While you probably aren’t regularly shopping around for personal injury firms in case you’re ever in an accident and have a good shot at claiming compensation, hiring a personal injury lawyer isn’t a decision you want to rush.
Your relationship with the personal injury lawyer you choose will last for quite some time, depending on how long it takes to settle your claim. You don’t want to sign your case over to a lawyer only to find that you can’t trust them to fight for the compensation you deserve.
This post covers the top questions to ask a personal injury lawyer.
Why It’s Important to Ask Questions to a Personal Injury Lawyer
When you go to a lawyer for a free case review or consultation, it’s easy to feel like they’re interviewing you. “When did your accident happen?”, “What injuries do you have?”, and “Did you visit a doctor after your accident?” are all common questions a personal injury lawyer might ask you to determine if your case is worth pursuing. But remember, this is your opportunity to find out if they’re a good fit for you.
Here are the top 11 questions you should ask a personal injury lawyer before you make a decision.
1. What Fees Do You Charge for Your Services?
Most personal injury attorneys — including our Texas personal injury lawyers at Patino Law Firm — operate on a contingency fee basis, which means you’ll only ever pay attorney fees if you win your case.
This is a vital question for a personal injury lawyer, as you don’t want to be hit by upfront costs before your case begins.
The percentage of your settlement that a law firm will take averages at 33%, but this may be more or less depending on the individual firm. Don’t be afraid to interview multiple firms and compare contingency fee agreements, but don’t make this the key deciding factor.
Ultimately, you should weigh the percentage against their experience and your gut feeling. Sometimes, it’s worth going with the firm that takes a higher percentage if you trust their judgment and are more confident in their ability to negotiate the maximum possible settlement.
Asking about a law firm’s fee arrangement is also a way to determine if your case has any weight. Typically, contingency law firms will only take on your case if they are confident they can achieve a settlement; otherwise, they will not only waste your time but theirs, too.
However, be cautious about immediately going with any law firm that operates on a contingency fee model. This alone doesn’t mean that they have your best interests at heart. They may only be interested in taking your case so that they can achieve a quick resolution and pocket their fees — even if you deserve much more.
To make sure you choose the right lawyer, ask a personal injury lawyer these other questions.
2. How Long Have You Been Practicing Personal Injury Law?
The longer a personal injury lawyer has been practicing law, the more experienced they’ll be and the better they’ll be able to help you.
Think of it like going to a doctor: a general physician undoubtedly has a wide range of knowledge, but that doesn’t mean you’d choose them to operate on your head over a dedicated brain surgeon.
Ask them how many years they’ve been practicing personal injury law, what types of cases they handle, and how many are resolved successfully.
3. Have You Handled Personal Injury Cases Like Mine Before?
Every accident and injury is unique. You might have two people who have suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident, but it’ll impact those two people in completely different ways. A lawyer may not have tried two cases that were identical to the letter, but there should be overlap between your case and others they’ve handled.
Don’t be afraid to ask a personal injury lawyer about similar cases they’ve dealt with and the settlements they’ve secured for their clients.
4. What Issues Do You See with My Case?
Every personal injury claim has its unique difficulties. After a conversation about the details of your accident, your lawyer should be able to anticipate any roadblocks that could potentially arise and explain how they intend to handle them.
This is slightly a trick question — you might think that the better lawyer is so confident in their abilities that they don’t anticipate any issues. But if a personal injury lawyer responds this way, they’re likely not telling the whole truth, and it might even mean that they’d keep such issues from you when updating you on your case.
The law is complex, and there’s no such thing as an “easy win”. Potential issues might come in the form of negotiating with insurance adjusters or disputing the contributing factors laid out in a crash report, and any lawyer you’re considering hiring should be honest with you.
5. How Will You Keep Me Updated on My Case?
Often, when you file a personal injury lawyer, you’re putting your future into another person’s hands. If you can’t work again, you’re relying on a fair settlement to provide for yourself. The last thing you want is to feel you’ve been tossed to the side once your lawyer takes on your case and you’re unable to ever get through to them.
Ask how you will be updated on your case, how often, and who your main point of contact will be. This might be a secretary, a paralegal, or your attorney.
Every case is different. Some clients may only want the occasional update and prefer to leave the claim to their legal counsel so they can focus on their health recovery. Others prefer to be more hands-on and involved every step of the way. Neither is right or wrong — it comes down to what each client prefers.
