You Will Want to Ask These 15 Questions Before Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
After a car accident or slip and fall, you may want to hire a lawyer. Hiring a personal injury attorney to represent you will help maximize the value of your claim.
With so many personal injury attorneys in the Orlando area, how can you go about figuring out which attorney to hire? Sure, you can google different attorneys, but what is the best way to make sure that you are hiring the right attorney for your case?
According to the Florida Bar lawyer directory, there are 267 attorneys in Orlando who list “personal injury” as their practice area. Avvo actually states that there are 950 personal injury attorneys in Orlando (though I personally think that number is high) There are 35 attorneys in Winter Park who list “personal injury” as their practice area. There is no shortage of personal injury attorneys in the Orlando area. This, of course, doesn’t even mention the big law firms that are out there.
Imagine that you just had an accident. You find yourself needing a personal injury attorney. You call one of the big advertisers and are connected to a call center. Something doesn’t feel right. You are not exactly sure where to turn because you don’t know any personal injury attorneys. You start to google and you come up with a list of attorneys near you. What now?
Tip number one: Call their office and make an appointment. You need to either speak with the attorney, or have a meeting scheduled to speak with the attorney about your case. If you can’t speak with the attorney about your case, then they either do not want your case, or you do not want to hire the firm.
When you speak with the attorney, ask them these 15 questions to get a better idea about whether this is the right attorney for you. These are my personal suggestions (and opinions) about hiring a personal injury attorney.
1. Do you practice personal injury law only?
You would be surprised how many attorneys out there practice “personal injury and family law” or “personal injury and criminal defense.” Do not be fooled – you should only hire an attorney AND law firm that only does personal injury law.
Attorneys who handle “personal injury and…” have their hand in two separate areas of law. Personal injury is complex and ever changing. You want to make sure that you retain an attorney who is completely dedicated to personal injury.
2. How long have you been practicing law?
Although there is no exact answer for this, you want to make sure that you are not hiring an inexperienced attorney. You don’t always need an attorney who has 30 or 40 years of experience. You do not want an attorney who does not have enough experience either. Make sure your attorney has practiced law for a long enough to competently handle your case.
3. Do you practice any other areas of law?
“Personal injury” is a broad category of law that encompasses other areas. These areas include medical malpractice, products liability, and other areas of law. Although different, they are similar to personal injury law. But, make sure that your attorney does not practice “personal injury and bankruptcy” or “personal injury and criminal law.” You want an attorney who only practices personal injury law.
4. What is your average time frame to settle a case?
Different attorneys handle their cases differently. Every case is different, but an attorney should be able to give you a timeframe for the completion of your case. Sometimes cases settle very quickly, and other times claims take years. Your attorney should be able to give you a general timeline based on their experience.
5. What percentage of cases go to court?
Most car accident claims settle without having to file a lawsuit. But there are times that you will need to file a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit is commonly referred to as “going to court.” When a does not resolve with the insurance company, sometimes it is necessary to file a lawsuit.
When you are interviewing an attorney, ask them what percentage of cases they file lawsuits on. You do not want an attorney who files lawsuits on every case. You also do not want an attorney who does not go to court.
6. How often do you go to trial?
The simple truth is that very few cases actually go to trial. However, you will want an attorney who has been to trial and understands what it means to go to trial. Going to trial for your car accident or slip and fall case is a big risk, but could also result in you obtaining the full value of your case. Make sure that you speak with your attorney and understand their views on going to trial.
7. Are you going to be the attorney handling my case?
This is one of the most important questions you can ask. You need to know what attorney is working on your case. This starts with speaking to the actual attorney who is handling your case at the initial intake. Make sure that you know what attorney will be handling your case.
8. Will I be able to speak with you during the course of my case?
It is important to confirm that you will be able to speak with the attorney who is handling your car accident case. Some law firms have clients speak to “case managers” or paralegals. Clients will very rarely have access to the attorney who is handling their case. Although a paralegal or case manager will help an attorney with your car accident claim, you need to make sure that you have access to your attorney during your case.
9. Have you ever gone to trial?
This will help you gauge the experience level of the attorney. Although trials are becoming more and more rare, you will want to work with an attorney who has gone to trial. If your case is complex or catastrophic, your attorney may partner with another attorney to assist with trial.
10. Is this a case that you are willing to go to trial on?
Not all cases need to go to trial, nor should all cases go to trial. Sometimes there are cases where an attorney may be willing to make a claim, but will not want to take the case to trial. This happens from time-to-time. You should be aware of this as soon as possible. This is especially true in slip-and-fall and premises liability claims.
11. Where is your office located?
It is important to know where your attorney’s office is located. Of course, there is no problem with attorneys having virtual offices or working from home. What you want to avoid are satellite offices located in a part of the state far from where the attorney lives. It is certainly possible for an attorney to practice in Orlando and Miami or Orlando and Tampa. What you want to avoid is an attorney handling your case who does not consistently handle cases in your part of the state.
12. What office do you work out of?
This is related to where the attorney’s office is located. If your case is a car accident or slip and fall, make sure that the attorney handling your case is local to the area. If the attorney is not local to the area, make sure the attorney handles a good number of cases in your area.
If your case is for something more complex – such as a complex products liability case or toxic poisoning case, you may need to hire an attorney from a different area of the state. This is because you will want to hire a personal injury attorney who specializes in that complex area of law.
13. Can I meet with you if I want to speak in person?
It is important to know whether your attorney will make themselves available for an in-person visit should the need arise. Although it is not always needed, you should know whether your attorney will meet with you in person during the pendency of your case.
14. What are your typical costs on a case?
No case is the same. However, your attorney should be able to give you an idea about the typical cost for similar cases. You want to make sure that your attorney is working to keep costs low for you. Remember, although you do not have to pay for costs out of your pocket upfront, the costs will come out of whatever settlement your attorney is able to get. There are certainly some necessary costs – medical records and accident reports. Make sure that your attorney is conscious about the costs that they incur.
15. Do you charge interest on your cost advance?
Some law firms will charge interest on the costs that they advance on your case. If your case is complex and takes a long time to resolve, this could end up being a significant amount of money. You should be informed about the amount of the interest charged on the costs that are advanced on behalf of your case.
About the author
Brian Dunmire is a personal injury attorney located in Winter Park, Florida. Winter Park is just north of Orlando, Florida. Brian has been practicing law for nearly 10 years. Before becoming a personal injury attorney, Brian represented insurance companies and large corporations when they were sued for causing injuries. Brian has experience handling everything from a car accident case to complex toxic-exposure cases. If you have been injured in an accident, contact Brian today for a free, no obligation consultation.