Questions to ask before hiring a personal injury attorney
You should thoroughly investigate the lawyer before you retain a personal injury attorney to help you with your accident. And make sure the lawyer is the right choice for your case.
1. Who is going to handle my file?
This is probably the most important question that a prospective client can ask an attorney on a personal injury case. Many clients make the mistake of hiring an attorney who does not do work on the file but delegates it to an inexperienced attorney for handling. Or worse, a paralegal.
The dilemma is frequent in large law firms and in smaller firms with a high-volume practice. If the law firm advertises on the radio, tv, or other media, it is probably a high-volume law practice. In other words, you didn't get the attorney you thought you were getting to handle your case.
Personal service by your lawyer is important and likely not going to happen when the firm handles hundreds or thousands of cases. Getting a commitment from the lawyer you interview to take your case personally is vital.
Be wary of the evasive answer. Who does the work matters? If the senior attorney is going to "supervise" the case or "personally oversee," someone else will be doing the work on your case?
2. How many cases do you currently have open?
Probably the biggest single complaint that personal injury clients have is that they cannot get their attorney on the phone and cannot get a reasonable response when inquiring about the status of their case.
Attorneys and law firms who sign up hundreds of cases physically do not have the time to give great service to any one client. If you hire a law firm that handles many cases, the odds of you being satisfied with the representation will go down significantly.
3. Who will respond to my calls?
You need to make sure you know who your contact person is for your case. If you can call and get the attorney you hired on the phone, you are probably in pretty good hands. If you can never get your attorney on the telephone, you may have made a poor choice for your case.
Understand, by the nature of the personal injury law practice; there are times when an attorney may be unavailable for days. Trials are intensive and require focus. If your attorney is in court, they will be unavailable then for telephone calls.
If your case gets to court, others will not be able to speak with the lawyer as they are focused solely on your case.
4. What expenses do you get paid out of the file?
Sometimes hidden in the fine print of an attorney employment agreement is a provision for expenses that are not normally part of a file.
Some attorneys may charge an "expense" for maintaining a file. Some may charge as an expense for copies, postage, fax charges, and things like mileage for travel to and from depositions in the courthouse.
Other attorneys will charge only for hard out-of-pocket expenses such as court costs, deposition transcripts, expert witnesses, and filing fees. Don't get "expensed" to the poor house in your personal injury case. The Baumgartner Law Firm in Houston only charges for hard out of pocket expenses, like deposition costs, expert fees, and court costs.
Understand the costs to be reimbursed before hiring the attorney.
5. Can you give me the telephone number of a recent client you represented?
While the attorney may need to get permission to give you a client's phone number, there is no doubt that actual clients are the best source of referral for what to expect with an attorney or law firm.
Alternatively, you can look at google or yelp reviews. However, be cautious of lawyers with hundreds of reviews or even a thousand or more. They are either high-volume firms or gaming the review process. Either way, it's not a recommended hire.
6. Other information
Much other important information can be gathered from the Internet. Many state bar associations have a website with listings on all attorneys that includes such things as grievances. Other sources can be important in the assessment of the attorney you are considering for your personal injury claim. Peer-reviewed awards are the only ones to take seriously.
Generally, the more serious the injury, the more important the choice of an attorney is for you and your family's future.