or her judgment?
- Are the legal fees reasonable, and is the award estimate realistic?