One of the first steps you should take after being in a car accident is to seek legal advice from a skilled and knowledgeable car accident attorney. You should know your rights and how to proceed, and there is no better way to get the information you need than to speak with a well-versed lawyer in your state.
When meeting with an attorney, you will want to ask many strategic questions to understand if they have the experience, qualifications, and resources to successfully represent your car accident claim. Their answers and how they converse with you will also help you determine if they are a good fit and if they will fight to protect your rights. By asking these questions, you can also learn more about your claim and what it might require. You should consider asking a car accident attorney the following questions and more before hiring them.
What Education, Experiences, and Certifications Do You Have that Make You a Good Car Accident Attorney?
Allow the attorney to brag about themselves for a minute. Where did they go to law school? Have they had experiences that make them an excellent fit to represent you? Do they have any special certifications? What awards or recognitions have they won? This can help set attorneys apart from one another so you can make an informed decision when hiring one.
Can You Share Some Recent Examples of Your Career Successes?
Although attorney/client privilege won’t permit an attorney to share some specific details with you, nearly all personal injury attorneys have various success stories they can share. The more like your case they are, the better.
How Many Cases Do You Handle at a Time?
If an attorney is currently overwhelmed with existing cases and lacks the time to take on new clients, it can result in significant delays before they can initiate work on your case. This time factor is crucial for two primary reasons. First, prompt action provides reassurance that you case is moving forward.
Second, each state imposes a statute of limitations on personal injury cases, including those arising from car accidents. These deadlines typically range from one to four years, with an average of around two years. If you approach the expiration of this timeframe in your state, selecting an attorney with the capacity to file your lawsuit well before the legal deadline becomes imperative. To further gauge their availability, inquire about the number of injury cases the attorney is currently managing.
Do You Believe I Have a Valid Injury Case? If So, Why?
You don’t need a thorough legal explanation; however, asking for a few reasons why the lawyer believes your claim deserves compensation is wise. You need to know that your attorney has the confidence to win your case and knows why it makes a good case.
What are the Weaknesses of My Case?
All cases will have some weaknesses. Any lawyer who denies that your claim has any at all probably doesn’t fully understand your case, which should be a red flag. It’s better to know the weaknesses of your case sooner rather than later. You may have a strong case to begin with, but there is almost always an area of concern that your attorney must address.
How Many Cases Similar to Mine Have You or Your Law Firm Handled?
Don’t discount attorneys who may not have an extensive track record in handling similar cases, as long as they have the backing of more seasoned legal professionals within the firm who can offer guidance and support as needed. On the contrary, entrusting your case to a sole practitioner handling this type of case for the first time may not be advisable.
Remember the longevity of a law firm’s existence does not necessarily equate to experience with your specific type of injury case. While a firm may have extensive experience in bankruptcy or medical malpractice, their familiarity with car accident cases might be limited. Ideally, you should consider a lawyer who has successfully managed numerous cases similar to yours. To delve deeper into their experience, a pertinent follow-up question will be to inquire about the number of successful verdicts they have secured in court with cases akin to yours.
How Many Successful Verdicts Have You Won in Court?
It’s always possible that parties can settle a car accident case without a court trial. However, a court trial may be inevitable if both parties can’t agree on a fair settlement amount. You need to establish trust that your lawyer is willing and prepared to fight for the maximum compensation possible by preparing every claim as if it will end up in a courtroom.
While the chances that your car accident claim will end up in court are slim, it’s imperative to have an attorney with courtroom experience who isn’t afraid to take certain cases to trial if the need arises. Some law firms are simply settlement mills, settling claims for whatever they can get without intending to take a case to trial. Sadly, these types of firms don’t maximize compensation for their clients.
How Long Do I Have to File My Lawsuit?
The attorney should know the statute of limitations that applies in your case based on the laws in your state. There can also be some variables, such as if a minor child suffers an injury or you didn’t find out about your injuries until weeks after the accident. Your attorney should also know if and how these variables change the statute of limitations in your case.
Who Will My Point of Contact Be?
Find out who your contact person will be. Whether it be the attorney, paralegal, or assistant, having a reliable and consistent contact who will always either answer your call (or email) or promptly return it if you have a concern or question that is imperative to your peace of mind during this sometimes-daunting process.
