When you decide to pursue legal claims after suffering injuries in an accident, you may decide to retain legal representation from a personal injury attorney. But you might have many questions about your rights, options, and the claims process, especially if you’ve never pursued a legal claim.
You can ask your personal injury attorney questions when you first meet with them and throughout your case. When you meet with a lawyer, they can tell you about their experience, qualifications, and working style to help you decide whether to hire them for your case.
Your personal injury attorney should also help you better understand your legal options, the likelihood of recovering compensation, and what financial recovery you might expect. Your attorney should also prepare you for the legal claims process by discussing how long your case might take, what stages to expect, and whether you need to go to trial.
Finally, your lawyer can discuss the likelihood of resolving your personal injury claim through a negotiated settlement or a formal alternative dispute resolution process, such as mediation or arbitration.
The Initial Consultation Allows You to Ask Questions of a Prospective Personal Injury Attorney
Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations to prospective clients. A prospective client has no obligation to hire the attorney at the end of the consultation. Free consultations enable personal injury victims to evaluate several attorneys before hiring one. An initial consultation will last about one hour, although the meeting may go longer if you have a complex case. The attorney should allow you to ask any questions you may have.
The initial consultation lets the attorney learn more about the client’s case. After listening to the client’s story, the lawyer can decide whether the client has a viable claim and whether the lawyer can help them. The attorney can also advise the client on the next steps to take to pursue their case.
However, the initial consultation also allows a client to ask questions of a prospective attorney to help the client decide whether they want to hire that lawyer.
Before a consultation, prepare by writing a list of questions you want to ask the personal injury attorney.
You can also prepare for the meeting by gathering relevant documents, such as the police accident report, accident scene photos/videos, witness statements, dashcam or surveillance footage, and medical records. You might draft notes to help you recall details from the accident when the attorney asks you to describe what happened in the crash.
Don’t worry if you run out of time to ask more questions during the initial consultation or if you think of new questions after the meeting. You can follow up with the personal injury attorney over the phone or via email to get answers to your additional questions. An effective attorney will take the time to ensure you understand your rights and options and feel comfortable hiring the attorney for your personal injury case.
Learn More About Your Personal Injury Attorney’s Experience and Skill
At the initial consultation, your questions should focus on learning about the attorney’s work history and abilities to help you decide whether you want to hire the lawyer.
Examples of questions you may want to ask the attorney include:
- How long have you practiced law?
- How long have you practiced personal injury law?
- Do you practice any other types of law? What percentage of your caseload consists of personal injury or personal injury cases?
- Have you handled any personal injury cases like mine? What happened in those cases?
- Approximately how many personal injury cases have you handled?
- How many cases do you handle at a time?
- What percentage of your personal injury cases do you settle? What percentage of cases do you take to trial?
- How often do you win at trial?
- Do you have any special certifications?
- What awards or recognitions have you received?
- How many attorneys and staff does your firm have?
- Do you have connections with investigators and expert witnesses?
- Does your firm have any unique resources or technology?
- Do you have any past client references?
These questions will help you understand the attorney’s experience in personal injury cases. Consider hiring a lawyer specializing in personal injury claims since they may better understand what it takes to prepare and pursue a personal injury case compared to attorneys who only handle a few personal injury claims or practice in multiple areas of law.
You should also confirm whether the attorney has litigation experience. An attorney who settles most or all of their cases may want to avoid taking your case to trial even when litigation represents your best option for securing fair compensation. You also want to feel confident that your lawyer can win your case if you go to trial.
You should learn whether the attorney has certifications indicating expertise in civil litigation or personal injury law. Awards and recognitions also reflect an attorney’s track record of success and reputation for excellent client service.
Finally, if the personal injury attorney works in a law firm, you should learn more about the firm to determine whether it has the resources to pursue your claims thoroughly. You don’t want to get forced into a settlement because the insurance company has buried your lawyer in paperwork.
Other questions you might ask at an initial consultation will inform you about how the attorney works and what you can expect in your attorney-client relationship.
Examples of these questions include:
- Once I sign a fee agreement, when will you start working on my case?
- How do your fees work? Do you work on a contingency basis, and if so, what percentage of the recovery do you take as your fee? Do you roll case expenses into your fee or charge them separately? Will you expect reimbursement of case expenses if we lose?
- How do you handle communications? Can I call/text/email you? Will I have direct access to you, or must I go through a secretary or paralegal? How quickly can I expect responses? How often will you contact me to provide status updates?
- Will you handle my case, or will another attorney in the firm handle it? Will you refer my case to another firm?
