Did you recently suffer an injury in a car accident, slip-and-fall, or some other preventable incident that someone else caused? If so, you probably know you need a Joliet personal injury lawyer. But how do you find the right one? By asking the right questions.
Questions to Ask a Prospective Personal Injury Lawyer
Below, we explore some key questions you should ask any prospective injury lawyer and the answers you should listen for during your search.
How Long Have You Been Practicing Personal Injury Law?
This question helps you gauge the lawyer’s experience level. When you ask a lawyer how long they have been practicing personal injury law, listen for a specific number of years. Experience matters because it often translates into a deeper understanding of the law and a better skill set for handling complex cases.
An experienced lawyer will likely have handled a wide range of personal injury cases and faced many different scenarios at the negotiating table and in the courtroom. Look for an answer that shows a substantial period of focus in personal injury law, as this indicates a significant depth of knowledge in the field.
Have You Handled Cases Similar to Mine Before?
Beyond broad experience, you want to know your lawyer knows the ins and outs of cases like yours. Ask this question to determine if the lawyer has a relevant background.
The answer you’re looking for should provide specific examples of similar cases they have handled, demonstrating their familiarity with the nuances of such scenarios.
If they have successfully handled similar cases, they should know the strategies that work and the pitfalls to avoid. A reassuring answer would describe the approaches a lawyer used in cases similar to yours and the outcomes they achieved.
What Is Your Track Record of Success in These Cases?
This question focuses on the lawyer’s effectiveness. When you ask about their track record of success, listen for specific details about the outcomes they have achieved in similar cases.
A good lawyer will discuss their successes and even their less successful cases, providing a balanced view of their experience.
The answer should include percentages or numbers that reflect their win rate or successful settlements. This gives you a clearer picture of what you can realistically expect based on their past performance.
Can You Provide References from Past Clients?
Asking for references is a way to verify a lawyer’s reliability and professionalism. You want a confident yes, followed by an offer to provide contact details of past clients who can speak about their experience.
Past client references are a valuable resource for getting firsthand information about working with the lawyer. Be cautious if the lawyer hesitates or refuses to provide references, as this might indicate a lack of confidence in their track record or client satisfaction.
How Do You Charge for Your Services?
Your prospective lawyer should be absolutely transparent with you about the way they will bill you for handling your case. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they receive a percentage of the settlement or award they win for you.
You want the lawyer to specify this percentage and explain any other costs you might encounter. The lawyer should also clarify if their contingency fee changes if the case goes to trial.
A good response will include a detailed breakdown of the fee structure, ensuring you have no surprises regarding payment.
Will I Need to Pay Any Case-Related Costs if We Lose?
You’ll also want to understand your financial obligations if your case does not succeed. Ask the lawyer about your responsibility for costs besides their legal fees in the event of a loss. Listen for a clear answer about whether or not you will be liable for expenses like court fees, document fees, or expert witness fees.
Some lawyers cover these costs themselves, while others might require you to pay. A transparent lawyer will explain this policy upfront so you are fully aware of the potential financial risk. If a prospective attorney hems and haws, they may plan to stick you with the bill if your case goes south.
How Long Do You Expect My Case to Take?
Understanding the timeline of your case will help you set expectations and plan for your future. When you ask a lawyer about the likely duration of your case, listen for a realistic estimate and a range of possibilities. The lawyer should base this estimate on their experience with similar cases.
They should explain factors that could lengthen or shorten the process, such as the complexity of your case, the cooperation of the other party, and court schedules. Be cautious of lawyers who promise a quick resolution, as legal proceedings often have unforeseen delays.
A trustworthy lawyer will give you a general timeline while emphasizing the unpredictable nature of legal processes.
Will You Personally Handle My Case? Who Else Will Work on It?
Knowing who will handle your case gives you insight into the level of attention it will receive.
Ask the lawyer if they will personally manage your case or if other team members will pitch in. Listen for a response that outlines who will be working on your case and their roles.
A reliable lawyer will introduce you to the team members who will work on your injury case, explaining their qualifications and how they will contribute. This ensures you know who to contact for updates and clarifies the level of attention and support your case will receive.
