When someone suffers an injury due to the negligent conduct of another party, one of the pressing issues they must deal with is whether to hire a personal injury lawyer. Most people do decide to hire a lawyer to represent them. Dealing with insurance companies, negotiating settlements, and being aware of the law impacting their case is the primary reason a victim will turn to a personal injury lawyer.
Before hiring a lawyer, victims can be proactive about finding the right lawyer. You can ask questions to help make the right choice. Some of these questions may include:
How Long Have You Worked as a Personal Injury Lawyer?
While most of us understand that every lawyer was new at one time, when dealing with a complex personal injury claim, experience does matter. When dealing with a personal injury claim, victims should seek out a lawyer with knowledge of the law in their state and experience dealing with insurers. Only then can a victim feel confident they will have a case made on their behalf.
Does Your Office Primarily Focus on Personal Injury Suits?
Most would never consider going to a criminal defense lawyer to handle our estate planning. Similarly, we should never hire a lawyer to take a personal injury suit if their primary practice is not personal injury law.
Many attorneys have practices that focus on more than one area of the law. However, if a victim hires a personal injury lawyer who spends most of their time dealing with family law issues, they may not have the time to stay current on changes that occur in personal injury law. This could be detrimental to a victim’s legal proceedings.
What Were the Results of Personal Injury Legal Proceedings Your Office Took to Trial?
This is an important question. While most personal injury litigations do not go to trial, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, your lawyer needs litigation experience. The insurance company does not negotiate in good faith or offer an acceptable settlement to the victim.
Past results are exactly that. The law firm achieved these results based on the merits of an individual legal dispute. Not every legal dispute is the same. A lawyer’s past successes may not translate to a win in the future.
Has This Firm Handled Cases Similar to Mine in the Past?
Determining the level of experience a personal injury lawyer has in the specific type of legal action a victim has is significant. If a victim sustained injuries in a truck accident, and the lawyer has never handled a car accident case before, then they may not have the experience needed to take these complicated suits.
This is true regardless of the type of personal injury claim a victim may seek compensation for. Another example is a victim would not want to bring a defective product claim using an attorney who has only tried dog injury bite suits. It never makes sense to use an attorney who does not have experience handling the type of claim relevant to a victim.
What Are the Biggest Challenges to My Litigation Being Successful?
No litigation is perfect. Each personal injury legal process has unique challenges.
Examples of issues that could complicate a personal injury legal process include:
- Example one: A worker suffers an injured back in a construction site accident. The worker has a history of back issues. The insurance company insists the worker’s injuries are unrelated to the accident since they previously had back problems.
- Example two: A vehicle strikes a pedestrian on a local sidewalk. The victim suffered serious injuries, and the driver kept insisting they never saw the victim and, therefore, the pedestrian must have stepped out in front of them. This type of legal dispute will depend on some factors, including witness statements, potential traffic camera footage, and potential accident reconstruction.
- Example three: A victim goes to the emergency room with stomach pains. The ER doctor runs some tests. They sent the patient home telling them the tests were inconclusive. In the middle of the night, the patient must return to the hospital for an appendectomy. Because of the delay, the patient’s appendix burst. The patient develops secondary infections as a result of a misread lab report. The insurance company may claim the patient did not provide the doctor with sufficient information to diagnose accurately.
These are just a few situations that can cause problems with a legal dispute. However, thoroughly evaluating the circumstances resulting in an injury and preparing for these scenarios can help a personal injury lawyer avoid many of these issues.
Who Will Be Working On My Case?
This question is critical because numerous people typically work on a single personal injury case. Sometimes, more than one attorney, multiple paralegals, and law clerks will assist with the legal action. In other instances, a complicated legal action may also require an expert witness.
Finding out who will be handling a suit and the level of experience of each of the parties involved in the suit may help a victim understand who they can contact if they have questions regarding any aspect of their legal cause.
Who Will I Contact if I Have Questions About My Legal Cause?
