Most people think that if they are in a car accident and have car insurance, they won’t have to pay a thing out of pocket. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You’ll have to pay a deductible, possibly some copays related to medical care, and if your car is totaled but you owe more than it is worth, you might be out thousands of dollars after you pay off your vehicle loan. This is why you need to hire a car accident lawyer. They can help you get the compensation you deserve when the accident is not your fault. Read on to learn more about the questions you should ask when hiring an auto accident attorney in Phoenix.
1. How Much Personal Injury Experience Do You Have?
One of the first questions you need to ask a potential car accident lawyer is how many years they have been practicing personal injury law.
Most lawyers specialize in one particular area of law, so try to avoid general practitioners in favor of an attorney who specifically practices personal injury law. You should also make sure that they represent victims only and do not represent insurance companies of drivers who are at fault for your accident.
You may be able to get this information from their website. If it’s not there, however, directly ask any potential attorney how many years they’ve been handling similar cases before you agree to hire them.
2. What Is Your Success Rate?
Experience isn’t the only important thing; success is just as important. An attorney could have handled hundreds of auto accident cases, but if they have had limited success, you might want to look elsewhere.
A good assessment of success is the number of cases your attorney has won and the number they have lost. In addition, ask about the average settlement amount or jury award.
Every case is different and your attorney can’t guarantee you an outcome (and if they do, you should be suspicious of this). However, you can look at their record to determine the outcome of similar cases and get an idea if your attorney can deliver a settlement or verdict that you consider fair.
3. Have You Handled Similar Cases?
Not all car accidents are created equal. If you are injured in an auto accident with a semi-truck, for example, you’ll likely want an attorney who specializes in these cases. Because the trucking industry has very specific rules and regulations governed by the federal government, you need an attorney who understands these laws.
Similarly, suppose your accident resulted from a defective part on your car or there has been safety recalls for your vehicle. In that case, you’ll need an attorney who has experience with defective product cases. A personal injury lawyer who typically only handles minor car accident cases may not be the most effective option for you.
4. Do You Have Trial Experience?
In some cases, insurance companies will try to get you to accept settlements that will not adequately cover your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and property damage. If you cannot agree on a settlement amount, you may wish to take your case to trial.
If this happens, you’ll need an experienced trial litigator. You don’t want to find out that your lawyer doesn’t have experience litigating cases at trial when you’re already months, or even years, into your case.
Before you hire an attorney, ask them how many cases they’ve tried and what the success rate of those cases is. If they have minimal trial experience or have little success when trying a case in front of a jury, you may want to find a different attorney.
5. What Is Your Fee?
Most personal injury lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis. This means that you will not pay them anything unless you win your case. If you win, you will pay them a portion of your settlement amount or jury award.
This amount is usually about 1/3 of your settlement or award. Before you hire them, be sure you fully understand their fee structure and how much they charge.
Some lawyers charge hourly or have a set, flat fee, but that is less common with personal injury attorneys.
6. Who Will Cover Case-Related Costs?
In addition to the attorney fee, putting together a strong case costs money. Things that your attorney may need to build your case include:
- Copies of medical records
- Expert witnesses
- Specialized medical exams
- Accident reconstruction experts
These litigation costs will need to be paid whether you win the case or not. Ask your attorney whether you must pay them whether you win or not and if you are responsible for paying them, get an estimate of how much you might expect to spend.
You should also ask who pays these costs in advance. Because the costs will come before the case is finished, ask if your attorney will front the costs of these experts or if you must pay the costs upfront.
7. Do You Think I Have a Strong Case?
As mentioned already, your attorney cannot guarantee you a case outcome. They can, however, give you an idea whether they think you have a strong case or not based on their past experiences.
If your case is weak or they are on the fence about whether you can win or not, you may not want to go forward with the lawsuit.
8. What Resources Do You Have to Build My Case?
Even if you and your attorney think that you have a slam-dunk case, you’ll still need to pull together all of the evidence to convince an insurance adjuster or a jury.
