Vetting your personal injury attorney is one of the most important factors of a successful case. One of the best ways to determine if an injury attorney is right for your case is to simply ask them. Attorneys love to talk as a general rule, and if you ask the right questions, you should be able to determine if they are the right fit for your case.
If you have a legal claim and are seeking to hire a New York or New Jersey personal injury attorney, you should come prepared with some important probing questions.
1. Tell Me About Yourself
While not strictly a question, this is probably one of the most important questions you can ask. Lawsuits tend to vary in length; however, some more serious cases can take years to resolve. If you are going to be working with one attorney for an extended period of time, you should develop a rapport.
Make sure that you like the attorney. Asking him or her about himself/herself could help you determine whether you can have a good working relationship. You don’t have to love your injury attorney, but you should be able to have a conversation.
2. Will It Be Just You Handling My Case?
Law firms tend to work as teams, and while one attorney will probably take the lead on your case, other attorneys may work with your case. The same is true for paralegals and secretaries. You should try to meet everyone that will be involved in your representation so that you can at least put faces to names if you receive an important phone call or email from someone you do not know.
3. What Types of Cases Does Your Firm Generally Handle?
This is a no-brainer. More and more attorneys focus their practices on certain areas of law. Make sure that the attorney you are hiring handles personal injury cases on a regular basis. It does you little good to hire a criminal defense attorney who occasionally handles personal injury cases, and no good to hire a bankruptcy attorney who has never handled a personal injury case in her life.
4. Have You Handled Cases Like Mine Before?
Note the difference between this question and the last. Rather than asking generally about an attorney’s area of practice area, this question is all about your type of claim. For example, if you were injured in a bicycle accident, you should ask the attorney: “have you litigated many bicycle accident cases before?”
Many personal injury attorneys have sub-specializations such as medical malpractice or car crashes. Some law firms even specialize in bicycle law (as an extreme example). Generally, a personal injury lawyer should be able to execute any type of personal injury case, but narrowing down a firm’s specialization even further could benefit your case in the long run.
5. When Did You Go to Law School?
You might not need to ask this one if the attorney has a diploma hanging in his or her office (most attorneys do), but date of graduation is a good proxy for gauging experience. You want a skilled attorney who has seen a good number of cases, not an attorney fresh out of law school. Law school is not a perfect substitute for actual knowledge about a lawyer’s experience, but it is a less awkward question to ask than “are you a good lawyer or a bad lawyer?”
6. What Do You Think the Value of My Case Is?
While many attorneys may not admit it (unless they decline to take your case), all attorneys immediately assign a hypothetical dollar value to a case. It could be high or it could be low depending on the facts and circumstances.
One way to shop for attorneys is to determine which attorneys value your claim higher because that will influence not only the money you might receive in court, but also how hard the attorney works on your case.
7. How Much Will It Cost Me To Hire You?
While success is a very important piece of personal injury representation, the price also has to be right. Be comfortable with your attorney’s fees, or you may have buyer’s remorse. Different attorneys charge different rates, and knowing where you stand financially ahead of time is important to making a decision. Generally speaking, attorneys will charge a contingency fee of one-third of the amount recovered on your case.
8. How Do You Charge Your Clients?
Another financial question, this focuses on payment form. There are three types of attorney’s fees: upfront retainers, hourly rates, and contingency fees. Upfront retainers merely involve upfront payment and are used only for simple issues. Personal injury defense is most likely to be undertaken at an hourly rate, which will vary for each attorney. Personal injury victims’ cases are most likely to be contingency fees, which involve the attorney taking a percentage of the final judgment amount or settlement.
9. Is There Anything That I Can Do to Help You Win My Case?
There are two types of attorneys: those who are hoarders and those who are sharers. Hoarders do all of the work themselves and won’t let anyone else touch their case for any reason. Sharers enjoy seeking help from others and often delegate certain tasks to clients to help prepare for their case. Different styles seem to work better for different clients. If you want an attorney to take your case, run with it, and call you when you can get paid, then a hoarder personality is for you. If you want to stay up to date and be involved in the legal process, a sharer is your ideal attorney.
10. Do You Know of Any Attorneys That Would Be Better for My Case?
If you are not getting the best impression from the personal injury attorney sitting in front of you, it could never hurt to ask for a referral. Attorneys tend to know each other pretty well, and an attorney who specializes in car accident claims could help direct you to your unicorn medical malpractice attorney.
If you would like to cross-examine our team of attorneys about your personal injury claim, call the Law Office of Yuriy Moshes. Our law firm practices personal injury law, and we have personal injury attorneys licensed in New York and New Jersey.