After serving over 25,000 Virginians across 4 decades in business, our team at Cravens & Noll knows how to help you ask the right questions when seeking legal representation. No matter what you are facing right now – whether divorce, personal injury, criminal charges, or bankruptcy – asking the following questions will help you make the right decision.
What should my legal fees be?
Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you will not have to pay a fee unless you recover money damages in your lawsuit. If you recover money damages, your personal injury lawyer will take a percentage of the award, typically between 25 percent (25%) and 40 percent (40%). It is important to understand the qualifications of the attorney you hire. While an attorney may say he or she will only charge you a 25% contingency fee, he or she may not be qualified to handle your personal injury lawsuit.
If I lose, will I be responsible for any case-related cost?
Some personal injury lawyers charge for any case-related costs they advance in addition to the contingency fee. Ask your lawyer who will be responsible for these costs (also known as “out-of-pocket” costs) in the event that your personal injury lawsuit is unsuccessful.
Have you tried any personal injury cases similar to mine before?
Never assume that a personal injury lawyer has handled a case similar to yours before. Ask every potential lawyer about his or her experience and results. If you were injured in a slip-and-fall accident, you may not want to hire a personal injury attorney who has only worked on car accident lawsuits. Similarly, you probably would not want to hire a lawyer who primarily works on workers’ compensation cases to represent you in your auto accident case.
How much time can you devote to my case?
Many lawyers take on too many cases at once and will sit on your case while they sign up additional clients. Another question to ask personal injury lawyers is how much time they have to devote to your case right now. Stress that it is important to you to get the ball rolling on your lawsuit right away. Ask when your case will be filed.
Typically, how long does it take to resolve a case like mine?
You should also ask personal injury attorneys about how long it usually takes to resolve a case like yours. Many factors can influence how long it takes to resolve a case, but potential lawyers should be able to give you a rough estimate. Be sure that your lawyer is committed to resolving your case as quickly as possible under the circumstances.
Will my case go to trial? What is your success rate at trial?
Be wary of any lawyers who tell you early on that your case is going to settle. Your personal injury lawyer should expect every case to go to trial and prepare as if your case will be tried before a jury. That way, you can enter settlement negotiations with the defendant armed with as much evidence as possible. This will help ensure that you receive the fairest settlement possible. If your case ultimately goes to trial, you want to make sure that your personal injury attorney has won cases before a jury.
What is my case worth?
Personal injury lawyers should have a good idea of what your case is worth. At the very least, an attorney should be able to provide a spectrum and explain how various factors such as discovery, liability, and preexisting medical issues might impact a settlement offer or verdict.
Do your research and use your best judgment in evaluating a potential lawyer’s claims. Be wary of personal injury lawyers who make estimates that seem completely unrealistic.
Who will represent my case?
Ask who at the firm will handle the various aspects of your case. Some personal injury firms like to float senior partners in front of potential clients who are never seen again once the representation agreement is signed. Ask who will be your contact and who you can expect to speak with when you have questions about your case. Ask whether less experienced associates will be handling your case and if so, who is responsible for supervising them.
What is my role in the lawsuit?
Before hiring a personal injury lawyer, make sure you understand your role in the lawsuit and what will be expected of you. Some people want to be very involved in their case, attending depositions and other meetings. Many clients want to let their lawyers handle the case and remain on the sidelines. Make sure that you and your personal injury lawyer are on the same page about what your relationship will look like.
Can I speak to any of your past clients?
Don’t hesitate to ask a potential personal injury lawyer for references. Hopefully, the attorney will be able to provide you with contact information for at least one satisfied former client. You should never rely on website copy or promotional materials alone – these may have been heavily edited.