Questions to Ask when Hiring Slips, Trips & Falls Attorneys
When hiring a lawyer for the first time, you may feel stumped. After all, if you're not a lawyer yourself, you probably don't know what questions to ask or what qualities to look for. This article contains questions that you should ask slips, trips, and falls attorneys before hiring one to represent you.
Once you've started meeting with attorneys, you'll discover that the selection process relies largely on common sense. You ultimately want to hire a lawyer who has the necessary experience working with slip, trip, and fall accident victims, but you're also looking for an attorney you can trust.
Meeting with Slips, Trips & Falls Attorneys
Before selecting an attorney, you want to schedule an initial consultation. This meeting allows you to describe your case to the lawyer, learn how he or she would handle it, and find out more about the lawyer's experience and professional background.
Bring to the meeting a list of questions you'd like to ask. This article suggests many that are appropriate for slip and fall or trip and fall cases, but you shouldn't feel as if you have to ask every question. Instead, focus on the questions that help you decide whether the lawyer is qualified to handle your case. And if you have specific requirements-such as a bilingual attorney or one who offers evening hours-add those to your list of topics to discuss.
Background & Experience
Start the meeting by asking the attorney about his or her background, professional experience, and legal skills. Questions to consider include:
- Where did you attend college and law school? When did you graduate?
- How long have you been practicing law?
- On average, how many slip, trip and fall injury victims do you represent each year?
- Are you a member of any bar associations and professional organizations? If so, which ones?
Legal Philosophy & Style of Practicing Law
You'll also want to learn more about the attorney's professional style and approach to practicing law. Questions to consider include:
- What is your approach or philosophy in handling trip and fall cases?
- How would you describe your personality or style as an attorney?
- What is your style when working with clients? Do you present options and expect the client make a decision? Or are you more likely to recommend a course of action?
Assessment of the Case
Take some time to describe your slip, trip, and fall accident. This will help the lawyer give you an honest and thorough case assessment. Among the questions to ask:
- What is your opinion and assessment of the case?
- What is a realistic settlement or judgment?
- What potential problems might affect the outcome of the case?
- Is this case more likely to settle or go to trial?
- What percentage of slip and fall injury lawsuits do you settle each year? What percentage do you take to trial annually?
- How long would it reasonably take to conclude this case?
- Is mediation or arbitration an option?
If you're satisfied with the answers you've received so far, consider asking questions about how the slip, trip, and fall case will be managed. These questions might include:
- Are you available to handle this case?
- Will you personally manage the case, or will another attorney have that responsibility?
- Who else will work on the case? What are their roles and responsibilities?
- How frequently will you provide progress reports? What is included in those reports?
- Will you personally handle all settlement negotiations and court appearances?
- Are you the day-to-day contact if we have questions or concerns?
- What is the best way to reach you? How quickly can we expect you to respond?
Most attorneys who handle slips, trips and falls work on a contingency fee basis, but you'll want to confirm this with the lawyer. Among the questions to ask:
- Do you charge a contingency fee or an hourly rate?
- How much would you get paid if we win the case? Settle the case? Do not win or settle?
- If we do not get a settlement or win the case, will we owe you any money?
- What other expenses will you incur? Can you estimate their total amount?
- Do you require a retainer payment?
Ending the Meeting
Finish the meeting by asking the lawyer if there's anything else he or she wants to tell you. This is the lawyer's last opportunity to make a bid for your business. If you're strongly considering the lawyer, you can also ask for the names of former clients to contact for references.
If you didn't take detailed notes during your meeting, spend some time immediately after leaving the lawyer's office making notes about your thoughts and impressions. These will be helpful if you need to choose between two or three slips, trips and falls attorneys.
Selecting a Slips, Trips & Falls Lawyer
Once you've met with each lawyer you're considering for your case, you'll have to decide which one you want to hire. Sometimes the decision may be an easy one. However, if you're torn between two or three lawyers, take the time to call some of their former clients to find out if they were satisfied with how the attorney handled their cases. Then ask yourself the following questions:
- Did the attorney have the appropriate experience to handle my slip and fall case?
- Was the attorney's fee estimate reasonable? Did I think the settlement or judgment estimate was realistic?
- Would I feel comfortable if had to work closely with this attorney for the next year or two until the case is resolved?
- Did the attorney seem trustworthy and do I think I could trust his or her judgment?
With any luck, your decision will be clear after answering these questions.