Should you hire a particular lawyer? Depending on your circumstances, that can be one of the most important decisions of your life. The website FindLaw provides a list of 10 suggested questions to ask a lawyer before deciding whether to proceed with him or her. While these general questions are helpful in evaluating an attorney or law firm, you should also consider the following four recommendations when evaluating a personal injury attorney:
1. If possible, find a referral from a trusted source
If a friend or family member had a good experience with a law firm that handles your type of case, then you will most likely be in good hands. Be aware, however, that a firm may agree to take your case and refer it to someone else if it does not have experience in that particular area of law.
2. Ask whether your case will be referred to another firm
As mentioned above, many firms will claim to work on a particular area, only to refer your case to a different firm after you hire them. Although this will generally not add additional expense for you, it does limit your ability to evaluate the law firm that will actually handle your case. All things being equal, it may be better to go with a firm that refers a low percentage of cases. One way to get at this question is to ask whether attorneys at the firm will be involved in depositions, document review, and filing motions.
3. Find out where your case is likely to be filed
In drug and medical device litigation, cases are often filed in a small number of locations. It may make sense to select a firm near one of those locations to reduce the chances that your case is referred to another firm.
4. Understand how long it might take to resolve your case
Unfortunately, litigation in the United States can take years to resolve. Beware of firms that promise quick results, and set expectations for yourself about when you can expect a resolution.
In addition to the above considerations, FindLaw recommends asking the following more general questions during the initial consultation, which is often provided for free:
1. What is your firm’s general experience?
The site says that somebody just out of law school could do a very good job handling your case. But you may want to want to know about the lawyer’s expertise and whether he or she is a veteran or beginner attorney, for instance.
2. What type of cases does your firm generally handle?
What percentage of your practice is devoted to the practice area in question?
3. How many clients do you have?
A firm with more clients may have more experience and more leverage against the defendants, but may also have less time to devote to your case.
4. How many cases have you represented that were similar to mine?
Be specific. If you were injured by a particular drug or product, ask about cases involving that drug or product. If you were involved in a car accident, ask about cases involving cars of that type, or about car cases in your state or county.
5. Other than a law degree, what kind of special training or knowledge do you have that might apply in my situation?
Opportunities for specialized training are relatively rare, and attorneys are prohibited from claiming “expertise” in an area even if they have years of experience. In general though, you may get better results with a firm that has more overall experience.
6. What are your attorney fees and costs, and how are they billed?
Many personal injury firms will provide a contract that ensures you never have to pay out-of-pocket, but only out of any recovery obtained on your behalf.
7. What is your approach or philosophy to winning or representing a case?
Some firms look for a quick settlement, others are in it for the long haul to attempt to get the most compensation. If you are looking for a firm to stand up to corporate malfeasance, and aggressively pursue litigation on your behalf and maybe even influence corporate behavior, then a quick settlement might not be for you.
8. Are there others ways to solve my legal problem?
Although FindLaw recommends asking this question, it applies less in the personal injury context. While your attorney should be able to discuss alternatives with you, it is probably best to trust your attorney to choose the most advantageous method for resolving your case, which will often depend on your specific facts.
9. How will you let me know what’s happening with my case?
An organized firm should be able to communicate with you via electronic mail, traditional letters, or phone, according to your preference. It is, of course, your responsibility to keep your contact information up-to-date.
10. What is the likely outcome in my case?
While this is a fair question to ask, you may get a general answer because each case is different, and your attorney may not be aware of all of the facts that influence your individual case during the initial evaluation.
For more information from FindLaw on selecting an attorney, see here: http://public.findlaw.com/library/hiring-lawyer/
The attorneys at Lopez McHugh have a proven track record helping victims of corporate negligence and deception. If you or someone you know has suffered a physical, financial or severe emotional injury due to another’s negligence, contact us. We can help.