Many attorneys who represent plaintiffs during civil lawsuits practice personal injury law. Car accidents, medical negligence, slip and falls, product liability, and workplace injuries all fall under the personal injury umbrella. Accident lawyers usually recover their fees once you receive a settlement or judgment, and they commonly help claimants with more than litigation.
Experienced personal injury firms often assist their clients with finding doctors, arbitrating insurance disputes, and post-settlement lien negotiations. Finding the right lawyer for your accident case means finding an advocate dedicated to addressing all your injury-related needs and concerns. Consider taking advantage of most personal injury lawyers’ free consultations to ask the following important questions about your case.
How much do you charge? How do you recover your fees and expenses?
Most prospective clients report being primarily concerned with their potential lawyer’s fee structure. Personal injury attorneys understand that clients recovering from debilitating medical conditions can seldom afford to pay them upfront or even cover basic litigation costs. As such, they often accept viable cases on a contingency fee basis.
A contingency fee agreement (a delayed payment contract) lets injury lawyers claim a portion of their clients’ gross financial recovery as their fees and reimburse their firms for any pre-paid litigation and claims expenses.
You should ask prospective counsel about the following fee-related concerns to ensure they put any agreed terms in writing:
- The percentage of the contingency fee charged (typically around 33 percent, unless regulated by state law)
- How the attorney calculates the fee; for example: before subtracting expenses, after paying liens, or off-the-top of the gross settlement
- How the lawyer collects their fees if you change law firms
- The scope of the representation; more specifically: insurance negotiations only, through litigation, or including appeals
- Whether the firm will front litigation costs
- Any fees or costs owed if the attorney cannot recover damages or rejects the case following an investigation
- How the firm resolves fee disputes
The retainer agreement generally controls the scope of the representation, legal fees, and litigation costs. However, some states limit the percentage of specific contingency fees in medical malpractice and related litigation. Do not be afraid to ask questions if you do not understand the proposed contract, or ask another lawyer to review it.
What happens if I cannot get the damages that I want?
Personal injury firms generally conduct a preliminary investigation into the facts surrounding an accident before offering representation. Most state bars and court rules require plaintiffs’ lawyers to verify each case’s basic facts before agreeing to litigate. Provided the attorney accepted your case on a contingency fee basis, and you complied with the firm’s reasonable discovery requests, you should not owe any attorneys’ fees if the lawyer cannot recover compensation on your behalf.
Clients must generally approve any insurance settlement offers and may reject offers they deem too low. However, special rules may apply if an attorney recommends you accept a reasonable offer and you refuse. This situation could result in changing lawyers or a future fee dispute. Additionally, clients may decline to reimburse firms for litigation fees and costs when they did not obtain an expected judgment. You should discuss these agreement nuances with counsel and request the firm set forth your obligations if the litigation does not produce the desired result.
What’s my personal injury claim worth?
Experienced injury lawyers can generally speculate, without guaranteeing, the worth of individual claims based on the facts of the accident, your medical records, and comparable cases. An attorney may then recommend the best course of action depending on your needs, such as a quick settlement or assertive litigation. Numerous factors contribute to the value of any eventual settlement or judgment obtained in personal injury cases. However, you may ask a lawyer to review the evidence and give you a ballpark estimate of your case’s value based on similar settlements.
What’s the maximum insurance value of my case?
Estimates indicate that almost 95 percent of personal injury cases settle, typically with a liable insurer, before going to trial. You should ask an attorney to estimate your claim’s overall insurance value by calculating the maximum reimbursement available under a liability insurance policy. For example, some states do not require drivers to carry auto insurance, while others only require minimal liability policies. If your case’s value substantially exceeds the maximum insurance available on your claim, an attorney may examine the defendant’s assets. These two factors combined often give injured claimants a realistic picture of their potential recovery.
Do you have experience successfully recovering damages in similar cases? If so, can you provide some examples?
Do not be afraid to ask prospective attorneys about their experience handling similar cases, especially if you’ve suffered from a traumatic brain injury or other disabling condition. Without revealing confidential client information, personal injury lawyers can typically give you examples of how they handled comparable cases and the eventual verdict or settlement. Many former clients might also speak with prospective clients about their experience with the firm or provide online testimonials.
Furthermore, you could ask the lawyer for the citations to publicly available personal injury cases they handled to verify their work quality. Ask lawyers to be upfront about their experience, skills, or confidence handling similar claims. If an attorney does not give you clear examples or admits that your claim presents unique facts to their experience, consider speaking with another personal injury firm.
Am I entitled to compensation for my injuries?
Only a qualified lawyer in your jurisdiction should answer this question. Do not ask insurance adjusters about your case’s value or viability, as they cannot give you legal advice. Instead, you should consult with local counsel to discuss your case’s facts and ask if the law permits financial compensation.