To do this, you need the resources discussed above. Expert witnesses, investigators, contacts with specialty doctors who can testify as to your injuries, etc. A good personal injury attorney should have access to all of these resources.
They should have an established network of experts who can contribute to your case. This is where experience comes in. If they are experienced, then it’s likely they have experts they work with regularly and work well with.
Be sure to ask about these additional resources they can tap into and how they might use them in your case.
9. Who Will Work on My Case?
Personal injury law firms typically handle many cases at the same time, so your attorney will likely have a team who supports them, including other attorneys, legal assistants, and paralegals. Unless they only took a few cases at a time, it would be impossible for your attorney to handle every aspect of your case.
Ask who else might be working on your case and who you can communicate with. It might be easier for you to get updates from a legal assistant or paralegal, who are more likely to be available to you.
It’s completely normal for others to work on your case, but if you are not comfortable with it, you may want to choose a smaller firm where your attorney does most of the work themself.
10. How Long Will My Case Take?
Like the outcome of your case, your attorney can’t predict how long it will take to settle or get a jury verdict. However, based on their experience, they can likely give you a ballpark idea of how long it might take.
Be prepared to not like the answer. It’s common for personal injury cases to take several years to conclude. During this time, all of your expenses will be paid for by you. When deciding to pursue a claim, you have to consider whether you can wait this long for a potential settlement.
11. What Level of Participation Will I Have?
The reason you hire an attorney is to represent you in a way that you cannot do yourself. To build a strong case, they need to know your story and they will need documentation from you. You may be asked to provide things like medical records, receipts, a police report, and other documentation to support your case.
Beyond that, the level of participation you have may depend on your lawyer and their work style. Some may want you to be highly involved and will keep in constant contact with you. Others may prefer to handle the work on their own with limited participation from you.
When you are interviewing potential attorneys, ask them about their work style and how much participation they’d like you to have.
12. What Can I Do to Help My Case?
One of the most important ways you can help your case is to avoid the things described below.
Additional things to do are to follow your doctor’s orders and treatment plan. If you don’t follow the treatment plan, the insurance company will use that against you.
Tell your lawyer the truth. They need to know all of the details to build a case. You have attorney-client privilege, so anything that you share with them remains confidential.
The only exception is if you tell them about plans to commit a crime. Otherwise, you can share anything with them and it stays with you two.
Stay organized by keeping track of receipts, medical bills, treatment plans, doctor’s notes, and any other paperwork you receive regarding your care or your case.
Finally, be available and timely in your responses to them. Remember that the sooner the case wraps up, the better, so don’t leave them waiting when they ask you for things.
13. What Should I Avoid So I Don’t Hurt My Case?
Just as there are things you can do to help with your case, there are many that you can do that will hurt your case. One of the worst things you can do is to post about your accident, injuries, or case on social media.
The insurance company wants to settle your case quickly and for as little money as possible, so they are going to be looking for reasons to deny your claim or offer you much less than you think you deserve. They want to show that your injuries aren’t as severe as you claim or that they are the result of something other than the car accident.
It is common for insurance adjusters to scour social media to find posts and pictures showing you being active or engaging in activities that you claim you can’t do because of your injury.
To play it safe, you might consider completely deactivating your social media accounts while the case is ongoing so there is no chance that they could use anything you post against you.
Don’t speak to anyone about the case except your lawyer. If you are contacted by a representative from the insurance company, you do not have to speak to them. Direct them to your attorney.
Further, don’t sign anything without your lawyer approving it. Signing anything could potentially invalidate your claim.
Find an Auto Accident Attorney in Phoenix
If you’ve been in an auto accident, you need an attorney to help build your case, communicate and negotiate with the insurance company for you, and guide you through the process. Don’t try to do it alone; your attorney is skilled at handling personal injury cases and can explain every step of the way.
The attorneys at Sweet Law have years of experience handling personal injury cases, including auto accidents, and are available to provide a free case consultation. Get in touch with them without delay if you’ve been injured in a car accident and you need an auto accident attorney in Phoenix. They are available via phone, text, or email to help you.