Many people will go through life without ever hiring a lawyer. Even those who have hired lawyers in the past might not know what to expect when they are hiring a personal injury lawyer. But when you have been injured due to the negligence or intentional acts of a person or business, you will probably need an attorney with experience in injury cases.
Most injury lawyers offer a free initial consultation. Here are some questions you should ask during an initial consultation with an injury attorney.
Questions About the Lawyer and Law Firm
The initial consultation is your opportunity to screen a lawyer and their law firm to determine your ability to work with them. Here are some of the issues you should discuss.
How Much Are Your Fees?
California allows lawyers to have a lot of discretion in setting their fees. Make sure that you talk about fees at the initial consultation. No one benefits from misunderstandings about how the lawyer charges or what the charges will include.
Most injury lawyers charge a contingent fee. A contingent fee has a few characteristics:
- No fee unless you win or settle
- No fee upfront
- The fee is a percentage of your compensation
Discuss how the lawyer calculates their fee and what costs might be added on. If you feel comfortable with the lawyer, ask for a copy of the lawyer’s contingent fee agreement.
How Should We Communicate?
Talk to the lawyer about their availability to talk to you about your case. California requires that a lawyer keep you reasonably informed about your case. But “reasonably informed” is subject to interpretation. Understand when you should expect to receive updates on your case.
Discuss how you should reach out to the law firm if you have questions about your case. Ask if you can get the email or phone numbers of the lawyer and the lawyer’s staff.
Lack of communication is one of the most common client complaints. Make sure the lawyer understands your expectations for updates and other information about your case so that you can avoid any misunderstandings.
What Kind of Experience Do You Have?
You should ask about the lawyer’s experience in cases that are similar to your case. Although every case differs, a lawyer who has handled similar cases will understand:
- The laws that govern your case
- Insurance company practices that are relevant to your case
- The potential value of your case
Keep in mind that the lawyer might not have handled a case with identical facts to yours. But a lawyer who has experience in similar cases can apply that prior experience to your case.
Questions About Your Case
You should also discuss your case with the lawyer. This allows the lawyer to understand whether the case fits their practice. The lawyer can ensure that the firm will have the time and personnel required to handle the case properly.
This also gives you the chance to tell the lawyer your story and ask questions about the merits of your case. The lawyer might prefer not to discuss your case in detail until they can review all of the evidence in the case. But you can ask about the outcomes the lawyer has obtained in similar cases.
Some specific issues to discuss with the lawyer might include:
What is the Value of My Case?
The value of any case can be difficult to pinpoint. Whether a case settles or goes to a jury, reasonable minds can differ about fair compensation for an injury.
But you should discuss the factors that go into the value of the case, including:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future lost income
- Pain and suffering
A lawyer might be reluctant to comment on the merits of your case until they have a chance to review all of the facts. But a lawyer might be able to explain generally what you will need to have a good chance at a settlement or damage award.
The lawyer should also discuss any problems with your case, including the defenses that the at-fault party might raise. For example, California employs the doctrine of pure comparative negligence. This allows a jury or claims adjuster to reduce compensation if the victim bears a share of the fault for the injury.
What Do You Suggest for a Legal Strategy?
Based on your discussion, the lawyer may set out a proposed legal strategy. Under California’s Rules of Professional Responsibility, you have the final say in the legal strategy. Thus, the lawyer must explain the risks and benefits of the possible strategies so that you can make an informed decision.
You will probably not need to decide which strategy to use at the initial consultation unless the statute of limitations is impending. But discussing strategy will give you time to think about your goals and whether the lawyer’s strategy meets them.
Hiring an Injury Attorney
The decision to hire a personal injury lawyer is consequential. You should use the initial consultation to ensure that you can have a comfortable working relationship with a lawyer. You should also make sure that your values align. For a free consultation with a friendly and experienced injury lawyer that will provide trusted counsel, contact the Lalezary Law Firm. We give your legal issues the personal attention they deserve. We Fight. You Win. They Pay.