Think about how involved you want to be in your case and ask a personal injury lawyer how that might look in practice. Even if you prefer to sit on the sidelines, you at least want to know who you’ll be speaking with if you ever have a question about your case.
6. Do You Have Testimonials or References from past Clients?
Case studies and past results give a great insight into the numbers — how many cases your lawyer has handled, how many they’ve won, and what settlements they typically negotiate — but they won’t tell you about what it’s like to work with them.
Is the lawyer polite? Do they seem like they genuinely care about your wellbeing? Do they put you at ease and do everything in their power to remove stress from your plate? Ultimately, were past clients satisfied with their experience?
Look for reviews and testimonials on their website and third-party review platforms, such as Google Reviews or TrustPilot. Read through the good and the bad to get an overall picture of what it’s like to work with them.
If they don’t have any reviews available, ask. If they receive referrals from other attorneys who specialize in different areas of law, see if you can speak to them. It’s also worth asking if you can speak to a previous client. The lawyer will need to get permission, but if they genuinely provide a positive experience for their clients, they shouldn’t have any problem with you seeking a second opinion.
7. What Happens if I Lose?
Nobody wants to lose their personal injury case, but this is a question you need to know the answer to.
You might think that if your lawyer works on contingency, you won’t have to pay a cent — even if you lose. That’s the whole point of a contingency agreement, right?
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Filing a personal injury claim incurs costs. Retrieving medical records and crash reports, filing paperwork, and other clerical activities cost money, and some lawyers will charge these costs even if you lose.
At a time when you’re likely feeling emotional and possibly still suffering pain from your injuries, it’s a large enough blow to know that you’ve lost your case. You don’t want an unexpected bill on top of that, so ask this question to your personal injury lawyer so that you know where you stand.
8. How Much Time Can You Devote to My Case?
Many lawyers handle multiple claims simultaneously, so it’s worth asking them how much time they can devote to your case.
The best personal injury lawyer will make you feel like you’re their only client when they’re communicating with you, even if they’re handling several cases.
It may be helpful to ask for a timeline. While no personal injury lawyer can provide a perfect estimate, as it depends on multiple factors, they should explain the immediate next steps, how long each stage should take, and how they’ll work with other attorneys and secretarial staff on their team.
9. What Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
This is a key question to ask your personal injury lawyer, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the right answer.
A personal injury calculator can help give a ballpark, and a personal injury lawyer should provide you with an even more realistic range based on the details of your case, but no two cases are the same. Settlement offers will vary based on the strength of the evidence and the unique formulas different insurance companies use.
You don’t want a lawyer to tell you that they can guarantee a certain amount, but they can certainly tell you about previous similar cases they’ve handled and what the outcomes were.
You also want to consider if your lawyer is prepared and can take your case to court. Only a minority of personal injury cases go to trial, but you still want to choose a lawyer who can present your case to a jury. If your lawyer boasts that they settle claims quickly, you can expect that they’ll do the same with your case — and you’ll likely end up with less than you deserve.
10. What Happens if My Case Goes to Trial?
If negotiations fail because the at-fault party’s insurance company refuses to budge, you might need to consider going to trial. But not all lawyers are prepared to fight in court.
Some lawyers will hand you over to another attorney if you want to go to trial, and some may try your case in court for a higher contingency fee.
You want to be confident that the attorney you choose can put together a solid case that will persuade the jury to find in your favor. There are no guarantees in the courtroom, of course, but your lawyer should fight to get a positive outcome.
Ask these questions in advance so that you’re prepared.
11. How Long Will It Take to Resolve My Claim?
Personal injury claims can take months or years, and how long your claim will take depends on several factors. Court calendars, willingness to settle, negotiations, available evidence, and the case’s complexity can all impact how long it takes to resolve your claim.
Ideally, your personal injury lawyer will be able to draw from their experience dealing with similar cases to provide a rough idea of how long your case will take, but be aware that this may change as your case progresses.
More than anything, you should feel confident that your lawyer will keep you updated every step of the way, flag any obstacles and explain how they will move forward. Cases can drag on, but you don’t want to feel it’s dragging without reason and that you’re sitting on the sidelines waiting for an update.
Our Texas personal injury lawyers are 5-star rated by hundreds of clients who trust us to get them the compensation you deserve. When you choose Patino Law Firm, you’ll benefit from decades of experience in a range of complex personal injury cases, and you only ever pay us a fee when we win your case. To get a free, no-obligation case review and ask us the questions, you should ask a personal injury lawyer, fill in the contact form or call 855-LAW-NINJA.