Your personal injury case is personal to you, of course. The personal injury attorney who you hire to handle it should take it personally, too. You need to find a lawyer who is the right fit for you, your expectations, and your claim. To steer toward the right attorney, there are a few important questions that you should ask during initial consultations.
When speaking with a personal injury attorney, you should ask:
- Is your focus personal injury law?
Many law firms work on many different practice areas at once. For example, you might find a law office that works on personal injury cases, but also family law, criminal defense, tax law, employment law, and much more. While these firms have the best intentions when handling so many different case types, the result can be problematic for their clients who need someone with specific focus and skills. You should see if you can find a personal injury lawyer who works at a firm that only or primarily handles personal injury claims and lawsuits, so there are no distractions from other practice areas.
- Have you worked on other cases like mine?
Any personal injury attorney can accept a new claim, but not all of them can say that they have experience with claims like it. Although every single case is unique and needs to be approached individually, it is true that real-world experience with similar claims is invaluable. For example, if you were in a motorcycle accident, then you could benefit from hiring a lawyer who has worked on many other motorcycle accident cases, rather than just car accidents.
- Can you litigate a case if necessary?
Many legitimate personal injury claims can reach an out-of-court settlement, but many others won’t. If your case is headed to courtroom litigation, then you need to know that your attorney will be able to handle it. Some law firms will only work on a case if it can settle. The moment that the case fails to settle and requires a trial, such firms will look for another firm to take over, which can cause communication problems. If you think that your case might be hard-fought, then be sure to ask your potential attorney if they are willing to litigate or if they refer to other law firms for courtroom work.
- What do you think the most likely outcome of my case will be?
No personal injury attorney can ever promise how a case will end because every case is unique. However, an experienced lawyer should be able to look at the early workings of your case and give you a fair idea of how matters might play out. Again, a prediction can’t be taken as a guarantee. But it can put your mind at ease to know if your attorney believes in your case’s chances of success at the beginning.
- Do you believe my story of events?
Similar to asking about the possible outcome of the case, you should ask the attorney if they believe your story of events. If your lawyer doesn’t believe in what you’ve said or thinks there are holes in it, then it will be difficult to believe in them. You need to become a team together, so trust and honesty are crucial.
- Who will be working on my case?
Each law firm takes its own approach to work on a personal injury case, including how it decides who will work on it. Ask if your case will be primarily handled by an attorney or support staff members like paralegals or law clerks. Oftentimes, clients prefer to have their case managed by their lawyer because they don’t want information getting mixed up as the case folders change hands.
- What do you need from me throughout the case?
You can leave the entirety of your personal injury case up to an attorney that you can trust. However, you will never be 100% removed from the case. At some point, your lawyer will need your help just as much as you need theirs. For example, they might need access to relevant medical records to build your claim, which they can’t access without your permission. When first talking to a lawyer, be sure to ask them what they will expect from you, so you aren’t surprised by any developments.
- When should I accept a settlement?
You might be handed a settlement offer from the liable party and their insurance representatives at any time between sending a demand letter and going to trial. Beware of any settlement offer you receive, though. Chances are the first amount you are offered is too low for what you have suffered and the financial damages you have incurred. It is a common insurance company tactic to offer low settlement amounts early to try to convince the claimant to accept it and move on. Don’t sign anything from the opposition until your attorney reviews it, and a trustworthy lawyer should tell you as much when you ask them this important question.
- How much does hiring you cost?
For most cases, a personal injury attorney must work for a contingency fee. This payment system only allows them to be paid attorney fees if they end the client’s case favorably. Also, the amount of attorney fees can only be a percentage of the favorable settlement or award. Ask your attorney what the expected contingency fee would be for your case. Keep in mind that this amount might increase or decrease before you officially hire the lawyer. They need to fairly anticipate how much work will be required of them to handle the case, which might take more than one consultation to determine.
- How long do you think my case will take?
It is understandable that you don’t want to get caught in a personal injury case that takes months or years to complete. Yet you can never know for certain how long your case will take to reach a settlement or go to trial. A lawyer should be able to give you an educated guess, though, pulling from their experience with similar cases.
- Can I talk to my family about my case?
Talking to your family and close friends to vent is natural and healthy. When you are in the middle of a personal injury case, though, it might not be the best idea to openly share with those around you. The opposition is waiting for you to misspeak and say something that makes you sound liable for your injury. Your attorney will probably advise you to keep everything on a need-to-know basis. Furthermore, if you can, stay off social media until the case ends.
Do you need to hire a personal injury lawyer for a case in Louisiana? Call (337) 222-3526 and schedule a FREE, no-obligationconsultation with Doran & Cawthorne, P.L.L.C. During your initial consultation, we would be happy to address your most pressing questions about our representation and your legal options as an injured claimant.