If you have been injured due to another party’s negligence and are planning to take legal action, one of the most important things you can do is hire a qualified personal injury lawyer. A good lawyer is an integral part of your case and can make the difference between a big settlement or verdict and going home empty-handed.
However, while there are many solid personal injury lawyers in Florida, not all of them will have your best interest in mind. Others might not have the experience necessary to handle a case as complex as yours.
Just because you have a free consultation set up with a lawyer doesn’t mean you have made your choice. You need to be willing to walk away if the lawyer you are meeting with doesn’t feel like the right fit or exhibits some other glaring issue.
To help you as you plan for your free consultation, here are six questions you should ask a personal injury lawyer.
Do You Work on a Contingency Basis and if So, What Percentage do You Charge?
One of the nice things about many personal injury lawyers is that they work on a contingency basis. This means there are no upfront fees you have to pay and your lawyer only gets paid if you do. In addition to giving the lawyer an extra incentive to “win” the case, it also lets you take legal action risk-free.
Ask the lawyer if they work on a contingency basis.
If the answer is yes, you should also ask them what percentage they take if the case settles or a positive verdict is returned. The industry standard is right around 33 percent but can get as high as 40 percent. That means that if you win your case for a total of $60,000 your lawyer will get around $20,000 for their fee leaving you with the remaining $40,000.
It is also possible that the lawyer you are interviewing has a sliding scale fee structure where they charge a lower percentage if the case is settled early on and a higher percentage if the case goes to trial.
Either way, it is important to know from the beginning how much the lawyer you hire is going to charge for their services. Finally, when you do choose a lawyer to hire, make sure to get a written and signed contract of the fee agreement.
How Much Experience Do You Have?
Another important question you should ask lawyers you are meeting with is how much experience they have. While recent graduates and newer lawyers should be able to handle straightforward cases, experience is always a plus, especially for more complex issues.
A strong history of success is also a sign that you will be in good hands. There is a lot about the law lawyers don’t learn in law school. From court proceedings, to how to negotiate with insurance companies, to what to expect in a case, the longer a lawyer has practiced, the more they can help you in your case.
What Law School Did You Go To?
One of the most important things law firms and judges look for when they are hiring new lawyers and clerks is what law school they went to. Law school rankings are an important metric to consider and can indicate the pedigree of the lawyer you are interviewing. Not all law degrees are created equal and if the lawyer you interview graduated from a top ten or top five law school, then you know they are a trustworthy candidate with a proven track record of success.
Conversely, there are too many law schools that have become degree mills and churn out lawyers every year who are ill-equipped and have no business practicing law. It is best to keep looking if the lawyer you are interviewing comes from a school that isn’t highly acclaimed.
What Type of Law Do You Specialize In?
Because the law is so complex and covers nearly every aspect of life, lawyers often specialize in one or a few areas. Even personal injury lawyers have particular injuries or accidents they handle more than others and have grown adept at navigating the issues that come with such cases.
Make sure that the lawyer you are interviewing specializes in the type of case you are dealing with. If you have been in a car accident, then it is wise to hire a car accident lawyer. Similarly, if you’ve suffered an injury because of a medical mistake, you’ll want to prioritize finding an attorney who has a lot of experience handling medical malpractice lawsuits.
You can also usually find this information on a law firm’s website ahead of time. Doing a little research before the consultation will help you match what you are hearing with what you read.
How Does My Case Look?
After asking your initial questions and then explaining your case, you can also ask the lawyer you are interviewing how your case looks. A good personal injury lawyer will be able to break down your case and explain the positives and negatives of it, including whether or not they think you have a decent change of a promising outcome.
They should also be able to give you a realistic picture of what your case is worth and the types of damages you might be entitled to. Depending on your case you might be eligible for both economic damages and what are known as non-economic damages.
Economic damages include things like:
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
Non-economic damages refer to things like:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Listen carefully to the lawyer’s response to get an idea of how they communicate with you. If they can explain complex legal matters in plain English, then they might be a good choice.
How Often Will You Update Me on My Case?
Communication is one of the most important parts of any client/attorney relationship and you want to make sure the lawyer you decide to hire is going to take the time to meet with you and update you on how things are going with your case.
Lawyers who are too busy to call, text, or email you regularly should not be considered. Even if they have other clients, your lawyer should treat you as if they don’t and devote significant time and energy to making sure everything is on track with your case and that you know what is happening.