Finding the right car accident lawyer is crucial after an automobile accident. Do not feel uncomfortable asking someone you’re considering hiring some tough questions. If the potential lawyer isn’t candid regarding their experience, approach, fees, communication, and potential outcomes, do not hesitate to look elsewhere. Here are some important questions to ask your car accident lawyer:
- How long have you been practicing law and specializing in car accident cases?
- What percentage of your practice is dedicated to handling car accident cases?
- Have you previously handled cases similar to mine?
- Can you provide sample outcomes on cases similar to mine?
- What is your approach to handling car accident cases? How do you typically prepare for a case?
- How will you communicate with me throughout the process? How often can I expect updates on my case?
- What is your fee structure? Does the percentage change depending on how far along the case is?
- Are there any additional costs or expenses that I should be aware of?
- What is the potential outcome of my case? What can I realistically expect in terms of compensation?
- Will you be the primary attorney working on my case, or do you only sign up cases? Will someone else be handling the case if it goes to trial?
- Have you taken car accident cases to a jury trial?
Understanding Your Lawyer’s Experience and Specialization
Here are some factors to consider when assessing a car accident lawyer’s experience:
- Years of Practice: A “puppy lawyer,” or someone who graduated from law school five years ago, might be a better fit versus an attorney who has practiced for 30 years. Look at “years of practice” handling cases similar to yours, not just the total years of legal work.
- Specialization: Does the attorney handle ten different types of cases, anything from estate planning, divorce, adoption, business transactions, and car accidents? Or, does the attorney only work on personal injury cases?
- Track Record: Don’t be afraid to ask for proof.
- Trial Experience: Ensure the lawyer has experience in trial litigation, even though most car accident cases are settled outside of court. Actual trial lawyers force insurance companies to evaluate a case or face a jury. A lot of personal injury lawyers don’t actually take cases to trial.
- Resources: If your case is likely to go to trial, you can expect the lawyer to have to advance thousands in case costs.
- Communication Skills: Effective communication ensures you are well informed about your case’s progress and can make informed decisions.
Knowing the Lawyer’s Approach to Your Case
A lawyer’s case strategy and legal philosophy are influenced by their education and experiences, which shape their methods over time. Here are some key aspects to consider:
- How they typically handle cases related to car accidents
- Their negotiation style, whether it is aggressive or cooperative
- Their demeanor in the courtroom, if the case goes to trial
- Their communication style with clients, whether they provide regular updates or maintain minimal contact
- How does the attorney “work the case” from A to Z?
Discussing the Fee Structure and Payment Terms
Personal injury attorneys almost always work on a contingency fee. This allows the attorney only to get paid if the case resolves for the plaintiff. It also aligns with the client and attorney’s interests. The bigger the settlement or verdict, the bigger the attorney fee. It also allows people to hire an attorney without paying a lot of money upfront, allowing access to the courts without a financial burden. The attorney agrees to take on the risk of not being paid, and their fee is contingent upon winning the case. Make sure you are aware of the exact percentage your attorney is going to charge. Some law firms start their fee at the beginning of the case at 40%. If the case settles before a lawsuit is even filed, then this is probably a higher fee than you should be paying. Most law firms will structure the fee percentage split as more time and work is involved in the case. Here’s the most common fee percentage I’ve seen from other law firms:
- Pre-suit: 33%
- Lawsuit filed: 40%
- After Pretrial Conference: 45%
Clarifying Communication and Case Updates
Communication is a two-way street, and cases work best when the client and attorney are on the same page. Successful cases have the best chance for the client and the attorney to maintain regular communication. Ask:
- How often should I expect updates on my case?
- Can I reach out anytime if I have questions or concerns?
- Is there a designated contact person for the updates?
- Can I send you a text message or email instead of calling?
Determining Possible Outcomes of Your Case
This will put the attorney on the spot, but ask, “What do you think my case is worth?” Don’t be offended if the settlement number is lower than expected. This gives you a chance to find out if the attorney is honest or is just telling you what they think you want to hear to get the case retained.
Can Filing a Lien Be Related to a Car Accident Lawsuit?
Yes, if your medical providers do not charge and bill your health insurance, they will likely file a medical lien. By filing a lien, the healthcare provider ensures their bills receive priority over other claims in the event of a successful outcome. It also puts the car insurance companies on notice to include the lienholders on any settlement payments.
What documents and evidence should I bring when I first meet with a lawyer?
TLDR: EVERYTHING related to your case. This includes all relevant documents, such as medical records, accident reports, and witness statements. Additionally, it is crucial to take photographs of any injuries, damage, or the accident scene.
How Can I Assist in the Claim Process to Make It Smoother?
Stay in constant communication with your attorney. Make sure they know if anything changes in your medical treatment or if you need them to contact any witnesses. Talking to witnesses shortly after the wreck can make a big difference in how well the witness remembers everything they saw.
Promptly respond to your attorney’s requests on any paperwork. Time is money, and most attorneys (and clients) prefer to resolve your case sooner than later.
Be honest in your expectations and communications with your attorney on what you think the case should settle for. Some clients think it’s better to “negotiate” with their attorney on what they would be happy about getting the case settled by stating an artificially high number they would agree to. This runs the risk of the case not settling because the insurance company might not be in the same ballpark during settlement talks.
Can I Talk to My Insurance Company Directly During the Claim Process?
Yes, but it depends on why you want to talk with them. If it’s regarding getting your car repaired, call them. If it’s regarding your insurance company fairly evaluating an Underinsured or Uninsured claim, get your attorney involved.
What Steps Should I Take if My Car Accident Injury Symptoms Worsen?
Talk with your doctor. A client’s medical care is the top priority in any personal injury case.