What Questions Should I Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Choosing who will represent you in your personal injury case is one of the most important decisions you will make after an accident or injury. Experience, compatibility, and trust should be at the top of your list with any prospective lawyer.
The most reliable way to find the right attorney for your case is to meet with several prospects and come prepared to ask questions like the ones below.
10 Questions to Ask Personal Injury Attorney Candidates
Virtually all personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation to prospective clients. You can use this meeting to ask questions to find the right attorney to represent you.
The attorney you choose should have relevant experience and a track record of success in personal injury cases like yours. But that’s not all. You also need a lawyer you feel you can trust and communicate with effectively.
Here are the ten questions we suggest you ask to identify the right attorney for your personal injury case.
1. What is your level of experience in cases like mine?
Experience in cases like yours is arguably one of the most important attributes of a personal injury attorney. During your free consultation, ask if and for how long the lawyer has represented clients in accident and injury situations similar to yours.
- How long have you practiced law?
- What percentage of your practice is devoted to personal injury cases?
- How many cases like mine have you handled?
- How many cases like mine have you taken to trial? How many of those did you win?
- What are some notable successes you’ve had in cases like mine?
- Do you have any other background or qualifications that might help you handle my case? For example, a lawyer who previously worked as an insurance adjuster may have particular insight into how to secure a favorable settlement of your claim from an insurance company.
Another great way to learn background information about a lawyer is to look them up through their state bar, where you can learn details like when they obtained their law license, where they attended law school, and whether they have any relevant disciplinary history.
2. Can you give client references?
You can learn a lot about an attorney from what their past clients have to say about them.
It is 100 percent acceptable to ask an attorney to put you in touch with former clients who can give insight into the lawyer’s skill and work habits. But keep in mind that confidentiality obligations may limit the information the attorney can give you on the spot about former clients. You may have to wait a day or two for the attorney to obtain permission from a previous client to put you in touch with them.
When you speak with an attorney’s former client, ask questions like:
- Was it difficult to contact the lawyer?
- Could the client get questions answered in a timely fashion?
- Did the attorney make the client feel comfortable?
- Was there anything the client didn’t like about working with the lawyer?
- How did the case turn out?
- How was the overall experience?
3. How, and how much, do you charge for your services?
Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis. That means they don’t get paid unless they get you results.
Always ask a lawyer to confirm that is how they would charge in your case. Be wary of any lawyer who does not want to work for you on contingency, which could indicate the lawyer does not believe in your claim or lacks experience in personal injury law.
In contingency arrangements, the lawyer keeps a percentage of any money recovered on your behalf as a fee. In some states, the law determines the maximum amount or percentage an attorney can receive when working on a contingency basis. Ask the lawyer about any such laws in your state.
All lawyers must disclose their fee structure clearly and in writing to clients at the beginning of a representation. Typically, lawyers will include that description in an agreement they and their clients sign at the outset of the case. If a lawyer does not provide a written proposal for the fee arrangement to you straight away, be sure to ask for it. Think twice before hiring a lawyer who hesitates to discuss fees with you.
Additional questions you can ask to learn more about what to expect from a lawyer fee-wise are:
- How will costs and fees during the case be paid? Will you pay them or will I?
- Will I be responsible for paying any case-related expenses if we lose?
- Will your fee vary depending on how or when my case ends?
4. Who will handle my case and who can I expect to interact with?
It can be disappointing to find an attorney you feel comfortable with, only to learn that they plan to delegate the bulk of their duties to other attorneys or paralegals in their office. Although this might work out fine in practice, it’s certainly something you want to know in advance to set accurate expectations.
To get a sense of how the lawyer’s office allocates case responsibilities, ask:
- Who will appear and argue in court on my behalf?
- Who will negotiate with insurance companies or defense lawyers on my behalf?
- Will I have a designated point of contact in your office?
- Will I have direct access to you if I have questions?
- How long should I expect it to take to hear back from you or someone in the office when I want to speak with you?
5. What is your impression of my case?
The attorneys you meet with should be prepared to give you an initial assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your case. That does not mean they can predict the future, of course. But they should give you a general sense of whether you have a viable claim that they believe they can help you pursue.
You might also ask the attorney how much they think your case is worth. But remember, numerous factors can affect the value of any claim, many of which remain unclear at your initial consultation. An attorney can often give you a range of values but rarely a definite one. Be wary of any lawyer who promises to get you a specific amount.
