You have been injured, are in pain and are losing income because you’re unable to work. You need an attorney but are confused about how to choose one. Attorney advertisements are everywhere, on television, online and on the sides of buses.
Choosing the best personal injury law firm to represent your case can be an arduous task. With so many law firms available in New York City knowing the best questions to ask a personal injury lawyer can help you find the right fit. After all, actually choosing a law firm after careful evaluation is much more difficult than just finding one.
You finally make a list of a few attorneys you would like to interview. All of them say on their website that they “offer a free consultation.” Although the primary focus of the consultation is for the attorney to evaluate your situation and determine if you have a good case, you should take this time to ask some questions of your own. When meeting a prospective lawyer to represent your case, you may be wondering “what kinds of questions should I ask a personal injury attorney?”
The following questions to ask a personal injury lawyer will help you learn more about an accident lawyer’s qualifications, philosophy, and experience and should make evaluating your options as easy as possible. Below is a list of the best questions to ask a personal injury lawyer during your initial consultation.
What Kinds Of Questions Should I Ask A Personal Injury Attorney?
Asking attorneys questions will help you know if they have the qualifications, experience, and resources to pursue your case. This will also help you determine if your personalities are a good fit and if you feel that the attorney will always have your best interests in mind.
- How much will it cost to hire you? In New York, personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means you are not charged a legal fee unless the attorney wins your case, and the fee will be a percentage of your compensation award. Find out what that percentage is and whether there will be additional costs in addition to the legal fee. There are, unfortunately, some attorneys who say “no legal fees,” but leave out the part about you needing to pay costs of things like copying documents and postage. Some attorneys do not charge for these things, others absorb the cost and do not charge, others send you monthly statements you are expected to pay.
- Why do you think I have a good case? You do not need a comprehensive legal description, but asking for a few reasons why the attorney thinks there is a good chance of obtaining compensation for you is a good idea.
- What are the weaknesses of my case? Better to know this sooner than later. No matter how strong a case is, there is almost always an area of concern that needs to be addressed.
- How many cases like mine have you or your firm handled? Do not rule out attorneys who have not had handled a large number of similar cases if they have the support of more experienced attorneys in the firm who will be on hand to give advice and assistance. On the other hand, you do not want your case to be the first one like it ever handled by a sole practitioner. Just because a law firm has been in business for some time does not mean they have experience with your type of case. You may prefer to enlist an attorney who has tried cases like yours. A great follow-up question to ask a personal injury lawyer is how many successful verdicts they have won in court.
- How many successful verdicts have you won in court? If a fair, reasonable offer is negotiated prior to trial, it’s possible that a personal injury case could be settled without a jury trial; however, if no amount can be agreed upon by both parties a jury trial may be inevitable. It’s important to establish a trust that your legal representation is willing to fight for the maximum amount of compensation under New York law by preparing every case as if it will go to trial.
- How will you keep me updated on the progress of my case? Of course, you do not need your hand held throughout the duration of the litigation, nor expect daily phone calls. But, you do want to be kept informed about the progress of your case as it winds its way through the legal system.
- How many client’s cases do you handle at a time? If the attorney does not have time and is already over-booked with cases, it may take months for your suit to even be filed. Keep in mind that New York has a statute of limitations of 3 years after a personal injury incident takes place. If that time is drawing near, you should make sure to only give consideration to attorneys who have the time to file suit well in advance of the final deadline. An important follow-up question to ask an injury attorney regarding their schedule is to find out how many personal injury cases they are currently litigating.
- Will you accept my telephone calls? Who at the firm will be my contact person? It is nice to have a contact person, whether the attorney, paralegal, or assistant, who will always either take your call, or return your call promptly if you have a question.
- Can you give me examples of your recent successes? Although attorney/client privilege may not allow the attorney to share some specifics with you, almost all personal injury attorneys have success stories they can share.
- How much is my case worth? At this evaluation stage, the attorney will not be able to give you even an estimated dollar amount of your damages but should be able to tell you if you are legally entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering, and possibly other categories depending on your individual case. While it is understood that certain variables will affect the range of settlement amounts you can expect, An experienced lawyer can help you understand what the general range could be. An exact figure usually cannot be given upfront, due to unknowns such as liability, discovery and medical evidence.
- Do you think the insurance company will settle my case? Insurance companies make low-ball offers in the hope that the person injured will take the money and run even before there can be an accounting of all of their damages. You do not want this to happen to you. Personal injury attorneys who are experienced in negotiating with insurance companies will, of course, not be able to give you a definite answer, but should be able to give you some insight into how this process will work.
- If my case does not settle, will you take it to trial? You want an attorney with trial experience who will be a good advocate for you in the courtroom if the insurance company refuses to settle, or the offer to settle is not fair.
- What kind of case tactics will you use to reach a successful verdict? You’ll be able to tell even more about a firm when they’re speaking specifically about your case. Ask them about potential weaknesses in the case or problems they foresee. Then, ask about how they plan to deal with these problems. Also be sure to ask about how they will keep you updated throughout the process and who will handle your case.
- If the case goes to trial, will the compensation fee change? It is not uncommon, in some situations, for the contingency percentage to increase if the case goes to trial. Ask about this so there will be no surprises later.
- How long will it take to resolve my case? The best answer to this question is, “It all depends.” It depends on, among other things, the complexity of the case, the court calendar, and the willingness of the opposing party to settle the case.
When hiring a law firm, it is important to ask questions. Make a list of your top curiosities about legal matters, and also ask the attorney to give you any general advice that normally is given to people in your situation. Remember that law professionals are accustomed to receiving questions of all types, so do not hesitate to ask whatever is on your mind. The attorney knows that the more informed you are, the more thorough of a job the firm can perform on your behalf.
We hope you never need a personal injury attorney, but if you do, our attorneys at Raphaelson & Levine offer a free consultation. Contact us and we will gladly answer all of your questions.
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If you've been injured and have questions about your legal options, contact Raphaelson & Levine today. We've helped thousands of New Yorkers understand their next steps following an injury. Call (212) 268-3222 or request a free lawyer consultation.