- What work will you expect me to put into the case? Will I have to obtain my medical records or the police accident report?
Using questions like these, you should get a sense of the attorney’s communication style and confirm who will handle your case’s day-to-day work. Most importantly, you should ensure you understand how the attorney’s fees work so you don’t get surprised by the invoice at the end of your case or feel like your lawyer took advantage of you.
Ask About Your Case
During the initial consultation and after hiring a personal injury lawyer, you should also ask questions about your legal claim. It would help if you understood whether you have a viable personal injury case, what financial recovery you might expect to receive, and how long the case might take.
Questions to ask your personal injury attorney include:
- Should I pursue a personal injury claim?
- Who can I hold liable for the accident?
- How likely are we to win my case?
- What compensation can I recover?
- Does any insurance coverage apply?
- Will any factors impede or reduce my financial recovery?
- Will my case go to court or trial?
- How long will my case take? Can we do anything to speed up the case?
Check in regularly with your personal injury attorney as the investigation and litigation progress to get updated answers to these questions. As your attorney uncovers more evidence and has further discussions with the insurance company or the other driver’s attorney, your lawyer’s analysis of your case may change.
Getting your personal injury attorney’s honest view about the strengths and weaknesses of your case will help you make informed decisions at each stage of the claim process.
Your Personal Injury Attorney Can Prepare You for Your Claim
A client-focused personal injury attorney will also inform you about what to expect during the personal injury claims process. Knowing what occurs during your case will prevent you from feeling anxious or in the dark while waiting to recover compensation for your injuries and losses.
Although your lawyer may describe the claims process in detail, other questions you may want to ask your personal injury attorney include:
- What next steps should I take after the initial consultation?
- What documents and information will you need from me?
- How long will the investigation process take?
- Will you file an insurance claim or pursue a claim directly against the other driver?
- How do insurance companies handle personal injury claims?
- How long will it take to get a settlement offer from the insurer?
- What happens if the insurance company denies my claim or makes a low settlement offer?
- What happens if the other side refuses to negotiate?
- What happens if I settle with one party but not other liable parties?
- How long do I have to file a claim or lawsuit?
- Can I accept a settlement after filing a lawsuit?
- What does court litigation involve?
- Will I have to testify?
- What can I expect to happen in a trial?
When you understand what happens in the personal injury claims process, you can work better with your attorney to prepare and follow a case strategy and will make more informed decisions at each stage of the litigation.
Discuss the Feasibility of Alternative Dispute Resolution With Your Personal Injury Attorney
Most personal injury cases settle rather than go to trial. A settlement or other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes can provide you with most or all the compensation you would win at trial much sooner than if you went through the litigation process, which can take months or even years.
It would help if you discussed the appropriateness of settlement negotiations or alternative dispute resolution with your personal injury attorney to decide the best avenue for reaching a successful outcome in your case.
Questions you should ask your attorney about ADR include:
- Should I settle my case or go to trial?
- How long does the settlement negotiations process take?
- Do I have to participate in negotiations?
- How much money can I expect to receive in a settlement?
- How do settlements pay out compensation?
- What happens if I have additional expenses after I sign a settlement?
- Should we participate in mediation? What happens in a mediation?
- Do I have to settle during mediation?
- Who covers the cost of mediation?
- Should we go to arbitration? Do I have to arbitrate my claims?
- What happens in an arbitration?
- Who pays for the arbitration?
- What options do I have if the arbitrator issues a ruling that I don’t like?
- Can I go to trial after arbitration?
Your personal injury attorney can explore your ADR options with you, discussing the suitability of pursuing mediation or taking your case to arbitration. Your lawyer can prepare you for what to expect if you choose to go to arbitration, including explaining what type of arbitration you will participate in and the similarities and differences between arbitration and trial.
Never Hesitate to Ask Your Personal Injury Attorney Questions—They Want to Help You Through the Legal Process
You may have many questions for your personal injury attorney throughout your case. You’ll have questions from the initial consultation when you first meet your lawyer through the resolution of your claim in a settlement or at trial.
Questions you should have for your personal injury attorney will initially revolve around getting to know your attorney and learning how they work. As your case progresses, you may have questions about your legal rights and options or what steps you can take to move your personal injury claim forward. Reach out to a personal injury lawyer.
Don’t worry about bothering your attorney with questions during your case. A good lawyer will respond promptly to your calls or emails. Your attorney should want to inform you about the claims process and your legal options so that you can make the best decisions for your interests and future.