There are many occasions when you might unexpectedly need a personal injury lawyer. Let’s say your neighbor’s dog escapes from their yard, comes into your yard, and bites you. You can file an injury claim against your neighbor if the dog causes any injuries to you. Let’s say that a drunk driver ran a red light and broadsided your car, leaving you with long-term injuries. You can hold that driver liable for your past and future injury-related losses.
Many common accidents can lead to a personal injury claim, though none of these are easy situations. You will go up against adverse parties and insurance companies with the opposite goal – to pay you as little as possible or even nothing at all. You need to seek legal help immediately when someone else causes your personal injury.
But how do you find the right lawyer? What questions should you ask a personal injury lawyer to determine if they are the right person to represent your case?
Consulting with personal injury lawyers
Even though personal injuries from accidents are common, many people don’t know how to deal with the personal injury claim process. They are not aware of the lengths that insurance companies will go to deny their claims. Your best resource is a skilled personal injury lawyer who can handle the process from start to finish.
An experienced personal injury lawyer knows the best strategy to help you gain the compensation you need from your claim. However, not every personal injury lawyer is the right one to help with your specific accident.
Your process of finding a lawyer will involve scheduling free consultations with one or more attorneys. These consultations might happen at the law office, over the phone, or a lawyer might come to you if you cannot travel due to your injuries.
Always prepare for a consultation and have questions ready to ask the lawyer. Here are some questions you can ask a personal injury lawyer to determine whether they can provide the legal representation you need.
Many injury victims may not know that personal injury lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee basis is a payment arrangement where you will pay the lawyer’s fees only if they are successful in helping you receive compensation for your claim. You are not responsible for paying any legal fees if you receive no compensation. When you receive financial compensation, your lawyer will retrieve a certain percentage from your settlement or award for their fees.
If a personal injury lawyer tells you they charge a flat or hourly fee, you should keep searching for a law firm that works on contingency. With all of your current financial stresses, the last thing you need is a lawyer who will pile on the costs upfront. A contingency fee aligns your interests and incentivizes your attorney to obtain maximum compensation for you. This is the best arrangement for personal injury representation.
Experience with your type of case
You also want to ask a personal injury lawyer questions about their experience and results. Not every personal injury lawyer has the skills to deal with every type of injury or accident. You want to ensure your lawyer has experience handling similar claims. For example, a personal injury lawyer with significant experience resolving premises liability cases is more equipped to deal with your swimming pool accident than a lawyer with medical malpractice cases.
If you have a case that a lawyer does not usually handle, they should be honest about it. They might have a network of attorneys and can refer your case to the right attorney in the area. Even if a law firm does not handle medical malpractice claims, they likely know someone they trust who does.
Attention to your case
Another important question that you want to ask is how much time your personal injury lawyer can personally devote to your case. You do not want a personal injury lawyer who has so many clients that they cannot dedicate the time to your case that you need. If a lawyer’s plate seems too full, you might consider moving on to the next free consultation.
Time to resolve
You also want to ask how long it will take to resolve your claim. All personal injury claims have different lengths of time to resolve, and they can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to conclude. If a personal injury lawyer promises to resolve your matter in a few weeks, that can indicate that they are only interested in settling your case as quickly as possible. If that aligns with what you want for your case, that is fine; however, that can signify that the personal injury lawyer plans to treat you as just another number and not pay attention to the unique aspects of your case and your personal goals.
Trial success rate
Another question you want to ask your personal injury lawyer is how successfully they resolve claims at trial. Even though many personal injury claims settle out of court, you want a personal injury lawyer who is not afraid to take your case to trial should it progress to that stage.
Personal injury lawyers who are only skilled at settling claims will limit your opportunity for success. Your lawyer should prepare to initiate litigation and take your case as far as it needs for a successful result. In some cases, insurance companies are intimidated by personal injury lawyers willing to take a claim to trial, which can help the process.
