According to the CDC, about 175,000 people across the US sustain accidental injuries annually. If you recently have been in a car accident or had to go to the emergency room, hiring a personal injury lawyer may be the first step toward compensation.
Here, we’re going to talk about getting damages from an at-fault party after you’re injured. Read on to learn some questions that you need to ask your attorney after being involved in an accident.
1. What Experience and Education Do You Have?
You must know your lawyer’s background before working with them on a case. You’ll need experienced auto accident attorneys if you want to get fair compensation. Make sure that the person you hire has at least 10 years of experience handling personal injury cases.
Some attorneys who have less experience will charge less. However, the quality of representation will be far lower than if you were to work with a seasoned lawyer. You’ll get a smaller settlement and ultimately lose money, so don’t try to save by hiring a newer lawyer.
You also will want to know your lawyer’s educational background. Research the law school they went to so you can understand the quality of their education. Ask them about the most valuable things they learned while studying to see what they value about that education.
It’s critical that you also look into their specialization/practice area. Not all personal injury lawyers are experts in the same area. Some have learned about and worked in medical malpractice; others are seasoned in product liability, worker’s comp, or slip-and-falls.
If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, you need someone with specialized knowledge of car crash law. They will have specialized knowledge of accident law and can apply it to your case. This will have been their focus, so they have a huge arsenal of knowledge to put to good use.
2. What Does Payment Look Like?
Different attorneys also use different methods of payment. Some common ones include credit, debit, direct transfer from checking accounts, and PayPal.
There are multiple possible payment models that your lawyer might work under. Some attorneys will take a flat fee upfront. They also might take a small amount of this fee before your case and collect the rest after regardless of the case outcome.
Others will charge you hourly, so the rate will depend on the time they spend on your case. Experienced lawyers will charge more per hour than those with less experience, but they likely won’t take as long to complete tasks. Courtroom time may also cost more under these payment models.
However, the most common method of payment for personal injury cases is contingency. A contingent fee means that you will only pay your attorney if they win the case.
The Benefits of Contingency
This is preferable to other payment methods because you won’t need to shell out cash for services that don’t work for you. You’ll only need to pay when you win, so you can never lose money as a result of lawyer fees. Generally, the attorney’s pre-determined percentage of the winnings will be around 30-40% of the outcome.
Another advantage of contingent payment is that lawyers will be more motivated to win your case. After all, they don’t get paid unless you do. Success for you also means a payment for them.
The lawyer will likely collect their funds immediately after you receive a payout, so you don’t need to worry about being late or struggling to give them the funds they’re owed.
3. What Is Your Assessment of My Case?
When you file a claim, you likely assume that your case is easy to win. This makes sense since you’ve experienced hardship and think you’re entitled to a good amount of compensation.
However, it’s important to remember that there are legal specifics you don’t know. The particulars of your case and issues surrounding it might make settlement very difficult. If you don’t settle, court cases can become nearly impossible in these scenarios.
An attorney can give you an unbiased assessment of your case. They’ll tell you:
- What are your chances of winning are
- How much compensation do they think you can realistically get
- What types of damages do they think you can get (medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering, etc)
- Whether or not they think it’s worthwhile to pursue the case
Listen to your attorney’s assessment and ask any questions you have. Remember that the lawyer you hire is there to answer your questions. Honesty and transparency are key to a good attorney/client relationship because you’ll only pursue avenues that are worth your time.
4. How Will Communication Look?
Speaking of honesty and transparency, you’re going to want to know how to communicate with an attorney throughout your case.
The first thing to ask is how often you’ll get updates regarding your case. It’s best to hire a legal team that will immediately notify you when the status of your case changes. Waiting for compensation after a traumatic accident can be extremely stressful, and staying in the loop can alleviate some of that anxiety.
You also will need to know how the updates will come to you. You’ll likely get a say in whether you prefer phone calls, emails, or text messages. The best law firms will also be happy to schedule short meetings or phone calls with you to discuss your case.
It’s important that your hire an attorney who will let you get in touch with them if you have questions. Ask how you can talk to them if there’s an emergency or an important question that pops up. Some attorneys will let you call their offices; others will let you call their cell phones.
