Before you retain a personal injury attorney to help you with your accident you should thoroughly investigate the lawyer and at the minimum ask the following questions.
1. Who is going to handle my case?
This is probably the most important question that a prospective client can ask an attorney on a personal injury case. Many clients make the mistake of hiring an attorney who does not do work on the file but delegates it to a less experienced attorney for handling. While the top attorney may “supervise” the case, who does the day-to-day work matters! In other words, you really didn’t get the attorney you thought you were getting for your case.
2. How many cases do you currently have open?
Probably the biggest single complaint that personal injury clients have is that they cannot get their attorney on the phone and cannot get a reasonable response when inquiring about the status of their case. Attorneys and law firms who sign up hundreds of cases just physically do not have the time to give great service to any one client. If you hire a law firm that handles a high volume of cases the odds of you being satisfied with the representation go down significantly.
3. Who will respond to my calls?
You need to make sure you know who your contact person is for your case. If you can’t get the attorney, you hired on the phone you may have a problem. However, many times paralegals are fine to address questions. Think of it like seeing a doctor, do you really need the doctor to tell you the tests are not back yet, or will talking to the nurse work?
4. What expenses do you get paid out of the file?
Sometimes hidden in the fine print of an attorney employment agreement is a provision for expenses that are not normally part of a file. Some attorneys may charge an “expense” for maintaining a file. Some may charge as an expense copies, postage, fax charges and things like mileage for travel to and from depositions in the courthouse.
Other attorneys will charge only for out-of-pocket expenses such as court costs, deposition transcripts, expert witnesses and filing fees. Don’t get “expensed” to the poor house in your personal injury case. Learning how expenses are calculated can avoid misunderstandings later.
5. Can you give me the telephone number of a recent client you represented with a case like mine?
While the attorney may need to get permission to give you a client’s phone number, there is no doubt that actual clients are the best source of referral for what to expect with an attorney or law firm. Reading recent client reviews is also a good method to evaluate a lawyer. One of the most important factors on a personal injury case is the reputation of the attorney you choose. Finding a local attorney who is a member of a leading personal injury law firm is a smart choice.
Much other important information can be gathered from the Internet. Most State Bar Associations maintain a website with listings on all attorneys that includes such things as grievances. Other sources of authority can be important in the peer review rating of the attorney who you are considering for your personal injury claim.
Generally, the more serious the injury the more important the choice of attorney is for you and your family’s future.