Selecting a Personal Injury Lawyer is confusing and stressful. The goal is to achieve representation by an excellent lawyer and firm, that will be effective in getting the highest settlement or award possible.
Here are some questions to ask that help with this decision:
Merits of the Case
1) Is there a valid personal injury claim?
During a consultation with an attorney about a personal injury claim, the first step is to decide if the case has merit. Merit means not only does the attorney think the case is provable but also the parties involved have substantial means to pay to settle the case before going to trial or for an award if they lose the case.
2) What is the estimated value of the case?
Not all personal injury claims have value. The value depends on the circumstances involved with a particular accident. A seasoned personal injury attorney gives a strong opinion about the potential value of the case.
Background of Attorney and Law Firm
3) Is the attorney a member in good standing of the Bar Association in the state where the case will be filed?
To view list of State bar associations, click here
4) Does the law firm have an “AV PREEMINENT” rating by Martindale-Hubbell?
An “AV PREEMINENT” rating is a profound testament from peer legal professionals and judges that the law firm has shown “a clear demonstration of the highest professional knowledge and ethical standards”. This is the highest rating possible and attests that the firm have reached the peak of legal competence and ability.
5) How much litigation experience does the firm have and the success ratio for cases?
It is important to work with a law firm that has experience, especially in court litigation.
6) Does the attorney personally handle the case or it that done by other associates?
To hire a firm is not always the same as hiring a specific attorney. Many law firms delegate cases to junior associates without keeping the client informed. It is important that the client always knows who is actually working on the case. If other attorneys work on the case, check their backgrounds also.
7) Who will be the contact person at the firm for the case?
For routine matters, such as submitting medical bills or information for the case files, a case manager needs to handle routine administration of the case which does not necessary need the attention of a lawyer but instead a clerk. It is very important for the client to know who this person is.
8) How do you know when to accept a settlement or when to go to court?
Litigation is both lengthy and costly. Ninety-five to ninety-six percent of personal injury cases settle before going to court (reference: http://thelawdictionary.org/article/pre-trial-settlement-percentage-statistics-on-personal-injury-settlements/ )
Costs, Fees, and Advances
9) What are the expenses and contingency fee?
Most law firms charge their out-of-pocket expenses against any award or settlement received from a case. Contingency fees range from twenty-five to forty percent. This fee is negotiable depending on the strength of the case and its estimated value. A detailed legal representation agreement is necessary that clearly explains all the expenses and fees for a specific case.
10) Are you able to help get an advance on the case? If yes, at what point?
In many personal injury cases a client may become desperate for money, especially if injured and unable to work. Advances against a case are one possibility to ease this problem.
Asking a personal injury attorney these questions determines the most qualified firm for a case. If unsure, get a second opinion.