When you’re injured in an accident and looking for an attorney, you have a thousand and one things running through your mind, including what questions you should ask a personal injury lawyer. Not only do you have to deal with painful and physically limiting injuries, but you also need to get your car fixed, repeatedly call insurance companies, and find a way to work through your pain (rather than risk losing money from missed shifts). To say the least, accidents have a way of being incredibly inconvenient and – on occasion – can be life changing.
The good news is that you can hire a personal injury attorney to take most of this off your plate. The goal with hiring a car accident attorney is to find someone you trust to take care of the business of your case so you can focus on healing. This is important because healing after an accident can almost be a full-time job! After all, you need to attend your doctor appointments, complete your at-home rehabilitation, and follow-up with any further treatment required to address your injuries - whether that’s physical therapy, diagnostic imaging, surgery, etc.
While a personal injury attorney might make your life a lot easier, they can add more stress and havoc to your life if you choose the wrong one. Not all personal injury attorneys operate the same, so it’s important that during your initial consultation you feel like you can trust the attorney and your questions are answered before signing a contract. For that reason, we’ve drafted a list of a few questions to ask a personal injury lawyer during your consultation.
Personal injury attorneys often take cases on a contingency basis. This means that they don’t recover their fees and expenses unless they win the case – whether that is done by settling with the insurance company or winning at trial. The attorney’s fees are usually a percentage of the total recovery from the insurance company. This percentage can range quite a bit throughout Texas, and whether your case was settled pre-litigation or if a lawsuit had to be filed. Be sure to ask what those percentages are, and make sure they are clearly stated in the contract.
In addition to attorney fees, accident lawyers will rack up expenses on your case. This is usually accomplished through various things, like obtaining a crash report, getting your medical bills and records, hiring experts, ordering trial demonstrative exhibits, etc. You should ask if you’ll be expected to pay some of these expenses up front, or if you’ll be expected to pay the expenses even if the case doesn’t have a victorious outcome. Most accident attorneys will write off the expenses, but some will charge you even though you didn’t receive a settlement, so make sure to ask!
Attorneys have to communicate regularly to be compliant with the State Bar rules and regulations. However, “regular communication” can vary from client to client based on their needs, and attorney to attorney based on their case load and habits. If you want to be updated every other week, make this known to your attorney and see if they can meet your request. If you want updates via text, e-mail, or just phone calls, be sure to ask if the attorney can comply with this as well.
The best way to know whether or not your attorney will meet your needs regarding communication is to outline your desires before you sign the contract.
Personal injury cases can range from just a few months to several years. Although there’s no way to know for certain how long your case is going to take, oftentimes the attorney can give you an estimate. For example, sometimes it’s clear that a lawsuit will need to be filed no matter what. This can be seen in cases where liability was denied, when there’s an issue with the insurance company, or catastrophic injuries were involved. Other times, you may only need a few months of treatment, in which case, the entire process can be shortened. Ask your attorney what they anticipate from the beginning, that way you aren’t blindsided later.
In Texas, many attorneys will file a lawsuit if the insurance company is making offers that are too low. However, not every firm will do this. Some firms will advise you settle even if you don’t want to, without taking the time to explain their reasons or go through the numbers. Some firms will refer your case out instead of filing it themselves. If you want to stay with your same attorney throughout the entire process, it is important to ask your attorney before you hire them, What will happen if the insurance company’s offer is too low?
Most personal injury attorneys require two things from their clients: 1) communication and 2) following your doctor’s prescribed treatment. Your attorney requires effective communication because they will need to know how your feeling, what your doctor is saying, and when you’re released. They require you to follow the doctor’s treatment because you only have a case if you are able to prove the actual damages from your injuries. That can’t happen if you refuse treatment – no matter how injured you are! In order for your personal injury attorney to do their job, you need to follow doctor’s orders until you’re better, even though it may be a big commitment up front.
Finding an attorney, you trust is incredibly important after an accident. You need to feel comfortable with the person who’s going to represent you from start to finish. It is important that the questions to ask a personal injury lawyer are difficult, and that you get the answers you need during your consultation, before signing a contract.
Keep in mind that you have the right to be represented by someone you trust! If you have concerns or complaints with your attorney, make sure to voice them to your attorney and give them an opportunity to fix it. If they don’t address your concerns to your satisfaction, then you have a right to take your case elsewhere. Be advised though, that most of the time, your first attorney will hold a lien on your case, which means they’ll be entitled to recover their fees and expenses when your case resolves.
Most personal injury attorneys will offer free consultations regarding your case. Located in Austin, Texas, we invite you to give us a call today if you have questions or want to shop around!