Choosing a specific attorney to hire for personal injury services after a car accident, slip-and-fall, product liability, or on-the-job injury is a big deal. The same level of research is required as you would typically perform before purchasing a vehicle or a computerized gadget.
First and foremost, you will want to ensure that your research on prospective attorneys will result in an informed choice. While you can find attorneys through various types of advertising and personal referrals, it’s important to sit down with each person and get your questions answered.
You can also see if the candidate’s responses are consistent with other information that you find about their firm through your online research. In the interview process, you can get a better feel for whether an attorney is the right expert to handle your respective personal injury case.
Here are some ways to screen different attorneys for this important service:
Sit Down and Interview Each Candidate.
You cannot believe everything that you read on a law firm’s website, or in its advertising. Having a face-to-face conversation with a personal injury attorney is a proven way to learn firsthand how he or she has previously handled cases just like yours.
The level of response that you get to each question will give you a solid grasp of how this candidate could perform on your behalf at a jury trial or in mediation. Since this person will be negotiating for your best interests, look for a candidate who communicates clearly and backs up his or her assertions with facts.
Questions to Ask Each Candidate:
How many personal injury claims like mine have you handled in the recent past?
You need a local attorney with experience directly related to your claim. For example, you wouldn’t hire a lawyer who has exclusively tried drunk driving cases in your complex product liability case.
How much do you think my claim might be worth?
This is a difficult question for the attorney to answer unless you have already completed most of your medical treatment, including surgeries, cosmetic procedures, physical therapy, and other types of rehabilitation. If the medical costs are continuing to add up, the attorney should wait to estimate the value of the claim. Also, the attorney will be limited in many cases by how much he or she might recover on your behalf based on the at-fault party’s insurance policy limits and exclusions.
How many years have you practiced this legal specialty?
Some attorneys may seem to be very young, middle-aged, or old, and it’s hard to estimate their level of experience. For example, they may have worked many years in personal injury. Their experience might include the years they spent in college and law school, helping clients under the guidance of a senior attorney. According to the legal team at Guajardo & Marks, not all car accident attorneys are equal. It is important to find a lawyer who has a proven record of success. Don’t just go by the number of years that a prospective lawyer has been in practice. Ask questions about your type of case.
What kinds of settlements and verdicts have you achieved for this type of case?
All attorneys experience both wins and losses during their careers. It is important to find a lawyer who has a proven record of success, including significant awards for your type of case. Typically, personal injury lawyers will settle personal injury claims out of court. Once they deduct their attorneys’ fees and costs, the amount that a client receives is considerably less.
You can review specific cases and see if there is a claim like yours. For example, an attorney might have garnered $100,000 for another client who slipped and fell in a Wal-Mart and suffered a broken hip. The value of that type of claim would be different for a 20-year-old than it might be for a 75-year-old.
Do you offer other specific skills or certifications?
Some clients want an attorney who is fluent in their native language, perhaps a dialect other than English. Some clients want to work with an attorney who is Board Certified in Personal Injury or another specialty of the law. Typically, a small percentage of lawyers are Board Certified.
What is your fee structure?
In many personal injury law firms, the attorney’s fee is a percentage of the settlement or jury verdict. The percentage is usually higher for jury verdicts. This percentage does not include the attorney’s itemized expenses, which could include everything from postage to court filing fees and depositions of medical experts.
How much legal malpractice insurance do you carry?
Typically, this type of insurance should be required by the bar association in each state. If an attorney doesn’t carry this coverage, that is a huge red flag.
Who else will be working on my case?
Each personal injury lawyer may have his or her caseload and degree of support. He or she may also have a team of legal support professionals. You want to find a single contact for your personal injury case, even if this means getting better acquainted with the trial attorney’s top paralegal or legal assistant.
Each attorney whom you interview should be prepared to advise you on the statute of limitations that applies to your claim. This legal deadline is the latest date on which you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party in the courts. If you fail to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires in your state, you can lose your rights to seek monetary damages for your injuries, pain, and suffering.
The choice of a lawyer can impact your health, well-being, and financial future. It is important to find a lawyer who has a proven record of success. There are many more questions that you can ask and have answered to your satisfaction before selecting the specific attorney who will handle your claim.
Be sure that the law firm has the financial resources to take your claim all the way to a civil trial, which can become very expensive. You don’t want to hire an attorney who will settle for pennies on the dollar just to claim that he or she has resolved your case.