What questions should you ask a personal injury lawyer before hiring one? Below are the top ones to help make sure you get the best attorney.
It’s always difficult when looking for third-party help of any kind. When you need to find an accountant, build a new patio, or fix your heating and air conditioning, you thoroughly investigate the person you want to do the work. Why don’t more people do the same with their personal injury lawyer? Ask these questions to find the best one for your needs:
How many years of experience do you have?
You always want someone experienced. It isn’t everything. But the more of it your attorney has, the more likely they are to get you a fair legal outcome.
What results have you delivered your clients?
Don’t let them get away with a “that’s confidential” response. They may not be able to discuss specific case results (although some clients allow this).
But they should be comfortable keeping the client’s name and any information that revealed their identity confidential, while discussing other facts of their case. You’ll get a good idea they can deliver you results.
The very best personal injury attorneys have long lists of successful settlements.
How much experience do they have in resolving your specific type of injury case?
Now this one’s huge. Not every lawyer handles all case types. For example, some specialize mostly in product liability, while others in car accidents.
Most have a collection of several different types of cases they specialize in – and that’s what you want to see.
What percentage of personal injury cases settle out of court?
The more, the better. That saves you time, stress, and legal fees. They should settle most of their injury cases out of court.
How many times have you gone to trial? How often do you win?
Most cases do not go to court. But some do. You always want an experienced, successful lawyer that wins most of their court cases.
Who does all the work on my personal injury case?
Paralegals sometimes help assemble case information. That’s okay – you should be comfortable with that.
But, at large law firms, the senior lawyer may hand off most of your case work, even the trial work, to inexperienced associate and junior lawyers. You want to make sure the most talented professional does all the work on your injury case.
If we lose, am I responsible for advanced costs?
“Advanced costs” are one of the “got-yas” of the legal industry. These costs are usually deducted from your contingency fee when your case wins – that’s okay. However, some personal injury law firms charge them even if you are not successful in winning your accident case. You should not have to pay any “advanced costs” for any reason – ever. Ask your lawyer if they charge them and promptly excuse yourself from the meeting or phone call if they do. The answers to those questions help you nail down which attorney to hire. But they won’t quite give you the “full picture” of the legal counsel you should retain. To make the definitive choice for yourself, there’s some other questions you should ask too.
Have you ever been suspended from practicing law? Why?
If your personal injury attorney answers “yes” to this one, ouch! Time to find someone else. It takes quite grievous errors in legal practice (or any profession for that matter) to have your professional license suspended.
Do you have references I can contact?
Every lawyer, new and experienced, should come up with at least 2-3 right off the top of their head. Generally, with more experienced lawyers, you won’t need to ask this question because you know based on their other credentials they can do the job. If they plead “client confidentiality,” ask them for names of other attorneys or court reporters.
What contingency fee do you charge?
Most injury law firms charge 33.3% (1/3). In some rare cases, you can find ones that charge even less.
When can you actually start work on my case?
This floats below the radar of the average person. You know those injury lawyers that advertise all the time? Often, they take on your case and then file the suit 12-18 months later right before the statute of limitations ends. They do it because they’re so busy. It’s not the end of the world because they still do the legal work for you. But, if you have mounting medical costs and need a way to pay those sooner rather than later, that time hurts!
Do you try personal injury cases in court, or do you aim to settle most out of court?
Now, you want to hear your attorney prepares every accident case as if it’s going to go to trial. And if the defendant thinks you’re ready to do that, they’ll likely settle faster and for a higher amount. That’s because no one wants to go to court – it costs money and takes a lot of time. Most lawsuits settle out of court (90% or so), but you want an injury law firm that prepares for all-out war.
With those questions you have all the information you need to pick the perfect lawyer for your needs.
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Shane V. Mullen is an attorney licensed by the State of Texas for the general practice of law, and the Managing Partner at Mullen & Mullen Law Firm in Dallas, TX. His firm focuses exclusively on personal injury law and has been in business for 40 years. Before becoming a lawyer, Shane worked for his father as an accident injury claims investigator.