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If you are seeking compensation following an accident, it is essential to have the right lawyer on your side. A good personal injury attorney can double or triple the settlement you receive, support you throughout the entire process, and fight your corner in court if need be.
But not all lawyers are equally experienced and competent. To make the right choice, it’s best to book an initial consultation with several potential personal injury attorneys, which will usually be free of charge. Ask each lawyer the following questions and hire whoever provides the most satisfactory answers.
As you’ve no doubt seen in attorney advertisements, most personal injury attorneys take their fees from the settlement on a contingency fee basis. So if you don’t win, you don’t pay a dime. In this way, the law firm and lawyer take on all the financial risk.
Be sure to ask your personal injury attorney if this is the case and find out what percentage of the settlement they take. Their cut will usually be between 20 and 40 percent.
Bear in mind that a lower percentage isn’t necessarily better. A more experienced lawyer is more likely to win you a higher settlement figure, and they’ll often charge more to do so.
They may be taking a larger cut, but that slice comes from a much larger settlement pie. With attorneys, as with most things in life, you tend to get what you pay for. So weigh their fee against all the other factors below.
While assuring you of zero legal fees in the case of a loss, it’s unfortunate that some lawyers might fail to mention case-related expenses. Every personal injury case incurs various expenses, such as filing fees, medical records retrieval fees, expert witness fees, document copying costs, postage costs, and more. If you’re unaware of these expenses, you might end up with unexpected out-of-pocket costs.
Ask each potential personal injury lawyer exactly how these expenses are covered. Ideally, you shouldn’t be asked to pay any expenses in the case of a loss nor pay advanced costs on an ongoing monthly basis. With the standard contingency fee agreement offered by most personal injury lawyers, all expenses will come out of the final settlement. They won’t come out of your pocket.
Ideally, you want to find an experienced personal injury lawyer who’s handled many cases just like yours. Personal injury law might seem like a specialist field, but it’s actually pretty broad. You have cases for car accident injuries, medical malpractice, product liability, wrongful death, workplace accidents, slip and fall accidents, animal attacks, and more.
So during your free consultation, check that the attorney has plenty of experience winning substantial settlements in cases very similar to yours. You wouldn’t want to be their very first rodeo with your particular type of claim, especially if they’re a sole practitioner.
An attorney who works for a proven law firm, on the other hand, will often have support and guidance to call upon from more experienced attorneys at the firm. This might compensate, to some degree, for a lack of personal specialist experience.
If you’re seeking legal counsel at a law firm with multiple lawyers, your initial consultation might be with one of the more senior attorneys. But this doesn’t mean your case will be handled by that individual. In fact, it usually won’t.
Ask if most of the work will be handled by one of their less experienced associates. And if so, ask if that individual has handled personal injury cases like yours and how much support they’ll be provided by their senior colleagues.
Even if well-supported by their firm, the individual attorney handling your case will make or break your claim. Find out how long they’ve been practicing this particular kind of law, and apply all the questions in this article to that individual.
You should also ask to meet your main contact person, as you want to ensure you can communicate easily. As you’ll be working with this attorney for several months, possibly even years, it’s in your best interests to make sure you get along well.
The best lawyers will be happy and willing to provide past client references. They will be proud to prove their sterling track record. When you ask this question, observe the lawyer’s reaction. Any reluctance or caginess is a serious red flag.
References are an ordinary and expected part of due diligence. Sometimes an attorney will have client testimonials or case studies ready on hand to show you. These are great, but references that you can actually contact are even better.
Any personal injury lawyer worth his or her salt will have a few success stories to share. Hopefully, they’ll have recent examples of cases that are very similar to yours.
Of course, attorney/client privilege won’t allow them to share specifics from past clients. But the overview should give you a good impression of their level of competence.
While most personal injury claims reach a settlement payment, they do sometimes go to court. In the rare instance where an insurance company refuses to pay a fair settlement, your lawyer needs to be ready and willing to take things to court. They should also have experience winning over a jury.
You might think it obvious that an attorney should be ready to go to court, but many practicing personal injury lawyers simply don’t have much court experience. This is because the majority of personal injury cases reach a fair settlement long before a jury trial.
The insurance companies and defense lawyers you are facing will be aware of how prepared (or not) you are to go to court. If you’ve chosen an attorney with a reputation for winning court cases, it will strengthen your hand in settlement negotiations and earn you more substantial financial compensation. So be sure to ask your personal injury lawyer how many cases they’ve tried in court and how many they’ve won.
Over time, personal injury attorneys come to know who else is operating in their neck of the woods. They often help each other out in terms of finding and sharing prospective clients. During a busy period, one attorney will send excess clients to another, and later on, the favor will be returned. This is especially the case with sole practitioners.
For this reason, you can expect any reputable personal injury attorney to have plenty of referral business from their peers. Go ahead and ask potential lawyers how much business they get in this way. It’s often a very telling question. Inexperienced lawyers tend to have very little referral business.
If an attorney is offering to take on your personal injury case, then you can rest assured they already see a strong chance of success. All attorneys prefer to sign clients where they feel certain to recover monetary damages. When an attorney wins, they get paid, so they don’t take on cases that have a good chance of failure.
But while researching legal representation, it’s still good to hear what a few different personal injury firms and lawyers think about your personal injury claim. First, ask what the strengths of your case are.
A strong case should have plenty of evidence proving someone else’s negligence and liability, including police reports and witnesses. It should also have doctor’s reports justifying all of your medical bills and additional costs that you’re claiming damages for.
Gathering evidence tends to be easier with clear-cut cases such as car accidents and workplace injuries. When you’re ready, you can ask a personal injury attorney you hire to gather all evidence for you. They can also hire expert witnesses, such as medical record specialists.
Every case also has its own complications and obstacles to overcome. It’s good to ask a potential lawyer what possible weaknesses they foresee in your case for two reasons. Firstly, you’ll learn the true story of how strong your case is. It’s always worth uncovering potential potholes and pitfalls early on.
Secondly, you’ll learn how forthright and honest the attorney is. The legal system is complex, and every personal injury lawsuit is unique, involving some kind of difficulty. An experienced and reputable lawyer will tell you straight, so you know what’s to come.
At such an early stage, it’s difficult to predict how much a claim is worth. But the lawyer should be able to give you a rough idea. Accidents often incur expensive medical costs, which need to be covered by the settlement. In addition to medical expenses, you can often claim damages for lost wages, mental anguish, physical pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, and many other factors.
When you ask a personal injury lawyer what they think your maximum compensation could be, you’ll have an indication of how hard they’re willing to fight. Lawyers willing to go to court will often be confident of achieving higher compensation.
It’s also tough to predict how long negotiation and resolution will take. In general, a relatively simple car accident case will take less time, while complex medical malpractice cases take far longer. The severity of your injuries will also affect the timeframe, along with how much evidence and expert witness support you need to prove your claim.
If an attorney gives you what seems to be an overly long timeframe, it might be because they have many other cases to handle at the moment. If so, they might not have as much time to dedicate to your case as you’d like.
Now you have all the questions you need to ask a personal injury lawyer. If you’d like a highly experienced attorney battling by your side in Kansas City, contact Wendt Law today at 816-542-6734. We have award-winning attorneys, over 1,000 successful cases, and a commitment to winning the best possible settlement offer for all our clients and their families.