People who got injured often get advice from their relatives and friends to get a lawyer and sue the person responsible or at fault. Some even gave them names and numbers of recommended lawyers. What’s often left out is how you pick the right lawyer or law firm for your case.
If you or your loved one suffered an injury and you’re thinking of suing, you should try to know more about the lawyers you’re planning to sign up for. Try to look up the best personal injury law firm websites which practice in your area.
Here are some important questions which you should ask your personal injury lawyer before you hire their firm:
1. Can You Handle My Case?
One of the first things you should ask your personal injury lawyer is whether their law firm is willing and able to take your case. Sensible lawyers would know when to take on a case and when they shouldn’t. Even potential windfall cases would be turned down by lawyers who know they don’t have the time and resources to litigate against giant corporations.
A law firm with only one or a few lawyers might not have the time or enough people to do the research, legwork, and legal work for complex cases involving multiple parties and issues. On the other hand, a larger firm with numerous lawyers, legal secretaries, and paralegals would be more capable of giving your case the attention from a law firm that it needs. But they might cost you more.
2. Do We Stand a Chance?
If a lawyer or law firm agrees to take on your case, you can ask them right away what they think of your chances of winning the case. If they don’t mind, you should ask them to elaborate on their assessment. You can probe further by asking them to explain what they think would be the crucial things about the case. Then, you can ask them how they’ll overcome the possible challenges and defenses of the other side.
3. Have You Handled Something Similar?
When the lawyer you’re talking with says they can handle your case and that they think they can win it, the next thing to know is if they’ve done what they said they can do. Ask them if they’ve handled something similar to your case. Then ask them how they managed to win if they did.
In legal practice and litigation, it’s highly important for your lawyer to have extensive experience working on the issues and circumstances which will be involved in your case. It doesn’t have to be squarely similar. But they should have experience handling cases that involve factual circumstances that are analogous to your case. This will enable them to anticipate the various issues, moves, tactics, and even trial techniques that the opposing counsel will come up with.
4. Will They Offer to Settle?
Many personal injury lawyers would advise their clients to settle if they think the other side made a fair and decent offer. Going to trial could be exhausting for all the parties and their counsels. The plaintiff might feel harassed on the stand if they testify and have to be cross-examined. Plus, there’s always a chance that they might lose or get an award much smaller than what the other side is offering as settlement. Rather than go through all of it and risk losing, some lawyers would tell you to settle.
5. What Would Make You Advise We Go to Trial?
Having heard from the lawyer for how much they’d advise you to accept a settlement offer, you’d also have to hear the flip side. Ask them for thresholds or red lines that’d make them advise you to ditch the offer and go to trial. They don’t have to give definitive or specific answers, but it’d help you decide if they can give some criteria or minimum requirements.
You might have your own notions of what the other side must do or pay to make you agree to a settlement. But it’d help a lot if your lawyers could also give you counsel on what thresholds or minimum conditions would be reasonable and acceptable given the circumstances of your case.
6. How Do You Bill?
After you’ve talked about the case, the legal and factual issues, chances of winning, and strategy, you’ll still have to talk about how much you’ll have to pay them. Don’t skip or avoid this part of your discussions. It’d be good to put this on the table as early as possible and get it out of the way. It’s not good for either counsel or client to be wondering how much the legal fees would be like.
Law firms have different fee structures and billing methods. Some would ask for upfront engagement fees so they won’t take adverse clients. The balance would be paid after the case is settled or closed. Some use a milestone system. They bill you each time a case milestone is accomplished. There are also law firms that take contingency cases. You won’t have to pay anything. Your fees would be taken from the settlement payment.
7. Do You Take Contingency Cases?
Not every law firm accepts contingency cases, but it's still worth asking now that you’re talking about money. Some law firms advertise that you won’t have to pay anything when they accept your case until the other side pays the settlement money or judgment award. This is called a contingency engagement or the practice of accepting cases on a contingency basis.
You should ask the lawyer or law firm you’re talking with whether they do this. If they say yes, you should talk about how much they’re going to take if the other side pays the settlement. These seemingly small money matters are important to properly set the expectations of both sides before engagement. Keep in mind that in any business or professional transaction, all the terms and conditions should be written down so both sides will always have a common reference.
8. What If We Go to Trial Then Lose?
After your lawyer has given you the ballpark figure of how much you’ll have to pay and the broad strokes of how they’re going to bill you, you should ask them the hard questions and what-ifs. Ask them what your recourse would be if the case goes to trial and you lose.
Will they still handle the appeal for you? If they won’t, would you still have to pay for their legal fees if all or part of the engagement was on a contingency basis? If they pledge to handle the appeal, would you have to advance some of the fees in the meantime while the case is on appeal?
Ask Questions to Know More
You don’t have to sign up for the first one you talk to when you’re searching for the right lawyer or law firm to handle your personal injury case. Try to know more about the qualities of lawyers and law firms you’re speaking with. You have to ask them some important questions before you sign them up. This would give you a sense of whether they’re a match for what you need and what the road ahead looks like.