The 12 Questions You Should Ask a Prospective Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, the surest way to obtain the compensation to which you are entitled is by working closely with an experienced personal injury attorney from the outset but knowing how to find the right attorney for you can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, there are 12 basic questions you can ask a prospective attorney that can help ensure you have found one with whom you are comfortable working and who is a good fit for you and your claim.
Why Ask a Bunch of Questions?
Your personal injury claim is likely to play a critical role in your ability to fully recover your damages and your ability to regain your health and well-being. Bringing your strongest claim is paramount, and because personal injury claims tend to be complicated, working with a personal injury attorney with whom you are comfortable can have a profound effect on the outcome of your claim. Having a set repertoire of questions at the ready can serve an important role in your selection process. This does not mean that you are going to need to interview countless personal injury attorneys before finding the right one for you and your claim. In fact, you may find your attorney before making it to the third question with the first candidate – when you know, you know – but you do not want to settle for a personal injury attorney who is not the right candidate to get the job done. Taking a bit of time upfront to ask a few questions can prove enormously helpful as your claim proceeds.
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One: How long have you been practicing personal injury law?
You have a personal injury claim, and you obviously want a personal injury lawyer with considerable experience in the field, which makes asking him or her how long he or she has been practicing personal injury law a good place to start. Having a seasoned legal professional on your side can make a significant difference in the outcome of your claim.
Two: Is personal injury law your primary focus?
You are looking for a personal injury attorney who does not spend the majority of his or her practice focused on another kind of law. You have a personal injury claim, and you are looking for an attorney who is well versed in this area of the law. Additionally, it is a good idea to enquire if the attorney has experience handling your specific type of case. If the attorney focuses on car accidents only and you were injured in a slip and fall accident, this is something that is worth knowing up front. Some of the most common classifications of personal injury claims include:
Slip and falls, dog bites, and other kinds of premises liability claims
Defective consumer products and other kinds of product liability claims
There are also wrongful death and medical malpractice claims that are very similar to personal injury claims and that are often grouped with this area of the law.
Three: Do you offer free consultations?
If you have to pay for a consultation upfront before even finding the right personal injury attorney for you, it can be cost-prohibitive. Before a reputable personal injury attorney accepts your claim, he or she will want to make sure that he or she is a good candidate for the task and will want to become acquainted with the basic circumstances involved in your claim (to ensure that you have a viable claim, to begin with, in his or her professional opinion). In other words, that initial free consultation can play an important role in the process of moving forward, and you are looking for a personal injury attorney who provides one.
Four: Do you have the resources to effectively handle my claim?
If your personal injury claim is very complicated, the path forward can be long, arduous, and costly, and you want to make sure that the attorney you are interviewing has the resources available to accomplish the task. All of the following may become necessary, and they can all be quite costly:
Compiling and organizing extensive evidence in support of your claim
Recreating the accident scene in support of your claim
Hiring expert witnesses who bolster your claim
Preparing to go to trial in the event that the insurance company refuses to negotiate fairly
You do not want to get in too deep with a firm that is not ready to go the distance if the need should arise.
Five: What are the chances that my claim will go to trial?
The truth is that most personal injury claims settle out of court, which means that yours is likely to do the same. However, if your claim is especially complicated, especially expansive, or is less clear-cut than many others, it may be more likely to go to court, and your prospective personal injury attorney should be prepared to discuss this matter knowledgeably with you.
Six: How much do you charge?
Most reputable personal injury attorneys work on what is known as a contingency basis, which means that if an attorney accepts your claim, his or her pay will be contingent upon you receiving a settlement or court award (if you end up litigating in court). If you do prevail with a settlement or court award, your attorney will be paid a prearranged percentage, but this percentage can vary from firm to firm, and knowing what the percentage is from the outset is always well advised. If the attorney you are consulting with attempts to brush the matter of payment off, take it seriously. While having professional counsel on your side is an important investment, you do not want to relinquish a greater percentage of your compensation than is standard.
Seven: What if my case loses?
If the insurance company declines to negotiate fairly and you do not prevail in court, what happens next? By hiring a personal injury attorney who works on contingency, you ensure that you will not owe anything if you end up walking away with no compensation. In other words, there is a very little financial risk to you. It is important to note, though, that an experienced personal injury attorney is unlikely to take on a claim if he or she does not believe it will ultimately settle or receive a court award (based on his or her considerable knowledge on the matter).