How Often Will You Update Me on My Case’s Progress?
This question helps you understand the communication frequency you can expect from your lawyer. A good answer should clearly outline a regular communication schedule, such as weekly or bi-weekly updates. The lawyer should mention how they will provide these updates, whether by phone, email, or in-person meetings.
Consistent communication is key in a legal case, and your lawyer should commit to keeping you informed about significant developments and decisions in your case. Be cautious of lawyers who do not commit to regular updates, as this could indicate a lack of attention to your case.
Can You Estimate the Value of My Case?
An estimate of your case’s value helps you set realistic expectations. Listen for an answer that accounts for various factors like medical expenses, income losses, and the long-term consequences of your injury.
A knowledgeable lawyer will explain that, while exact values are challenging to predict, their experience allows them to provide a rough estimate based on similar cases.
The lawyer should also clarify that the final settlement or judgment can vary due to negotiation dynamics and case-specific factors. Be wary of lawyers who promise extremely high compensation without a thorough analysis of your case.
What Possible Legal Strategies Will You Use for My Case?
Understanding a prospective lawyer’s likely approach to handling your case will help you decide whether they’re right for you.
A good lawyer will discuss different strategies they will tailor to the specifics of your case. They should explain if they plan to negotiate for a settlement or will take the case to trial if necessary. They should also tell you how willing they are to go to court and their success rate there.
Listen for a strategy that considers the strengths and weaknesses of your case and how they plan to address potential challenges. A thoughtful answer will demonstrate the lawyer’s adaptability and readiness to pursue the best course of action for your situation.
How Do You Communicate with Clients?
This question aims to clarify the lawyer’s communication style and methods. The lawyer should provide a clear answer about their preferred communication channels, whether it’s phone, email, text, or in-person meetings. They should also mention their policy on responding to inquiries, like a 24-hour turnaround window.
Effective communication is a cornerstone of a solid lawyer-client relationship, and your lawyer should show a commitment to being accessible and responsive to your needs. A vague or non-committal answer about communication practices might indicate that it will be hard to stay informed on your case.
How Busy Is Your Current Caseload?
Knowing the lawyer’s current caseload helps you anticipate how much attention they can give your case. The prospective attorney should honestly inform you of their current workload and assure you that they have the time and resources to dedicate to your case.
They should express confidence in managing their caseload effectively without compromising the quality of their service to you. Be cautious if the lawyer seems to have too much work to handle at once, as this could affect their ability to focus adequately on your case.
How Do You Handle Negotiations with Insurance Companies?
A prospective lawyer’s approach to dealing with insurance companies is another important factor. You want the lawyer to explain their strategy for communicating and negotiating with insurance companies thoroughly.
They should talk about their experience in dealing with tough negotiators and their ability to get results without the time and expense of a trial.
A competent lawyer will describe their plan to use a well-crafted strategy based on solid evidence and legal knowledge. They should also indicate their readiness to stand firm against lowball offers.
A good answer will reflect a balance of aggressiveness and diplomacy that suits your needs and preferences.
How Do You Approach Settlements Versus Going to Trial?
This question gives you insight into the lawyer’s decision-making process in resolving your case. Ideally, the lawyer will explain their approach to evaluating whether a case should settle or go to trial
They should discuss analyzing the risks and benefits of both options, considering factors like the potential recovery amount, the time commitment, and the unpredictability of a trial outcome.
Listen for an answer that shows a willingness to fight for the best outcome, whether that means settling for a fair amount or going to trial when necessary. A lawyer who is too eager to settle might be unwilling to put in the effort necessary for a trial or uncertain about their abilities in court.
Do You Have Trial Experience?
Any personal injury case could end up in court, and you want to know that a prospective lawyer is prepared for this contingency. They should confidently confirm their trial experience and provide examples of cases they have handled in court. They should also discuss their comfort and proficiency in a courtroom setting.
Having a lawyer with trial experience is essential, as it ensures they can competently represent you in front of a judge or jury if your case goes to trial. A lawyer with no trial experience might not be able to represent you as effectively in court, potentially affecting the outcome of your case.