You probably have many questions after getting injured in an accident. You will spend a lot of time talking to doctors, physical therapists, and insurance companies. But you should also speak to a personal injury lawyer.
Fortunately, most injury lawyers offer free consultations to new clients. During this consultation, you and the lawyer will discuss your accident and injuries. The lawyer will probably outline what they can do to help you.
You should think carefully about the subjects you want to cover during your consultation. Your questions and the lawyer’s answers will help you decide whether to hire the lawyer for your case.
Below are six questions to ask a personal injury lawyer during a free consultation.
Using Your Free Consultation Efficiently
When you schedule your free consultation, the receptionist or legal assistant will tell you how long your consultation will last. You should plan to complete your discussion within this period. The lawyer might not have the time to talk for longer than the scheduled appointment.
By writing out the main questions you have, you can use your time efficiently and get all of the answers you need to proceed with your case. Some questions you should consider adding to your list include:
1. How Much Do You Charge?
One of the most common sources of attorney-client disputes comes from legal fees. You can reduce the risk of a misunderstanding between you and the lawyer by discussing fees before the representation even begins.
Most personal injury lawyers charge a contingency fee. A contingency fee depends on the outcome of the case. The fee represents a percentage of your compensation recovered, whether from a settlement or jury award. Depending on your case, a typical contingency fee could run anywhere from 20% to 40%.
A lawyer who charges a 30% contingency fee will take 30% of your eventual recovery.
Some benefits of a contingency fee include:
- No upfront fee to start your case
- You receive the majority of the compensation
- The lawyer has an incentive to fight for the maximum recovery
- You pay no legal fees if you lose your case
During your free consultation, discuss the lawyer’s fee. Ensure you understand how much the lawyer charges and how the fee is calculated.
Also, talk to the lawyer about costs. During your case, the lawyer may front the money to pay for expenses like filing fees, court reporter fees, and expert witness fees. At the end of the case, you need to reimburse your lawyer for these expenses. Discuss who pays expenses if you lose your case and how you reimburse the lawyer if you win your case.
2. Who Will Handle My Case?
Some lawyers work with legal assistants, paralegals, and associates who provide support in the case. Some lawyers only originate cases and assign cases to other lawyers in their firms.
Talk to the lawyer handling your free consultation about who will handle your case. If the lawyer at the free consultation will not handle your case, ask if you can speak to the lawyer assigned to you. The attorney-client relationship requires trust and communication. You must know how well you will work with your lawyer because you could work together for months or even years on your case.
3. How Will You Update Me About the Case?
Another common dispute between lawyers and clients concerns communication. Under California’s ethical rules, a lawyer must keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the case and respond to all reasonable requests for information.
At the same time, lawyers have many clients and can get busy. Sometimes, your lawyer will not respond to phone messages and emails immediately.
During the free consultation, discuss your expectations about communication. Ask the lawyer how often you can expect updates and who else can provide information about your case within the firm.
4. Do You Have Experience With This Type of Case?
Experience counts a lot. All lawyers learn about personal injury law — called tort law — in law school.
But practicing injury law every day gives the lawyer insight into:
- Insurance claim handling practices
- Court rules
- Negotiating tactics
- Litigation strategies
Even within injury law, lawyers develop knowledge that might help in particular types of claims. For example, lawyers who routinely handle Uber and Lyft accidents understand the process the rideshare companies and their insurers use for claims. Similarly, lawyers with experience in motorcycle injuries know which expert witnesses to call to reconstruct a motorcycle accident.
5. What Should I Expect from My Case?
Your discussion should include a frank assessment of your case. The lawyer should provide objective advice about your case’s strengths and weaknesses.
Based on this case evaluation, the lawyer may even estimate the range of outcomes you can expect. To help the lawyer arrive at this estimate, you should consider bringing documents to your free consultation that illustrate your expenses and document your injuries.
6. How Can I Help?
Your case will require your assistance. Your testimony could provide essential details that explain how the accident happened. You may provide leads to the lawyer about possible witnesses. You will also help your lawyer gather the evidence needed for your case, including documents showing your losses due to your accident.
You will also help your case by refraining from doing certain things.
Some risky actions you should discuss during the free consultation include:
- Talking to the insurance company
- Posting about your case on social media
- Lying to anyone, including the lawyer, about your case
Even discussing your case with others can derail your injury claim. Your lawyer will probably have a list of actions that, in the lawyer’s experience, you should avoid.
Hiring a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer After a Free Consultation
At the end of your consultation, the lawyer will provide you with a copy of the lawyer’s fee agreement. You should review this agreement carefully and make sure you fully understand its terms. If you have questions, contact the lawyer or even an outside lawyer to get the answers you need.
You should not feel pressured to hire a lawyer immediately after your consultation unless you have impending deadlines. Instead, you should carefully consider your decision and choose the lawyer who best fits your expectations for your case.