Your first encounter with a personal injury attorney can be daunting. You might not know what to expect or how to get the most out of your free initial consultation. Asking the right questions can help you understand more about your claim and the possibility of filing a lawsuit in your county. It can also give you peace of mind about the future by leading you to the correct attorney for your needs. Arrive prepared by bringing a list of smart questions with you to your first meeting.
Different attorneys specialize in different practice areas. Search for a lawyer that offers services for your particular type of accident, such as a commercial truck accident or a slip and fall attorney. During your meeting, ask for more details about the lawyer’s experience in your practice area. Find out how many years the lawyer has been practicing and his or her success rate with cases like yours. The lawyer you choose should have at least a few wins under his or her belt in your practice area.
Ask whether the lawyer believes you have grounds for a lawsuit based on the information and facts you have provided. The lawyer may think you have a claim but tell you he or she is not the right person to represent you or say you do not seem to have a claim at all. Either way, get a second opinion from another attorney. Someone else may see things differently. If the lawyer does think you have a case, ask about its potential value. Finding out what your case might be worth can help you negotiate with insurance companies.
Many mill-type firms accept dozens of cases at once and pass them off to paralegals, assistants and associates rather than providing one-on-one attention from lead attorneys. Ask if the lawyer you are talking to will be the person handling your case. If not, ask which attorney will be taking over after your initial consultation. Find a firm that provides care and attention from a licensed attorney, not less-qualified staff members.
Most personal injury cases settle without needing to go to trial. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to take a defendant to court for fair compensation. Retain a firm that is comfortable going to trial if the need arises. Otherwise, you could get stuck having to find and hire a different attorney partway through your case, if settlement negotiations do not seem to be working. Find a law firm with trial propensities from the start for the simplest legal process. Hiring a lawyer an insurance company knows can go to trial could also lead to higher settlement offers.
In general, you should not have to pay for your attorney if he or she loses your case. Most personal injury law firms accept clients on a contingency fee basis, meaning no fees after lost claims. Find an attorney that will accept your case with no fees upfront (no retainer necessary) and that will only charge you for his or her services after the lawyer obtains you a financial settlement or verdict. This fee arrangement can give you peace of mind financially while you recover from serious injuries.
Although each case is unique and unexpected delays can arise, a lawyer should be able to give a rough estimate as to how long he or she thinks your case will last. A lawyer can base this estimate on factors such as the severity of your injuries, whether you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement, how cooperative the insurance company has been and how long similar cases generally take. Knowing how long your claim could take to settle can prepare you and your family for the journey ahead.