There was nothing “cookie-cutter” about your accident, so you shouldn’t hire a “one-size-fits-most” attorney to handle your case. Yet, that’s exactly what many people do when they need a personal injury lawyer.
Don’t fall into the trap of hiring your sister’s friend’s cousin’s attorney, the lawyer you saw on that TV ad one time or the first one you find in the phone book. The legal firm you choose to represent you can make or break your case. It’s okay to be selective with something this important.
When you’re in the process of hiring a personal injury lawyer, ask them these questions first. Then, hire the team that gives you what you consider to be the best answers.
1. What Are the Fees, Please?
There is no such thing as a cheap or “free” attorney. Some personal injury lawyers will tell you they don’t charge for their services, but the reality is they’re operating on a contingency basis.
You won’t have to pay anything unless you win the case and receive monetary damages. However, at that time, the lawyer receives a fixed percentage of the award, which can range from 20% to 40% or more. Pay attention to this number and use it to help you make your decision.
2. How Much (Specify) Personal Injury Experience Do You Have?
Imagine that you needed a complex heart surgery that would determine your future health. Would you go to a doctor with a few years of experience in that field or one that had 20-30 years of experience in removing ingrown toenails?
Both are important when you’re in need of that specific surgery, but only the one with experience in cardiology will be able to help you the best. The same idea applies to your personal injury case.
For instance, a lawyer who has specialized in divorce cases for decades but has never handled a personal injury lawsuit shouldn’t be your top choice.
3. Have You Ever Dealt With My Type of Case Before?
Personal injury cases can get complicated, especially when they involve big-name companies like Amazon, FedEx, and Uber. Check with the lawyer to see if they’ve dealt with situations like yours in the past and what that experience was like.
Did it settle out of court or go to trial? How long did it last? What was the settlement? How similar was that case to yours?
Those questions will clarify how familiar the lawyer is with handling lawsuits as complicated as the one in which you’re involved. If the defendant is a mega-corporation, you can bet they’ll have a team of lawyers ready to defeat you. You need someone experienced in fighting lawsuits in the “big leagues.”
4. Describe What You Think My Case Will Look Like.
Every attorney will tell you they can’t predict how long a lawsuit will take or the exact path you’ll travel to get to the end. However, it shouldn’t take a psychic to look at the details of your personal injury and make some educated guesses.
In science, these educated guesses are hypotheses, and they’re part of the globally accepted scientific method. There’s no reason your lawyer can’t follow the same methods to give you a “most likely” description of your case.
They should point out the difficulties and holes in your lawsuit, the possible hurdles you’ll have to overcome, and the average timeframe it has taken in the past for cases like yours. If they can’t or are purposely vague, you can predict that they won’t keep you informed of the case’s progress once you hire them, either.
5. What Costs Will I Be Stuck With if I Lose?
Contingency fee cases are supposed to mean that you don’t pay a penny unless your lawyer successfully wins your case. However, some attorneys include a clause in the contract that if you lose, you still have to pay filing fees and certain other expenses.
Iron out these details from the start. Ask if these expenses and filing fees are included in the flat-rate percentage. Lawyers write the contracts. They know the loopholes. You don’t want to be stuck paying fees out of your pocket if you didn’t receive any monetary awards, and you don’t want to have to pay filing fees and extra expenses on top of your 33% “flat rate.”
In fields like law, reputation, knowledge, and experience are everything. Before you hire an attorney, use these five vital questions to get to know their credentials. If you’re not satisfied with the answers you get, keep searching elsewhere until you are.