Will You Update Me on the Progress of My Case?
Even though your attorney and their staff will be doing the majority of work on your case, at the end of the day, it is still YOUR case. You deserve updates and to know about any settlement offers you receive. Understandably, you want regular updates regarding your case’s progress as it makes its way through the legal system. Your attorney should have a system in place for keeping you updated and for you to inquire with questions or the need for updates. Sometimes, they prefer email. Sometimes, they will give you their personal cell phone number, and sometimes, they may prefer you to go through their paralegal first. Find out what their system is and if you are comfortable with it.
How Much is My Case Worth?
At your initial consultation, the lawyer can tell you if the law entitles you to compensation for your damages, including medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, etc. Certain variables affect the settlement amounts you can expect to receive, making it difficult for even the most experienced attorney to give you an exact dollar amount of your damages upfront. However, they can estimate your case’s general value based on their experience with similar claims, other recent cases in your area, the type of accident you were involved in, the other parties who are at fault, and the extent of your injuries and damages.
If It Doesn’t Settle, Are You Willing to Take It to Trial?
Suppose the insurance carrier refuses to offer you a reasonable settlement for your damages or refuses to settle at all. In that case, you’ll want a lawyer with trial experience who will be an experienced and excellent advocate for you in front of a judge and jury. If the attorney tells you they don’t take cases to trial, you might want to rethink hiring them.
What Kind of Legal Strategies Can You Rely On to Reach a Successful Resolution in My Case?
You can determine more about a lawyer when they’re specifically talking about your case. Ask them how they plan to deal with the weaknesses in your claim and how they will highlight the strengths of your case against the weaknesses of the at-fault party’s case. What other methods can they use to successfully get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries? An experienced attorney shouldn’t hesitate to share some strategies that might apply to your case.
How Much Do You Charge for Your Services?
Most personal injury attorneys, including those specializing in car accidents, operate on a contingency basis. Under this arrangement, you don’t incur any legal fees unless they successfully secure a favorable outcome for your case—whether through a negotiated settlement or a court-awarded verdict. In the event of a successful resolution, their compensation will be a predetermined percentage of your awarded damages. It is advisable to inquire about this percentage and ascertain if there are additional costs beyond the fee for their services.
It’s important to note that while some attorneys advertise no legal fees unless you win, they may not explicitly mention the potential responsibility for other costs such as document copying, obtaining medical records, and postage. Practices regarding these costs can vary among attorneys, with some not charging clients for such expenses, others absorbing the costs themselves, and some providing monthly statements for clients to settle as the case progresses. Therefore, it is best to clearly understand the fee structure and associated costs when engaging an attorney for your case.
If My Case Goes to Trial, Will the Compensation Structure Change?
With some law firms, it’s common for the contingency fee percentage to increase if the case doesn’t settle but proceeds to trial. This is because preparing for a trial can take more time and be intense. It’s best to ask about this now so there will be no surprises later. It’s essential to remember that you still generally won’t owe any attorney fees until you receive a court award. With contingency fees, if your case goes to court, but you don’t receive an award, you still owe the attorney nothing for their services.
How Long Will It Take You to Resolve My Claim?
It’s only natural that you want to know how long it will take to resolve your case. You’re probably anxious to pay your medical bills, make up for your lost income, and move on with your life as best as you can. However, the best answer any attorney can give is: It depends. Among many other things, the complexity of your claim and car accident, the presiding court’s calendar, the willingness of the other party or parties to settle the case, and the extent of their insurance coverage.
Some cases settle in a matter of weeks or months. Others are more complex and can take several months or even a year or two to resolve. However, by hiring a seasoned car accident attorney with whom you feel confident, you can be assured that your case won’t take a day longer than it absolutely needs to.
Don’t Delay in Consulting a Car Accident Near You
Seek your free consultation with a personal injury lawyer today. After injuries from a car crash, an experienced attorney can assess your case, discuss your rights, and guide you on the best course of action. They will also answer any questions you have.
Don’t navigate the complexities of a car accident claim alone—schedule your free consultation to understand your legal options and pursue the compensation you deserve.