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7 Questions to Ask Prospective Injury Lawyers

Los Angeles car accident scene.
A woman in a car crash in Los Angeles talks on a cell phone.

On average throughout a person’s lifetime, they can become involved in one or two lawsuits that involve personal injury. It is usually difficult for the average person to assess the credentials of a personal injury lawyer to make a sound decision. Typically, a person will only hire the very first lawyer they talk to in an advertisement they have seen or from the yellow pages. There is a better method for making a much wiser decision on the right personal injury lawyer you should hire.

Below you will find seven questions that have been compiled to help establish a conversation with a potential lawyer. The answers to these questions will provide vital information about a prospective attorney and the process they use to handle tort, or “negligence” cases. This info will help to arm you with the knowledge needed to ensure you hire the right attorney.

1. How much will pursue litigation cost and will there be a charge for interest?

Any costs the lawyer may have incurred in pursuing your case will have to be paid before receiving a settlement, as well the lawyer’s fees. The way a case is handled can vary significantly from one representative to the next. For this reason, you will want to find out what expenses the expert thinks will be incurred. This figure will need to be factored into the amount recovered on the case.

2. Of all the facts they handle, what percentage is personal injury cases

It requires a specific set of skills for an attorney to manage an individual injury case adequately, and many general practitioners do not have the skills necessary. While several lawyers may include personal injury cases in their advertisements, not many of them handle these types of cases on a regular basis. It is essential to find out the percentage of your potential attorney’s docket includes cases involving personal injury. You may want to consider another attorney if this percentage is not much higher than 50%.

3. Will you handle my case yourself or will it be referred out?

The reason a lot of lawyers advertise that they handle cases involving personal injury when they do not control the cases themselves is because they can be precious. It is vital that you make sure the lawyer you are asking questions of about your case will be the one handling the case, rather than passing it to another attorney and collecting a fee for doing so.

4. What can I expect the contingency fee percentage to be?

A majority of all personal injury lawyers practice on arrangements of contingency fees. The usual rate for a contingency fee is somewhere between 33% and 50%, and as the case develops the percentage usually gets higher according to the tiered system they have in place. Although a majority of lawyers will typically not negotiate this percentage rate, it will give you the chance to compare lawyers. If you hire someone who takes a lower fee, beware they may have to take on more cases, to make up for any losses. This situation means you may get less attention to your position and a lower settlement. Decide what you want, an excellent, aggressive law firm, or if you are more concerned about getting a higher percentage of less of overall yield.

5. In the last few years have you first-chair tried a case to a jury verdict, and what were the results of the trial, and DOES IT EVEN MATTER?

Because a large number of cases settle, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing when a lawyer has not represented a case throughout a trial to the verdict in the last few years. A lawyer can still even be just as prepared to take on your case if he has lost a few cases he has taken, as opposed to having won them. “Defense attorneys don’t let cases get to trial that they can lose,” is what you will hear many an insurance adjustor say.

In many cases, a great lawyer forces a settlement that favors the client, by prosecuting the case and being a better tactician, thereby avoiding an expensive trial with a potentially hostile jury. So try and take a look at motions they have filed, or won, by going to the website, for example. Then we’ll try and see what kind of work the lawyer your considering does for you. Did they ever clerk for a judge or justice? Have they successfully won appeals or petitions for writ? Look at some of their verdicts and settlements to see what kinds of awards they get with or without trial.

It’s not that important to be specific when asking about cases where the attorney was listed as the first chair (lead attorney). This status is because it is not uncommon for lawyers to enter into associations with other, other lawyers who all have specific tasks. For example, there may be one or two litigators. Their job is to deal with law and motion, make appearances to argue them, take depositions, and work the case up. These are the backbone of the situation.

These are the people who win the case to avoid a trial, and who make it strong for trial. There may be a trial lawyer who is typical preparing for, or in the trial as well. In recent years, Plaintiff’s lawyers have divided up their fees, to put more hands on a file and at the same time, avoiding having to pay a salaried employee. In PI law, it is feast or famine. So don’t be that caught up in how much trial experience one attorney has over another. An appellate lawyer doesn’t go to trial.

But they are outstanding at protecting the record for appeals and writs, as well as oral argument. I would prefer someone who can do it all good. But in the end, it is near impossible to do an entire work up on a case by yourself and still do an excellent job. So a vast reservoir of associates and friends can build the value of your potential claim. Also, nowadays, LA Courts require the parties to pay for their court reporter and other fees that are off the charts. And the courts are still broke. Cases have to settle, or the costs and waiting period to get a courtroom, are unsustainable for most victims and insurance companies alike.

6. How long is the average time it typically takes to resolve cases similar to mine?

The amount of time it takes personal injury attorneys to resolve a case can vary a great deal. A shorter period isn’t always the best. You, the Plaintiff, will often receive more money when you hold out longer. However, there is a big difference between actively working on a personal injury case and choosing to hold out and doing nothing and just sitting on a client’s file.

You will want to find out when the representative expects to file the case when the first depositions are expected to take place, etc. This deadline will provide you with a good idea on whether he or she has plans to begin working on the case immediately, or if it will sit around for six months while nothing gets done.

7. What is the value range for a trial and a settlement for my case?

It is not uncommon for members of the bar to hesitate in supplying case value estimations. The reason for this is that there are several factors at play. A lawyer cannot go off half cooked and throw around numbers that determine the substantial value. However, when it comes to an estimated value, they should at least be able to explain a best and worst case scenario.

  • The ethical rules mandate an attorney not express a value of a case, so don’t think your lawyer is a jerk.

Question the potentially retained counsel on any underlying assumptions that exist as a basis for the estimates they do provide. This particular issue can give you two things. Not only will it supply you with a good idea of the worth of your case.

But the precise manner and details the lawyer uses to explain this can give you an idea on the amount of skill and knowledge he has for handling cases involving personal injury. You get a chance to size them up. Get it? If you want to learn more, you can contact me for a free legal consultation at (213) 596-9642.


Michael Ehline - PI Law Tutorials

Michael Ehline is a highly trained personal injury attorney in Los Angeles, CA. He writes educational articles to help injured consumers.

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