If you were injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, you have probably been told that you should speak to a personal injury attorney about your case. You may have even conducted some research and found a lawyer or two with whom you’d like to schedule an initial consultation. Now that you’re preparing for your consultation, you’re likely wondering what will happen at that consultation and what questions you should ask.
Don’t Fear the Initial Consultation
Before we get into the questions you should ask the lawyer at your initial consultation, let’s take a look at the initial consultation process, because many people are intimidated by the prospect of actually going to talk to a lawyer about their situation. The initial consultation is simply time that the lawyer will provide, typically for free, to evaluate your case and discuss your legal options. At the same time, it is a chance for you to speak to the lawyer, find out more about their experience with cases like yours, and to decide if this is a person that you feel confident about hiring to pursue your case throughout the legal process.
While experienced attorneys will often provide answers to commonly asked questions even if you don’t ask them during the initial consultation, it is good to write your questions down before the meeting so that you can be sure you get them all answered.
Questions About Experience
Lawyers can specialize in many different areas of the law. Personal injury lawyers specialize in just one area: helping accident victims to obtain compensation for their injuries. However, because there are so many ways that accidents can happen, the world of personal injury law is also vast. You want to be sure that the attorney you hire to represent you has the experience to understand your case, your injuries, and the potential sources of compensation that are available to you. Some questions you may ask to get an idea about your attorney’s experience include:
- How long have you practiced personal injury law?
- How much experience do you have with cases like mine?
- What are some examples of settlements you’ve obtained for clients who have suffered similar accidents or injuries?
- What is the statute of limitations in my case?
- What is the likelihood that my case will settle out of court?
- If you’re unable to negotiate a fair settlement in my case, are you comfortable with representing me in court?
Questions About How Invested the Lawyer Will Be in Your Case
While a personal injury lawyer may have the experience you’re looking for, the next set of questions you need to ask pertain to how involved this attorney will actually be with your case. These questions might include:
- Are you the only attorney I will be working with?
- Who else will be working on my case?
- Do you have experts available to assist with the investigation and provide testimony on my behalf, such as accident reconstruction experts or medical professionals?
- Who is my point of contact?
- How can I receive updates on the progress of my case?
- How will you handle communication with me? (Email, phone call, text, etc.)
- How many clients do you represent simultaneously?
Questions About Paying Your Attorney
One of the most common questions that personal injury lawyers get is: How much do you charge for your services? Most personal injury lawyers do not work on an hourly basis, but rather on a contingent fee basis, meaning that they do not charge fees to their clients until they successfully negotiate a settlement or win a court award, at which point they keep a percentage of that award. However, it is important to ask your lawyer how they expect to be paid. Here are some questions to ask at the initial consultation about fees:
- How do you expect to be paid?
- If you’re working on a contingent fee basis, what percentage of my settlement or award will you keep? And do the percentage fees increase if the case goes to court?
- How will the costs involved with my case, such as copy fees, payment to experts, and other incidentals be handled?
- Is there anything I can do to help with the case?
Questions About the Strength of Your Case
While no lawyer has a crystal ball that will tell them what the outcome of your case will be, your lawyer should be able to give you an idea of how likely it is that you will succeed in your claim based on their experience, the details of your accident, the severity of your injuries, and the expenses you’ve incurred. Some questions to ask about the strength of your case can include:
- What damages am I eligible to recover?
- What is the value of my case?
- Who are the potentially liable parties in my case?
- Are there any weaknesses in my case, and how can we address those weaknesses?
Just as an employer would want to check references for a potential employee to ensure that the employee is qualified for the position, it is understandable that you may want references for the attorney you are considering hiring to represent you in your case. The attorney you’re meeting with is not going to be offended by you asking if you can speak to past clients who they have represented in similar cases.
Questions About the Contract
Once you’ve chosen an attorney that you’d like to represent you and the attorney has agreed to take the case, the attorney will give you documents to sign, including a contract that outlines the details of their working relationship with you. You must read these documents carefully and understand everything that you are signing. If you have any questions, be sure to ask them and have them answered to your satisfaction before you sign.