Eight: What are the strengths and challenges of my claim?
By asking a prospective attorney what the strengths and challenges of your claim are, you can take a deeper dive into what is to come. By better understanding how your claim stands and what you can do to help bolster it, you not only become better acquainted with your claim but will also come better acquainted with your prospective personal injury attorney.
Nine: What is my claim worth?
The most important point to make when it comes to the law is that your personal injury attorney does not have a magic ball and cannot put a price on your claim. In fact, if he or she attempts to do so early on, it may be a sign that you should keep looking. What a skilled personal injury attorney can do, however, is explain how your claim is likely to proceed and to break the value of your damages down in accordance with his or her experience in the matter.
You can seek compensation for all of the following types of damages, and a specific value will be assigned in relation to either the cost associated (for economic damages) or the value that is assigned (for non-economic damages):
Property damage, such as to your vehicle in a traffic accident
Your medical expenses, which can be expansive and may be ongoing (if your injuries are serious and lead to secondary health concerns)
Your lost earnings, which can expand to a loss of earning potential into your future
Your physical and emotional pain and suffering, which are considered non-economic damages, but that can be just as challenging to overcome
Calculating the Value of Noneconomic Damages
The pain and suffering you experience in a terrifying accident that leaves you injured can be considerable, but there is no set way to assign a value to these losses. In the State of Texas, these non-economic damages are often calculated using the multiplier method, which works in the following way:
A number from 1.5 to 5 is assigned to your claim in relation to how serious the accident was and how profoundly it affected your life. The more serious the effects, the higher the number.
Your total economic damages will be tallied and multiplied by the number assigned.
The result is the amount of compensation you will receive in non-economic damages (in addition to your economic damages).
Consider a very simple example. If your medical expenses and lost earnings add up to $200,000 in damages, and the very serious accident that left you permanently injured is assigned a multiplier of 5, your pain and suffering will be assigned a value of $1 million ($200,000 x 5), which puts your total compensation at $1,200,000.
Ten: What is the most interesting or complicated claim you have taken on?
This is the kind of question that can help you get to know a prospective personal injury attorney a bit better – and you might hear an interesting story in the process. A passionate personal injury attorney will appreciate your interest, and you want a passionate personal injury attorney on your side. By engaging in a deeper conversation, you will be better prepared to pull the trigger when it comes to choosing the right personal injury attorney for you and your claim.
Eleven: What if I am partially responsible for the accident?
Claimants often feel like they share the blame for any accident that leaves them injured, and some are quick to accept all the blame. While this is human nature (for many of us), this is not how the legal system works. The attorney with whom you consult will carefully examine the circumstances of your claim and will help you better understand whether or not you actually share fault in the matter. An important point to make here is that the insurance company handling your case would like nothing more than for you to believe you are at fault, but that is not necessarily the case. Further, in the State of Texas, even if you do share fault in the accident that leaves you injured, you are eligible to seek compensation for the percentage of fault that the other party bears (as long as it is at least 50 percent of the total).
Twelve: Do you have time to do my claim justice?
The fact is that, even if you find a magical match of a personal injury attorney whom you are well prepared to go to bat with, it is not going to do you much good if he or she does not have the time to commit to your claim and to fight for its best possible resolution (regardless of what that entails). Talking about this with a prospective personal injury attorney from the outset can help you avoid disappointment down the line. Many dedicated personal injury attorneys work with skilled legal teams that allow them to carefully address the ins and outs of every claim they take on, and if that means going to trial, they are well prepared to do so. Ultimately, you are looking for the peace of mind that comes from knowing your rights are well protected and that your attorney is committed to going the distance for your claim, and this question can help you attain this peace of mind.
RELATED READINGS: Important Questions to Ask Your Potential Personal Injury Attorney
Important Questions to Ask Your Potential Personal Injury Attorney
Seek the Professional Legal Guidance of an Experienced Killeen Personal Injury Attorney
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a distinguished personal injury attorney who is well prepared to help guide your claim toward its optimal outcome. To learn more, please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.