If you’re injured by someone else’s negligent actions, you may want to consult a personal injury lawyer. As a general rule of thumb, you should talk to several lawyers before determining whether you want to hire one. What questions should you ask during these discussions? Here’s a brief rundown of questions that help you decide whether your lawyer is a good fit for your needs.
Do I have a strong case? Why or why not?
Almost all personal injury lawyers offer a free initial consultation to discuss your case.
Your lawyer will need to know the circumstances of the injury. Did you suffer injuries in a car or other vehicle accident, for example? Slip and fall in a store or other public place? Suffer harm in an oil rig or other workplace accident?
Personal injury cases center around the concept of negligence. Negligence is a failure to act with an ordinary, prudent standard of care. A driver who runs a red light, for instance, is arguably negligent, because they failed to act safely and in accordance with the law. Negligent people are liable for the injuries they cause. Liable means financially responsible.
Negligent parties can include people and organizations, such as companies. Knowing who or what caused your accident and why you think they are at fault will be central to your discussion with a lawyer.
What do you charge?
We’ve all seen lawyers on television shows in large, sleek offices. It’s only natural to wonder how much a lawyer costs, and it’s a perfectly legitimate question.
As we note above, personal injury lawyers generally offer a free first meeting to discuss a new case.
If you and the lawyer decide to work together, you will likely not need to pay lawyer’s fees out of your pocket. Most personal injury lawyers recognize that injured people may have mounting medical bills or difficulty working due to the injury and work on a contingency fee basis. This means that they receive a percentage of the money the negligent party (or their insurance company) pays their client. If the client does not receive an award or settlement from the negligent party, they generally do not owe the personal injury attorney any legal fees.
If you decide to hire a lawyer for your case, be sure to discuss the details of the law firm’s payment agreement.
What is my case worth?
It’s very natural to want to put a dollar amount on your case! But every case is also unique. A lawyer can’t value your case with a precise dollar amount in the initial discussion, because your case is likely very different from other individual cases.
Your lawyer can, however, explain what types of compensation you can seek and how each may be valued.
Briefly, victims of personal injury or other harm can seek monetary compensation in the following categories:
- Medical bills.
- Wages lost from work.
- Personal property damage.
- Pain and suffering.
Medical bills, wages lost from work, and personal property damage are all financial losses. The amount of damage compensation you can seek is equal to the amount the accident cost you.
If doctors expect you to need medical treatment in the future, a medical expert’s opinion is utilized to arrive at a forecast of those costs. If you lost wages from work, the amount of time you could not work your job is multiplied by your current wages. If the injuries or harm will make it impossible for you to return to work in the future, an expert’s opinion is used to estimate the value of your future lost earnings.
Pain and suffering is not a financial loss, but a physical and emotional one. Nonetheless, the compensation offered for these types of losses is also financial. Compensation for pain and suffering is often determined by assessing the severity of the injuries and the overall impact on the victim’s life.
Impact includes factors such as the victim’s inability to work, inability to perform daily life activities such as bathing and dressing, or inability to engage in activities the victim once enjoyed. If injuries render the victim unable to work and requiring 24/7 home care, for example, the pain and suffering compensation will likely be much higher than for a victim who can still work and doesn’t need care, because the impact on the first victim’s life is much greater.
Do you have experience handling cases like mine?
Ask your lawyer if they have experience handling cases like yours. If you were in a scooter accident, your attorney should have experience handling scooter accident cases. If you were hurt in someone’s home, your lawyer should have experience in premises liability law. If you suffered a workplace accident, an attorney experienced in workplace injury law will provide the best service.
Ask your lawyer how many years of practice they have in cases like yours.
What verdicts or settlements have you won?
Experienced lawyers can show their potential clients a record of successful verdicts and settlements on behalf of past clients. Ask a personal injury lawyer about these.
How long will my case take?
Ask for a reasonable estimate of how long your case will take. It is often difficult to give a precise forecast, however.
If you’re negotiating with an insurance company, they may do everything in their power to delay a settlement, to avoid paying a just sum. If you take a case to court, the process is lengthy—months or even years if the case is complex.
Your case may also require an investigation to determine fault and liability. Investigations can ultimately help your case, but they will take time to complete.
What services will you provide?
Personal injury lawyers provide multiple services for their clients beyond arguing in court.
If you are dealing with an insurance company that is reluctant to pay, an attorney can negotiate for you. If the responsible party is contesting responsibility for the accident, or claiming you weren’t injured as badly as you say (a common tactic to deflect liability), your lawyer can help compile evidence about their negligence and the extent and nature of your injuries. They can also help you quantify your monetary losses and pain and suffering losses. And finally, of course, they can file a personal injury lawsuit and represent you in civil court.
If you have any other questions, contact the personal injury lawyers at The Law Offices of George Salinas.