You hear it in commercials all the time: if you are injured, you may be entitled to compensation. If this is the case for you, then I sincerely hope you are able to get the compensation you deserve. The first step in this process is finding the right personal injury lawyer, and the first step to doing that is a consultation.
Simply doing a search for “free consultation” will present you with pages upon pages of options, and this can be somewhat overwhelming. Once you’ve scheduled a consultation, what should you do and how will you know if the consulting attorney is the right one for your case?
Luckily, consultations in person or over the phone give you the perfect opportunity to get more information about the attorney and how they will represent you. Here are a few things you should–and shouldn’t–ask before making a decision.
What You Should Ask
1. What are the conditions of my consultation?
If a lawyer does not tell you from the outset whether your consultation will involve any fees or contractual obligations, it is a very good idea to ask. Many personal injury lawyers will give you a cost- and obligation-free consultation, so unless you have your heart set on a specific one, there is no reason you should be charged for this first step in the legal process.
2. Do I have a viable case?
It is often a new client’s first instinct to ask this, and for good reason. This is what the attorney is trying to determine during a consultation as well. At the end of the consultation, any personal injury lawyer should be up-front and honest with you about the strengths and weaknesses of your potential case.
3. Do you have experience as an injury lawyer?
There are excellent lawyers in all different areas of law, but if you are looking for workers’ compensation or personal injury representation (or potentially both at once), a defense or real estate lawyer is not who you want to hire.
If you are consulting with a lawyer who does not list this information on their website, ask them what percentage of their yearly cases are workers’ comp or personal injury. You should also ask how many personal injury cases they have successfully tried and/or settled. This will give you an idea of their experience with this area of the law.
4. Who will work on my case?
At some firms, it is not uncommon for the attorneys to assign all the work to young associates or paralegals. They may be highly qualified and smart individuals, but it is still important that your attorney is honest with you about who is working on your case, and is willing to put the work in themselves, if necessary.
5. Will you go to court?
Many cases don’t go to court, but some attorneys never do.
Everyone would rather settle a case for a satisfactory amount than go to trial, but your lawyer should be prepared to go to court if necessary. There are some attorneys who will simply pass off your case to a colleague when they realize litigation will be necessary. If any injury lawyer can’t tell you during a consultation that they are willing to go to court for you, don’t hire them.
6. How will I be charged?
Before you hire an attorney, you should be aware of how and when you will pay them for their services after the initial free consultation. Most, but not all personal injury lawyers charge a one third contingency fee, meaning they do not get paid unless you win. Find out for sure if this is the case before you sign on officially.
7. How Should we proceed?
If you feel that a lawyer is a good match for your case (and if they choose to represent you), ask them what the next steps toward winning that case will be, so that you can stay involved and up to date.
8. How will you keep me informed?
Communication is key in any lawyer-client relationship. Therefore, it is a good idea to exchange contact information at the outset of a case, so that you can keep each other well informed. Ask them if they will primarily contact you via mail, email, or phone, so that you can be sure not to miss any messages from them.
9. What materials do you need?
The attorney will likely ask you to bring some materials, such as medical records and police reports, to your injury case consultation. Even so, it’s a good idea to ask them what other materials they will need for your case, so that you can begin to compile them right away. The faster you do that, the sooner you will be compensated, in the long run.
What You Shouldn’t Ask
1. How long will my case take?
There is simply no way of knowing the answer to this. Some injury lawyers may give you an estimate, but even that is difficult to do at the beginning of a case and is likely not to be correct. Personal injury and workers’ comp cases usually require clients to seek full treatment and us lawyers to collect an extensive amount of information before we can even begin negotiating. They often take years. Be patient and remember that we are on your side.
2. How much money will I get?
Again, an injury lawyer can’t answer this for you during a consultation because they simply don’t know yet. A more productive alternative might be to ask “Will you do everything you can to make sure I get as much compensation as possible?” and if they are a good lawyer, they will not have to stop to consider before saying “yes”. I’ll take a moment to add a word of caution here: if an attorney does give you a decisive answer to either of these questions during a consultation, they are lying through their teeth, which does not bode well for their capacity to provide you with ethical or even good representation.
At my firm, you will always be taken care of honestly and personally by myself and my small team of capable professionals. If you would like a free consultation or would like to know more about how they work, please feel free to call our office at (312) 258-8188 or contact us here.