Worth of your claim
You also want to ask your personal injury lawyer about the worth of your claim. A skilled personal injury lawyer can assess certain factors of your accident and determine whether your claim is worth pursuing and its approximate value. Most importantly, a personal injury lawyer should offer you a realistic estimate. If the estimate sounds too good to be true, chances are that it is. You want someone who will be honest instead of merely throwing out big numbers to get your business.
Handling the case
Another important question that you want to ask is who will be handling your case. The personal injury lawyer that you consult with may not be the lawyer responsible for handling all aspects of your case. Depending on the law firm’s size, the attorney on your case may be another lawyer from that firm who is less experienced than the lawyer you consulted. Ask your personal injury lawyer if they will be the only lawyer working on your case and whether you can contact them if you have any questions.
The purpose of personal injury claims is to compensate victims for the injuries they endure. The severity of injuries from a personal injury accident can vary widely. Some victims can suffer moderate injuries, while others can have permanent injuries that alter the rest of their lives.
In any case, personal injury law allows victims to seek compensation to help them recover financially and make them whole. Money cannot take away injuries but can help injury victims move forward in a better financial position.
Whether the negligent party deliberately intended to cause harm to the victim is irrelevant. If negligent actions caused the accident, that party and its insurance companies must compensate the victim.
Unlike criminal law, where guilty defendants are at risk of being sentenced to imprisonment, defendants in civil law cases can be found financially liable for a plaintiff’s accident. Even if the defendants intentionally caused harm to the plaintiff, the court can only punish them financially for their negligence. If the defendant’s negligence was severe, judges might require the defendant to pay punitive damages to discourage others from trying the same behaviors. Otherwise, personal injury defendants usually suffer financial consequences for their negligent actions.
For a personal injury claim to be successful, you must prove the defendant’s fault. This is often more difficult than you might imagine, as simply pointing blame at someone else is not enough. Instead, you want a personal injury lawyer who can gather sufficient evidence to prove the fault and liability of all parties.
Because all personal injury cases have different circumstances, the ability to prove the fault of a negligent party varies. For example, proving the fault of a negligent driver may be easier than proving the fault of a business owner in a slip and fall case. Although every personal injury accident is different, each claimant must prove the fault of another party using the same legal concept of negligence to obtain compensation. These are complex legal issues, and you need an experienced attorney on your side.
Negligence is a legal concept that holds other parties accountable for their actions or lack of actions towards injured plaintiffs. As simple as the definition of negligence might seem, proving it in a court of law will be much more complex.
To effectively prove negligence, your lawyer must establish four elements:
- Duty of care. The defendant must have owed the plaintiff a specific duty of care.
- Breach of duty. The defendant’s actions, or lack of actions, must have breached the duty of care they owed the plaintiff.
- Causation. The defendant’s actions must have directly caused the plaintiff’s accident to happen.
- Damages. The plaintiff must have suffered significant damages from the defendant’s actions.
If you cannot prove even one of these elements, your claim will not succeed. Your lawyer should honestly advise you whether you can prove negligence and succeed in obtaining compensation.
The damages that a personal injury victim can recover from an accident vary.
Some of the common damages that personal injury victims recover include:
- Medical expenses. Victims may have to pay for surgeries, medical transportation, pain medications, doctor visits, and rehabilitation services, depending on the nature of their injuries.
- Lost income. A victim’s rehabilitation journey may require them to take time off from work. The time away from work can result in lost income and benefits. A victim’s injuries can be so severe that they may never again perform their occupations comfortably, altering their financial futures.
- Pain and suffering. Victims can receive compensation for the physical and mental pain that their accidents caused. This can include the pain you feel from your injuries and long-term mental disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Permanent injuries. Your attorney can seek compensation for these seemingly immeasurable losses if you have catastrophic injuries with permanent effects.
Consult with a personal injury lawyer today
No one expects to be involved in an accident and suffer injuries. However, life happens. When life happens, you want to ensure that you are in the best hands possible. You want representation from a personal injury lawyer who meets your expectations and is capable of fighting on your behalf.
While the issues above are not the only questions you can ask your lawyer, they are a great start. These questions can help lead you to the personal injury lawyer you need for your particular case.
Contact a trusted car accident law firm immediately