6. How often will I get case updates?
One of the most frustrating things that can happen once you have hired an attorney is to go weeks at a time without any update on the progress of your case.
To find an attorney whose communication style feels comfortable for you, ask:
- Will you provide periodic updates, and if so, how often?
- How fast will I learn if something big happens?
- What kind of decisions will you consult with me about before you make them?
7. Have you previously worked with the other party’s insurance company?
Personal injury attorneys interact with insurance companies daily. They know the tactics insurers use, the timelines they work by, and the most fruitful ways of negotiating settlements with them.
A seasoned attorney will typically have worked with most big-name insurance companies and many smaller ones. Having experience dealing with your opposing party’s insurer can sometimes help the lawyer get your claim addressed and favorably resolved.
8. How well do you know the community where my injury happened or my case will go to court?
Hiring a lawyer with local knowledge can strengthen your personal injury claim in various ways. An attorney familiar with the relevant geographic area often stands a better chance than others of conducting a thorough case investigation. A local lawyer also understands the personalities and rhythms of the judges and staff of the court where your case is pending, which can prevent procedural hiccups and help the lawyer craft convincing arguments.
Ask a lawyer candidate:
- How long have you lived or worked in this community?
- How many cases have you filed or tried in this court?
- Are you familiar with any other individuals involved in my case, such as defense lawyers, medical professionals, or eyewitnesses?
9. How long do you expect my case to take?
It’s only natural to hope for a quick resolution to your personal injury case. A seasoned personal injury lawyer can usually give you a rough idea of how long your claim may take under various scenarios. Just don’t expect a lawyer to provide you with a definitive timeline. Numerous factors can shorten or prolong a personal injury claim, and a lawyer typically cannot predict them at the outset.
10. Are there any deadlines I need to meet?
Making a successful personal injury claim typically involves meeting a series of deadlines. For example, you may face time limits on notifying an insurance company of your injuries or filing a lawsuit in court. If you fail to act by that deadline, you could lose your rights.
Hiring a skilled personal injury lawyer can protect you against a costly failure to meet a deadline. Asking the lawyer about those time limits tells you how much time you have to choose an attorney and gives insight into steps you might have to take immediately to protect your rights.
11. What information do you need from me?
You know more about your personal injury case than any lawyer you meet with in an initial consultation. Asking the lawyer what information you can provide and then providing it helps to ensure you get accurate answers to your questions. It also gives you insight into how the lawyer works and the degree to which the lawyer might want you involved in building your case.
That said, it’s easy to predict some of the information the lawyer may need.
To help keep your first consultation with a lawyer productive, consider bringing:
- Your insurance information;
- The insurance information of the other party involved in your accident, if you have it;
- Any pictures you have from the scene of the accident;
- Any medical records related to your injury; and
- Any police report you obtained concerning your accident.
4 Additional Factors to Consider When Choosing a Personal Injury Attorney
Asking the questions above helps you learn about an attorney you may hire. But the answers you receive may not always make your choice clear.
Here are four additional factors you may want to consider in making your decision:
- Location: It’s usually helpful to work with a lawyer who has an office near where you live or work so that you can meet easily when necessary.
- Referrals from friends and family: Asking people you trust to recommend a lawyer can help you identify worthy candidates and give you insight into how a lawyer works and communicates.
- Personal qualities: The most fruitful attorney-client relationships are often the ones in which clients and attorneys get along well, so do not hesitate to consider factors like the lawyer’s demeanor, sense of humor, directness, and similar qualities that may help forge a strong connection.
- Gut instinct: You will have to share sensitive information about your life and health with your attorney, so trust your intuition to guide you toward the lawyer who feels like a good fit.
Start Your Search for a Personal Injury Lawyer Today
As the victim of a wrongful injury, you have valuable rights to seek compensation from the parties at fault. A personal injury lawyer’s job is to secure the maximum payment available for the losses you suffered.
But not all personal injury lawyers are created equal. To find the right attorney for your case, take full advantage of free consultations by asking your candidates the questions above.
Remember, however, that you have no time to lose. Deadlines may affect your case, and a lawyer might need to take quick action on your behalf. So start your search today.
Contact a local personal injury attorney who can answer your questions and explain your rights.