Personal injury attorneys will generally review the following evidence to determining whether you have a viable negligence or malpractice claim:
- The police or incident report
- Photographs and videos
- Witness statements
- Medical records
- Insurance investigation records
- Your statements
If the facts indicate that another person or entity unlawfully caused you harm, you might have a viable claim for damages. You should, however, ask counsel about any limitations imposed by state law. Some states limit claimants’ pain and suffering losses or only allow injured claimants to file litigation after receiving a severe injury. You should also consider asking an attorney to review any documents signed after the accident to ensure you did not waive litigation rights without your knowledge.
How long will it take to recover damages?
Compassionate legal professionals understand that sudden accidents often result in job loss, lost income, and substantial medical bills. While you may recover compensation for many of these direct losses, it may take over a year to obtain damages. Experienced personal injury attorneys might look at your case and determine how long it may generally take to settle or litigate similar claims.
Complex medical malpractice cases might take years to settle, while a lawyer might recover compensation for a rear-end car crash within a few months. Be honest with a prospective attorney about when you need the money and in what amount. A law firm might reach out to liability insurers and negotiate a quick but reduced settlement or recommend litigating your claims to maximize your financial recovery.
What kind of damages can I obtain after an accident?
Gathering evidence of your financial and personal losses after an accident often helps prove your injury claims’ value.
Consider asking an attorney in your state what damages the law allows. In most jurisdictions, compensable losses include:
- Reduced or lost income resulting from the injuries, including lost healthcare benefits, retirement contributions, promotions, raises, and paid vacation time
- Medical bills, including hospital expenses, nursing care, and physical therapy costs
- Pharmaceutical expenses and medical equipment
- Medical mileage and transportation to doctor appointments
- Loss of previous recreational enjoyments, such as playing the piano, walking the dog, or working out
- Household help and home nursing care
- Pain and suffering damages, including any mental anguish, frustration, or depression associated with the injuries
Many states also allow loss of consortium claims, which permit the spouses of injured individuals to recover damages for lost emotional companionship and for having to undertake additional household responsibilities.
Will you assist me with disability applications, insurance demands, and collections agents?
While not every personal injury firm offers these services, many do. Lawyers understand that serious injuries often involve more than liability determinations. Claimants often need help filing SSDI applications, appealing coverage denials, fielding calls from medical creditors and collection agencies, and getting medical records and waivers from treating doctors. Injury attorneys often allow clients to come to them with any questions and legal needs related to their claims.
How long do I have to file personal injury litigation?
You must file personal injury litigation within the applicable statute of limitations in your state. The time period does not pause or reset if you’re still treating the injuries or working to settle your claims with an insurer. Do not let this deadline expire, as it often results in the complete waiver of all viable claims stemming from the defendant’s negligent conduct. With limited exceptions involving minors or medical guardians, the clock begins ticking on the accident date.
Every state has various statutes of limitations for different legal claims. Some jurisdictions require legal action within one year, and others give claimants up to six years. Even if it seems the deadline expired, you should still discuss your case with local counsel. Legislative exceptions and certain legal principles exist that might revive expired claims.
Who can I sue after being injured in an accident?
Clients often walk into law offices without actually knowing who (if anyone) to blame for their injuries. Multiple parties may bear liability for negligently causing an accident, including careless drivers, property owners, employers, doctors, and product manufacturers. Attorneys can generally explain to clients the general liability laws applicable to their cases and request information about the owner of a particular vehicle or land. If you present the facts of your case to a local personal injury firm, they may compile a list of parties potentially liable for your injuries.
What do you think my net personal injury recovery will be?
Claimants and their families must engage with their lawyers throughout the claims process, which often includes signing necessary documents, responding to discovery requests, attending depositions, and communicating honestly with the firm. As such, they may wish to understand the real value of these efforts. Claimants should ask prospective counsel about the amount of money they will likely take home after a case settles.
An attorney could help you understand how a gross settlement of $100,000 might only result in a take-home check of $58,000 after paying legal fees, litigation costs, and medical creditors. The right personal injury lawyer should give you a reasonable estimate of your case’s net value based on their prior experience. Speaking with multiple firms in your area could confirm or dispute this amount and help you make the right decision for your family.
What’s my role during personal injury litigation?
Many clients neglect to ask this question, and some firms do not make client obligations clear in retainer agreements. Failing to establish your role and expectations often results in fee disputes and litigation delays. While attorneys do a lot for their clients, confidentiality and healthcare privacy laws often require clients to work side-by-side with their lawyers.
Expect the following potential client obligations in personal injury cases:
- Receiving necessary medical treatments
- Signing powers of attorney or multiple HIPAA waivers
- Keeping the firm informed of all your treating doctors and medical appointments, including the name and address of each office
- Retaining receipts of all compensable expenses, including cleaning services and pharmacy costs
- No longer speaking with insurers or others about your case without your lawyer’s consent
- Diligently and searching promptly for any evidence requested by your attorney, such as three years of tax records, family vacation photos, or text messages received after the accident
- Taking precautions on social media
- Attending depositions, court hearings, and trials
- Keeping your address and contact information up to date
When clients and their lawyers work well together, the collaboration frequently results in quicker and higher personal injury settlements. Contact Brauns Law, PC today!