Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations or case evaluations to give a potential client the opportunity to learn more about a case without paying anything upfront. The questions a client asks during this initial step can yield important information for the rest of the process. Knowing what to ask your attorney during your first meeting and all interactions thereafter can help you as an accident victim in California.
1. Do You Have Experience With This Type of Case?
Previous experience with cases similar to yours – or at least in the same practice area – is crucial to the attorney’s ability to handle your case. Prior experience handling product liability claims, for example, will most likely improve the outcome of your defective product case. You need a lawyer who knows the applicable state laws, relevant legal processes, and factors involved in your case type to have the best odds of securing compensation. Ask your attorney about practice areas, previous case results, and client testimonials.
2. Who Will Handle My Case?
Some firms pass client cases off to paralegals or assistants, rather than providing personal attention from a lead attorney. Ask if this will be the case for your services. Make sure the lawyer you are talking to will be the one representing your case, or at least another trusted attorney at the firm. Also, ask if your lawyer has any special training that could apply to your case. Your goal should be to give your case its best possible chance of success, with a lawyer who has the skills to win.
3. How Long Will the Case Take to Resolve?
Ask about your case’s odds of success, as well as an estimated time frame for the different steps your lawsuit will involve. Your attorney should be able to give you an approximate schedule for when he or she will file your case, when the defendant will respond, and when the claim will reach a settlement or verdict. Although no lawyer can predict exactly how long a case will take to resolve, your lawyer should have a general idea of how long the process will take based on the facts of your case.
4. Will My Case Go to Trial?
Most personal injury claims do not go to court. Instead, the defendant, plaintiff, and their attorneys settle the claim outside of court, during pre-trial negotiations. Settling a claim without a trial is faster and less expensive for everyone involved. However, some cases may need to go to trial to secure fair results for the victim. Ask your lawyer the odds of your case going to trial, so you can prepare for the future. Find a firm with trial experience to ensure you have the power to take a defendant to court if necessary for maximum compensation.
5. What Are Your Fees?
Attorney fees are an important question to bring up, as it can decide whether you can afford to hire the lawyer. Personal injury attorneys often accept clients on a contingency-fee basis. This means they will only charge attorney’s fees if they obtain a financial award for the client. If they do not win the case, they will not charge the client anything. If they do win the case, they will take fees directly from the settlement or judgment award, rather than the victim’s pocket. This can help make a personal injury lawyer affordable for everyone. The average fee is 33% of the settlement or judgment, but this may change depending on the complexity of the case.
6. What Are My Odds of Success?
Finally, ask your attorney his or her honest opinion on the odds of success for your case. Your lawyer should be open and upfront with you about what he or she thinks about the case. Low odds of success may not make the legal process worth the effort. A positive, aggressive attorney, however, can help you see the value of pursuing a claim.