If you are looking for a personal injury lawyer near you, there are a few questions you should ask before hiring an attorney. Here we will break down the most important questions to ask.
First, you must keep in mind that not all attorneys handle the same type of law. You will want to find a personal injury lawyer near you that can assist in the type of claim you have. Making sure you choose the right lawyer can make or break your case from the get-go. One thing to note is that you are on a time deadline. Because of the statute of limitations, you must hire an attorney as quickly as possible.
Now that you are on the hunt, you may notice that you are getting mail solicitations begging for your business. You may even feel pulled in many directions as the confusion of whom to hire sets in.
The questions below do not cover every angle of every situation, but they will help provide you with a foundation for discussion to have with a prospective attorney to help the process be less stressful.
Who will handle and work my case?
Attorneys are busy, and they stay busy for a reason. They have years of experience in the law and fighting for their client’s rights. Because of this, more than likely they will not be the one working behind the scenes of your case. In most situations, a paralegal or a junior staff member works as an investigator and a detail gatherer. You will want to know up front who you will be working with on the details of your case. Ask up front who this will be and meet with them at the beginning of the case. Regardless of whether the attorney will work the case from start to finish, or you will work with a paralegal, the questions below will help you make an informed decision regarding who to hire for your situation.
How long have you practiced law?
This question seems like a given since it is an attorney. However, you must treat the first initial meeting as a professional job applicant. Just with any other hiring process, finding out their credentials, tenure in the space and knowledge to back up their experience is what will set them apart from other attorneys.
Just because a Louisiana lawyer passes the bar exam, they are technically qualified to handle any legal case. However, do not assume all attorneys have the same experience handling the type of case you are involved with just because they have passed the bar exam. Look for a lawyer with ten or more years’ experience in your specific situation. You would not want to hire a doctor right out of school, so why would you hire an attorney that is green and new to law? You need the experience to help win your case.
How experienced are you in accident injury law?
While most attorneys have experience in all areas of practice, one thing you will want to clarify is how devoted their practice is to personal injury and what type of cases they have taken on and won in the past. Do they have a wide range of slip and fall accidents, nursing home abuse, car wrecks, medical malpractice, liability claims? Is their practice devoted 50% to personal injury, less or more? The higher the percentage, the more experience they should have.
What types of cases do you handle?
Many attorneys handle various types of law and practice areas. Some list the practice area on their ads or website. Most of the time, attorneys that have experience in bankruptcy, criminal law, or family law, also practice in other areas including personal injury. Some attorneys even focus in one type of law over another and seek out all kinds of cases to build their portfolio of services.
If your claim is specific to an auto injury, pay close attention to the experience they have in this area.
Once you narrow down the types of cases, if they have the experience, go right into asking how successful were these cases. Pay close attention to their success rate. This means what percentage of cases did they win or lose. Ask for a few case examples if need be.
What rights do I have as a client of your firm?
Now that you have narrowed down the experience, you want to start talking about your specific case. First and foremost, it is important to understand what rights you have within the practice you choose to work on your injury case. Each attorney should have written policies and procedures in place that outline how you will be treated as a client, and how updates to your case will be handled. Ask specifically about a “Bill of Rights” and ask to see a copy. As you contact multiple personal injury attorneys, keep a list of the practices that actually have a type of “Bill of Rights,” as they should be the front runners as you whittle down your list of contenders.
Do they carry malpractice insurance? Will they provide you with a copy?
While everyone can make a mistake, even attorneys, it is important to know how the mistake will be handled. Malpractice insurance is not mandated in Louisiana like other states. Because of this, if the attorney does carry malpractice insurance, that is a clear sign that they care for their clients and want to protect them at all costs. Even against their own human error.
Does the firm off guarantees?
Client satisfaction is typically every business end goal. A law firm that offers a guarantee tends to lean towards a healthy professionalism with years of experience. Make sure to find out what the guarantee warrants, how will you be compensated in the case if you are not happy with your experience or satisfied with how your case is being handled. Many attorneys are entitled to file a “lien” against the case if a client was to leave the firm for various reasons. Make sure you know what your guarantee is if you decide to leave the firm or need to hire a different attorney.
What is the fee for service?
You will need to make sure that the fee for services rendered is clear at the beginning of the case. Many times, there are the costs of the case that you may have to bear, filing fees with the court, traveling costs, sheriff service costs, postage, and even reporter fees, just to name a few. These are fees born to you regardless of the outcome of the case. Each attorney should provide a copy of an exact fee agreement at the beginning of your case. Make sure to review it before signing as you will need to fully understand what is being charged on your behalf.
Take a moment to review these materials as well as the answers to the questions you ask, before determining an attorney is right for you.