Hiring a personal injury attorney is a major decision. This individual will have the responsibility of securing compensation for your damages in a personal injury claim. Many of these cases can become complicated legal battles between you and another party. You must take the time to find an attorney with the necessary skills, experience, and resources to handle all aspects of your claim and navigate you toward a satisfactory outcome. Consider the following questions and be sure to ask them of any potential West Virginia personal injury attorney.
The first step in determining whether an attorney is the right choice for your claim is to ask about the attorney’s experience.
- How long have you practiced law? Find out how long your attorney has handled personal injury cases. While many new attorneys are talented individuals capable of providing great legal counsel, it is always best to find an attorney with a decent level of experience.
- How many cases like mine have you won? Ask the attorney if your claim resonates with any past claims he or she has handled. The attorney should be able to compare your case with previous cases and offer insights into how he or she approaches this type of claim.
- Do you have any special credentials or certifications? Some attorneys complete additional education or specialized legal training, making them the preferred option among clients who expect a certain kind of representation. For example, a plaintiff with a personal injury claim will likely want an attorney who has some level of certification in personal injury law from a state certification board.
Questions About the Legal Process
After ascertaining the attorney’s experience, you want to ask several questions specific to your situation.
- Do you think I have a case? An attorney will likely not waste any time on a frivolous or unwinnable claim. The attorney should offer a realistic interpretation of your legal options and let you know the strength of your claim before offering to represent you.
- How long will it take to win a settlement or jury verdict? The legal process can take much longer than many personal injury plaintiffs expect. Ask the attorney how long he or she thinks it will take to reach a resolution to your claim.
- What damages can I claim? You may have some idea of the damages available in your personal injury claim, and an experienced attorney can help uncover additional types of compensation you may have overlooked. Ask the attorney for his or her estimate of the value of your claim.
- What can I expect from your legal team? Do you want to speak with your attorney directly about all your case developments, or will the attorney assign a paralegal or legal assistant to work as your primary point of contact during your case?
Your Obligations as a Client
Attorneys make money by representing their clients, but it is important for a prospective client to ensure the cost of legal representation will not outweigh his or her recovery.
- How do you bill your time? Many attorneys charge by the hour, usually in increments of 15 minutes, and legal fees can add up very quickly with this type of billing. Make sure you are comfortable with the attorney’s billing structure and remember that your case may take quite a long time to reach a conclusion.
- Am I responsible for your expenses? Some attorneys will charge their clients for expenses related to travel, document management and copying, postage, and other small expenses. Find out which expenses your attorney intends to bill in your case.
Many personal injury attorneys offer contingency fee billing as a means of attracting new clients and ensuring those who need legal representation can secure it regardless of their finances. A contingency fee comes out of the final settlement or case award as a percentage. For example, a personal injury lawyer charges a contingency fee of 30%. The plaintiff wins a $100,000 settlement, entitling the lawyer to $30,000 as the contingency fee. Many personal injury attorneys also offer free consultations to potential new clients, so consider taking advantage of these offers and take time to find an attorney in whom you feel confident about your claim.