Make sure that they’re excited to keep you posted throughout the process. Sometimes a check-in can inspire confidence about the direction of your case. It’s important to hold onto hope and know what’s happening.
5. Can You Tell Me About a Similar Case You’ve Handled?
Sometimes, a personal injury lawyer will say that they’re familiar with a specific type of case that they never have dealt with firsthand. They may be trained in how to settle or have seen others do so. However, if they haven’t worked with a similar case themselves, they won’t be able to provide you with the quality representation you deserve.
For example, someone who has experience with workplace injuries won’t necessarily have worked on a car crash case before. However, they might know about it or be familiar with it as part of their tort education background.
Asking the attorney to tell you the specifics of cases they handled will let you know that their understanding goes beyond baseline familiarity. You’ll be in capable hands.
6. How Many Clients Do You Handle at Once?
The best attorneys take on multiple clients at once. However, some lesser lawyers do as well. The trick is to know how many clients are too many before the quality of representation decreases.
If a lawyer takes on too many clients, they may not prioritize your case. They might want to settle early or they might not put in the work needed to get you fair compensation. They also might not make time to communicate with you if they’re working on other, bigger cases.
Ask your lawyer how many clients they juggle at once. Ask them how they go about giving every case the representation it requires as well. This will give you a better idea of whether they’ll provide you with the assistance you deserve before you sign any contracts.
7. What If I Don’t Want to Settle?
Some lawyers that take on too many cases want to take the first settlement offer they get. Unfortunately, this is almost always a lowball.
Insurance companies lose money when they settle with attorneys. They give the money to you. They want to keep as much money as possible and will begin with the lowest possible offers.
These low offers are nowhere near what you might be entitled to. Asking what happens if you don’t settle will let you see whether the attorney is willing to push past the first offer. You’ll get a feel for their willingness to fight for you or even take the case to court.
This is extremely important because you’ll learn whether you’re working with someone willing to go to bat for you. Having a lawyer that cares about your compensation and what you’re going through is vital. It can alleviate a lot of stress and worry.
8. What Case Tactics Will You Use to Get Fair Compensation?
Lawyers and the firms they work for should be willing to dive into the specifics of your case. This is especially true before work begins on them. After all, they’ll want to know more about your case to learn how equipped they are to handle it.
Ask them about any potential issues that your case may face. See how they’re willing to handle these problems. Make sure that there’s a plan in place for any obstacles that they predict might come to pass in the future.
See how they like to negotiate. Ask questions like what type of settlement offer they tend to take. Inquire about what goes on when the lawyer talks to an insurance company.
This won’t just give you more information but will also prove that your lawyer truly is knowledgeable.
9. What Are My Responsibilities Before and During the Case?
This question lets you know what your role in the case will be. Your lawyer is well-versed in the law and knows how to defend you, but they will need your assistance in building a top-notch case.
After all, you were the one at the accident site. You were the one that received treatment. You’re the one who knows the ins and outs of the accident.
An attorney will likely need many things from you, such as:
- Copies of police reports
- Images of the accident site
- Photos of injuries and property damage
- The other driver’s license plate and contact information
- Medical bills that you received (though lawyers can help you collect them from hospitals more quickly if necessary)
- Reports of lost wages, pay stubs, and employer accounts
While your attorney may help you get some of these documents, you’re probably going to need to give them a lot of help. You’ll need to exchange personal information for these documents. You’re also the one that has photos taken immediately after the accident and notes you jotted down then.
10. How Long Will It Take to Resolve My Case?
Finally, ask your attorney how long it will take to resolve your case.
Most personal injury cases take about 30 days to settle. This number can increase or decrease based on how clear-cut your case is. For example, if one party is totally at fault, it may take a shorter time to settle than cases with highly variant comparative negligence.
Your attorney will have handled cases like yours before. They’ll know how long it takes to reach a settlement. Asking them this question can let you know when to expect compensation so you can pay off medical bills and more.
Talk With a Personal Injury Lawyer Today
While finding a personal injury lawyer can be a challenge, you must choose the right one after a car accident. Now that you know some questions to ask, it’s time to start the process of filing your claim.
At Sweetlaw, our personal injury team is committed to getting you fair and just compensation. We have a 98% success rate and are willing to discuss our victories and settlements during your free consultation. Request a police report and contact a lawyer to start working on your case.