This is critical. Victims of personal injury may have questions regarding their legal proceedings. Establishing up-front who will be responsible for addressing concerns and questions is crucial. Failing to answer these questions could result in a victim feeling ignored.
Law firms should always be able to tell potential clients how they can obtain information about their legal proceedings, who they can call with questions, and how they may get updates on the status of their litigation.
Does Your Firm Have the Time to Represent Me Properly?
One of the potential challenges when hiring a personal injury lawyer is the time they have to devote to litigation. Law firms may have several cases going on simultaneously but have sufficient time to handle more. It never hurts to ask to ensure that a case does not end up with an attorney who is already overburdened.
What Role Will I Have in Handling This Case?
Often victims of personal injury believe that once they have hired an attorney, their role in the case is non-existent. This is seldom true.
Some of the roles of a victim in personal injury claims include:
- Maintaining accurate records – Ensuring all receipts, losses, and doctor visits are properly recorded and providing them to their legal team.
- Passing on communication – Once a victim has hired a personal injury lawyer to handle their legal action, any communication from the insurers involved in the suit should be passed on to the law firm.
- Evaluate settlement offers – Victims will discuss all settlement offers with their personal injury lawyer. Lawyers cannot accept or reject offers made without consulting with their clients.
Victims should regularly contact their personal injury lawyer on any issues impacting their claims. When uncertain if something is relevant, always err on the side of informing the legal team.
How Long Will My Suit Take to Settle?
Since each legal cause is different, when a personal injury lawyer answers this question, they will most likely provide a victim with a window that may reflect the realities of their case. Settlement times will vary based on whether both parties settle a case before a trial or if they can come to a settlement through negotiations.
It is also essential to remember that when a personal injury victim suffers a serious injury, their lawyer may wait until it is clear that the victim will not improve further, regardless of medical treatment. This is called maximum medical recovery and is essential. Once a victim files a claim, it may not be possible to modify the amount of the demand.
What Compensation Can I Expect To Recover?
Compensation for personal injury proceedings depends on:
- Amount of out-of-pocket medical expenses
- Lost income of the victim
- The extent of the victim’s injuries
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages (when applicable)
All of these factors, and others, will have an impact on what the final settlement amount may be. A personal injury lawyer will thoroughly explain what to expect from the specific type of claim based on their experience handling similar legal proceedings.
Do I Have to Pay Any Upfront Fees?
In most personal injury litigations, lawyers will offer a free consultation. These consultations are confidential. Additionally, in most litigations, a victim will not have to pay any fees upfront to retain the services of a personal injury law firm.
How Much Will You Charge Me?
Moss personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means payment for the legal fees will come from the final amount of a victim’s settlement. Generally, the fees are a percentage of a flat dollar amount. The issues impacting the percentage may include how complex the legal process is and whether the legal dispute goes to court. Lawyers will not make money on a legal dispute that does not result in a settlement.
How Much Will Non-Legal Fees Cost Me, and How Will I Pay Them?
Victims should be aware that even if there is no settlement in a case, there may be non-legal fees they must pay. These fees may include expert witness, document preparation, and court filing fees. A personal injury lawyer will explain these fees to their clients before accepting their case. Typically, the victim can defer payment for these fees until both parties reach a settlement agreement, but they will still be liable for those fees if there is no settlement.
What Will Happen if We Agree to a Settlement?
Documents, including the final settlement document, must be reviewed after the parties settle. The victim will have to sign the agreement and, in doing so, forfeit any right to a further claim against the person responsible for the injury they have suffered.
Once the agreement is signed, the plaintiff’s lawyer will return it to the attorney handling the claim on behalf of the defendant. The personal injury lawyer handling the plaintiff’s legal action will receive the payment. At that time, the personal injury lawyer will draw down their fees and any expenses related to the legal action. The victim will receive the remaining amount.
These are some of the questions victims should consider asking a personal injury law firm before they agree to hire the firm to represent their interests in a personal injury claim. This information can help a victim make a more informed decision about their suit and how it will proceed once the firm begins working on their claim.