What Questions Should I Ask When Choosing an Attorney?
If you’ve watched just about any television over the years, you will have seen the numerous commercials promoting personal injury attorneys and their vow to only charge you if your suit is successful. We’d hate to spoil things for you, but that isn’t unique–every personal injury attorney operates the same way using contingent fees, meaning they are only paid from the amount they recover for you. So, if the only selling point an attorney has is a universally accepted practice, how valuable can their services really be?
This is just one example of the questions you should ask when choosing a personal injury attorney. There are numerous other factors that need to be discussed as well, which we will touch on below. It’s important to note first, however, that your decision should always revolve around which attorney you will hire, rather than if you will hire one at all. Make no mistake, not all attorneys were created equal, but you will still have a higher chance of success with a bad lawyer than none at all. Luckily for accident victims, they will never have to consider hiring a bad attorney–simply call Van Law Firm for all of your personal injury matters and leave the rest to us. Call our office nearest you to get started.
Some Quick Notes on the Attorney-Client Relationship
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The attorney-client relationship is extremely unique, and there are few like it. It can be extremely personal or impersonal, and it can last for a long time, perhaps years until a case is finally resolved. Depending on the nature of your case, you will likely share a lot of personal information with them and have difficult conversations that are not always pleasant. We mention these points to highlight that these are in fact relationships, and so you should take your time and hire the attorney you feel comfortable with. You wouldn’t buy the first house you see, or accept a job without knowing its parameters, so why would you hire a lawyer on a whim?
Additionally, it’s important for clients to really think about what their end goal is for a given case. Most would assume that all claimants and their attorneys are trying to recover the most compensation possible, but that is not necessarily true. Some may want to simply get the process over with as soon as possible with little regard for their actual settlement, while others may want to use their case to champion a larger cause such as sexual assault. Still, others may want a dangerous product to be discontinued or a harmful practice to be stopped. As mentioned above, the attorney-client relationship is deeply personal and is built on trust–both sides should always be on the same page.
Types of Questions to Ask When Choosing an Attorney
Now that we’ve established the basics of an attorney-client relationship, here are some good questions to ask any attorney you may want to hire:
If I were to hire you, what would your expectations be for me?
A firm discussion of duties and responsibilities for each party is essential. For the majority of cases, the client’s duty will be to strictly follow the treatments and prescriptions given to them and to otherwise “lay low” and avoid doing anything that might harm their case, such as making lewd posts on social media or getting into another accident. Conversely, it is the attorney’s job to handle everything related to the case itself. A good lawyer will want to see any bill or statement that is sent to you, and they will urge you not to communicate with anyone involved in the case without consulting them. Any attorney who cannot tell you their expectations and does not stay on top of their clients’ correspondence is not to be trusted.
What can I expect to happen after I hire you?
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An experienced attorney will always be able to tell you in detail what you can expect for the various phases that your case will go through. Most of the time, the state of the client’s injuries will dictate how the case will move forward. There is not much to do while treatment is ongoing, except to make sure that bills are being paid. The real meat of a case starts when treatment is complete–then expenses can be calculated, the demand package can be presented, and negotiations can begin. If an agreement is not reached, the case will go to trial.
That’s a very simple and clear explanation–all competent attorneys will be able to describe how the process will unfold for your particular case. If they cannot, or their answer is especially dubious or confusing, steer clear.
What are the expectations as far as communication?
It should go without saying that solid communication is one of the most important aspects of any healthy relationship, and an attorney-client relationship is no different. You may not discuss every little detail with a potential lawyer, but communication needs to be one of them. As a baseline, you need to know how often they will contact you and how difficult it will be to contact your lawyer personally when you need to. Unfortunately, most lawyers have busy schedules with important meetings and hearings, and some phone calls simply cannot be taken. However, you should certainly be able to contact him or her directly within a few days or so.
One of the problems with the attorney-client relationship is that most clients have no experience with legal processes, so some attorneys will take full advantage of this and give sparse information or none at all. You should be contacted by your attorney or someone employed by them (case manager, clerk, etc.) at least once a month. If they cannot guarantee that, or anything else related to communication, you should avoid the headache and find someone else.
Which treatment should I get for my injuries?
Now, this is a bit of a rhetorical question, but you should still ask it. Obviously, lawyers aren’t physicians and so they cannot make diagnoses, but the question is important to see how they respond. The correct answer is that you should get the treatment that is most reasonable and most comfortable for you. Most injuries have numerous potential treatments, and you should have a discussion with both your doctor and your attorney to decide which is best. That being said, some lawyers will form relationships with certain doctors and clinics and may try to push you into a particular treatment or provider because of some incentive on their end (usually a referral fee). Do not accept this; anyone who tries to change your decisions should not be representing your interests.
What can I expect as far as fees and compensation?
These are tough questions that simply must be discussed before any agreement can be made. As mentioned earlier, all personal injury attorneys work on contingency–that is universal. However, make sure to talk about the costs advanced, or the case-related costs that the lawyer usually advances so that your claim can continue to move forward. A trustworthy attorney will explain what those costs typically are as well as the process for paying them. Also, most attorneys increase their fee by about 10 percent if the case requires litigation, so be sure to discuss this also.
Finally, never believe an attorney who promises or guarantees a certain outcome or settlement amount. The reality is that no case is a guarantee, and there are innumerable things that can derail an otherwise successful claim. It’s also not possible to judge the value of a case before treatment has been completed, so any bold claims with regards to compensation should be a red flag.
Talk With Trusted Personal Injury Attorneys Today
If you have more questions about the attorney-client relationship or would like to speak to trusted personal injury attorneys, simply give Van Law Firm a call as soon as possible. Our award-winning staff will handle all of your concerns and walk you through the various steps of your potential claim. Call our office nearest you today for more information.
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