What Questions Should I ask a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Through no fault of your own, you find yourself in what can be unfamiliar territory – an attorney’s conference room. You’ve recently been involved in an accident where you were injured, and now the medical bills and other insurance paperwork are piling up. Before you sits a personal injury lawyer who begins guiding you through expectations and potential legal minefield that lay ahead of you. It sounds as though they are speaking a different language. At the end of the conversation, the attorney asks if you have any questions. You pause for a second to let the room stop spinning.

What do you say?

Who is the attorney and how can they help you?
The foundation of a successful outcome in your case begins with finding the right attorney for you. To do this, begin by asking about the attorney’s background with similar cases. Insurance companies have the financial resources to hire skilled lawyers who specialize in defending personal injury claims. To prepare, you need to find an attorney with the experience and the skill set capable of matching and exceeding those of defense counsel.

How many personal injury cases have they argued?
Ask about the attorney’s familiarity with personal injury cases, especially as it relates to your type of claim. There are many types of personal injury claims, including motor vehicle accidents, assaults, dog bites, medical malpractice, and product liability. You need an attorney who has experience handling your type of case, as each type of case has its own unique circumstances. One wrong move can be catastrophic for your case.

How often do they go to trial?
Additionally, you want to find out how often they go to trial. While not many personal injury cases go to trial, you want to be prepared with an attorney who is willing to see your case through to the end. Regardless of whether your case goes to trial, it is important to establish trust that your legal counsel is willing to fight for the maximum amount of compensation under the law.

What are their fees?
Good news! A majority of cases do not require any advance payment from the client. In fact, in most cases, your attorney only gets paid if you do. We’ve all heard those commercials. This type of fee arrangement is commonly referred to as a “contingency fee.” A contingency fee is just that; it is contingent upon the successful outcome of your case. Generally, if you are successful in your case, whether that be through settlement or through a favorable verdict after trial, the attorney will receive a percentage of your recovery. On average, this fee is approximately one-third of your recovery, plus expenses which may include filing fees, expert witness fees, postage, and the like.

Now that you know a little bit more about your attorney, it’s time to find out a little bit more about your case. 

How long will my case take?
Ironically, only you can answer that question. Some clients want to take the first offer from the insurance company just a few months after sustaining their injuries. Others want their day in court. If the matter is going to reach the courtroom, you can expect to be reached for trial approximately fourteen to twenty-four months after you file suit. Maybe now you can see why so few cases actually go to trial.

What are their initial thoughts?
Personal injury cases can sometimes be unpredictable, depending on many variables and unknowns. That said, an experienced attorney knows all the various arguments and defenses available in your case. They can anticipate the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing side’s arguments and plan accordingly from the start. You will want to know what issues you can expect and any possible hurdles along the way. Keep in mind, however, that regardless how confident the attorney may seem, they won’t be able to accurately predict your chances of success or what type of damage award you can expect.

At the initial conference, your attorney is not just looking at the accident report, the photos, medical records and other evidence. They are looking at you. They analyze the way you speak, the way you present the facts of the case and your demeanor. Often, these are the most important indicators of a successful case. 

You should be doing the same with your attorney. Ask questions, dive into their experience, and gauge their confidence in your case. Whether the attorney represents you is your decision as much as it is theirs. You need to find an attorney you feel comfortable with and whom you can trust. Feel sure that your attorney will effectively and capably represent your legal interests.

If you have questions on how to choose the right attorney for your case, or are in need of a personal injury attorney, please don’t hesitate to contact Rudman Winchell.  

Michael A. Hockenbury| Associate
The Graham Building | 84 Harlow Street
P.O. Box 1401 | Bangor, Maine 04402
tel: 207.992.4449 | fax: 207.941.9715