After an accident, you may have the right to seek compensation for medical bills, lost income, emotional distress, and other damages. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your case can make a huge difference in the ultimate success of your case. Turning to a lawyer for help can be the difference between a huge settlement and no recovery, at all.
However, not all personal injury lawyers are the same. So, how do you find the best personal injury lawyer for your particular case? Here are 5 important questions to consider asking when you meet a lawyer for a free initial consultation. The answers can guide your decision and help you choose the best attorney for you.
How Long Have You Been Handling Personal Injury Cases?
Just because someone is a personal injury lawyer today doesn’t mean that they’ve always handled personal injury cases. Some lawyers change gears and shift tracks several times throughout their careers. An attorney might start out handling family law cases, then give criminal defense work a try, before shifting to personal injury disputes. As a result, they might have 20 years of legal experience, but only one or two representing clients in personal injury matters.
You might want to consider how that might affect your case. An attorney with decades of experience exclusively handling personal injury matters might have a greater wealth of knowledge and insight into your particular case. They’ll likely know the players involved and have an established history and rapport with area insurance companies. They’ll know what tactics work and which approaches might yield the best results. There’s a lot on the line for you – so that experience can go a long way.
Do You Have Specific Experience Handling Cases Like Mine?
Not all personal injury cases are the same. In fact, personal injury law is fairly broad. It covers a lot of different types of cases – from car accidents to medical malpractice to workers’ compensation to sexual assault. Just because someone is a personal injury lawyer doesn’t mean that they necessarily have experience handling every practice area.
In fact, many lawyers narrow the scope of their practice so that they can really focus and become the “go-to” lawyer for certain types of disputes. Others shy away from certain practice areas – such as medical malpractice or workers’ compensation – because those cases tend to be more challenging and often require a really in-depth understanding of a very nuanced area of the law.
So, you’ll want to be sure that the lawyer you hire has experience with cases like yours. You’ll want someone who has represented other clients in similar matters. Their experience – including their successes and failures – can directly benefit you.
What Can You Tell Me About Your Past Results?
Feel free to ask an attorney about the cases they’ve handled and what success they’ve had in the past. Prior success doesn’t necessarily reflect future success. However, you might take comfort in the fact that an attorney has yielded several six and seven-figure settlements or jury awards for clients in the past. The fact that they’ve established a track record of success could mean that they know what it takes to get you the money you deserve.
How Involved Will You Be In My Case?
Do you want an attorney who will handle every aspect of your case from start to finish? Does it matter if more mundane and/or clerical tasks are delegated to administrative assistants, interns, paralegals, or other law firm staff? Be sure to ask how your case will be handled, who will be involved, and what kind of attention it will get from the lawyer.
This is really more about comfort than anything else. Many law firms have a lot of great support staff on board. They’re great at what they do and can really make a difference in your case. However, it’s easy to undersatnd that you might be nervous about trusting anyone other than a lawyer with your case. After all, there’s a lot at stake. So, bring it up. Ask the lawyer about how they typically delegate tasks and how much time support staff might work on your case.
How Much Will It Cost to Hire You?
Make sure that you ask a lawyer or law firm about their fee structure before you formally hire them. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. That is, their fee depends on the success of your case. A no-win, no-fee attorney only gets paid if they secure a settlement or award on your behalf.
When you win, the lawyer gets a pre-determined percentage of your financial recovery. Ask for the percentage up front. Ask if that fee is calculated based on your gross award or net recovery. Ask about legal costs and fees – how do those get paid and who’s responsible. The answers can make a huge difference in how much you’ll ultimately walk away with after your case is over.
Keep in mind, different states have different rules concerning attorney fees. Your lawyer not only has to comply with those state laws, but also make sure that whatever fee they charge isn’t unreasonable. Being transparent about their fee upfront and answering your questions during a consultation can help to ensure that happens.