7 Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney
After an unexpected accident and injury, you may have many questions about your legal rights and options. A local, experienced personal injury attorney will do more than negotiate an insurance settlement. He or she will personally guide you through the legal process, pursue a claim to trial if needed, and help you navigate various aspects of the recovery process. Before you select the firm you want to represent you, ask these questions:
- In what area(s) of law do you focus your practice? Many personal injury firms specialize in several types of claims. Some offer personal injury support in addition to other fields of practice. You want to hire an attorney who has spent a reasonable amount of time practicing in an area that will serve your claim well. For example, an attorney with car accident claims experience may not provide the best possible support in a premises liability claim. Look for an attorney who can demonstrate a commitment to a particular practice area or complementary practice areas.
- How long do similar cases take to resolve? Some attorneys downplay the average timelines of cases. If the opposing party agrees to a full settlement request, a case may last only a few months. If, however, your case goes to trial, it may take many months or years to resolve. You want an attorney who will take every step to protect your right to full compensation, not one who wants to settle as many cases as possible in a short amount of time. Sometimes, a longer resolution period is an indicator of quality services.
- Will other attorneys work on my case? Many firms create teams to handle legal claims. The team will include a lead attorney and may include several other attorneys, paralegals, and other non-attorney professionals. A team can streamline the legal process and deliver exceptional services, but it can also limit your access to the lead attorney. Before you agree to a team approach, ask questions about communication. You should have one go-to contact who can answer your questions, provide updates, and guide you through the process.
- How many other cases are you handling? Firms frequently market themselves as offering “personalized services” and handling only a small number of claims at a time. The number of current matters will give you a good indication of the attorney’s ability to commit. Beware of attorneys who carry a full caseload. They may overpromise and under-deliver.
- Has the state or federal bar ever suspended your legal license? Bar associations hold licensees to strict practice standards. A suspension could indicate financial, ethical, or practice issues. It could also indicate a one-time mistake. If a bar association has disciplined the attorney, find out why before you make a hiring decision.
- How often do you take cases to trial? An attorney with a track record for taking cases to trial may indicate a focus on quality over quantity. Taking a case to trial takes more time, but it often leads to better client outcomes. Look for an attorney with a mix of successful trial and settlement outcomes to find someone who will put your best interests first.
- Do you operate on a contingency fee basis? Many personal injury attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis, giving injury victims a way to pursue a case without paying upfront for legal services. Ask for more information about the fees, including the fee percentage and what that percentage covers to find the best overall value.
An attorney’s legal experience, track record, and case-handling process matter, but so does fit. You should feel comfortable talking to and working with your attorney throughout the case. Use free consultations to find a local attorney you can trust.