Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer During a Free Consultation,
Before You Hire a Lawyer
By Philip L. Franckel, Esq.
If you have been hurt in an accident, you should speak to a lawyer immediately after your accident to protect your rights. You may be nervous about talking to a lawyer, but remember that you are doing the hiring and paying the fee! Serious injuries can result in significant compensation for both you and your lawyer. That makes you as important as a corporate client to your lawyer!
You’re the boss and you’re doing the hiring. Since this may be your first interview, here are a few questions you can ask a lawyer:
Q: Is my consultation free? (During your consultation, consider whether the lawyer: a) takes the time to answer all of your questions; and b) is able to answer your questions in a manner that you can understand.
Q: What rights do I have that need to be protected?
Q: Who will pay for medical treatment; physical therapy; drugs; transportation expenses; household help; lost income; property damage; and pain and suffering?
Q: What do I have to do to protect my rights to these claims? What forms and papers do I need to obtain? Where do I get these forms? Will you fill out all the forms for me? Will you help me with my claim for medical treatment? Will you help me with my property damage claim? What other claim letters need to be sent? How many insurance companies must be notified? Are there any additional charges for you to represent me for these claims?
Q: How much time do I have to protect my rights? Some things that must be done with time sensitive deadlines:
- Notify your insurance company: SHOULD BE DONE IMMEDIATELY
- Begin investigation: SHOULD BE DONE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
- File Accident Report with the Department of Motor Vehicles (car accident. motorcycle accident & truck accident): USUALLY MUST BE FILED WITHIN A NUMBER OF DAYS
- File No-Fault Claim (car accident – if applicable): USUALLY MUST BE FILED WITHIN A NUMBER OF DAYS
- File claim for Lost Wages: USUALLY MUST BE FILED WITHIN A NUMBER OF DAYS
- File claim for State Disability: USUALLY MUST BE FILED WITHIN A NUMBER OF DAYS
- File Notice of Claim (if applicable): USUALLY 90 DAY DEADLINE
- File claim with all defendant insurance companies (there may be several insurance companies providing coverage for just one car in a car accident or for a premises in a slip and fall accident): SHOULD BE DONE WITHIN DAYS OF ACCIDENT
- File claim with State insurance fund for uninsured drivers (car accident, motorcycle accident & pedestrian accident): USUALLY MUST BE FILED WITHIN A NUMBER OF DAYS
- File SUM/UM claim (car accident, motorcycle accident & pedestrian accident): USUALLY MUST BE FILED WITHIN A NUMBER OF DAYS
Q: if you take my case, will you be working on my case or will another lawyer? If it is another lawyer, is it a lawyer in your office or a different office?
Q: Will I be able to speak with you directly or do I have to speak to a paralegal when I have a question or to find out the status of my case?
Q: Are you a member of the state Trial Lawyers Association or the American Association for Justice (formally the Association of Trial Lawyers of America)?
Q: How long have you and your law firm been practicing personal injury law?
Q: Do you practice primarily in the field of Personal Injury and accident cases?
Q: Is my personal injury case considered be complicated or complex litigation matter? If yes, do you handle complex litigation matters or is it better for you to refer me to another lawyer?
Q: Is my personal injury case considered a “subspecialty” (for instance, asbestos cases)? Do I need a different lawyer who handles this type of case?
Q: Do you have professional liability insurance? (Professional liability insurance also protects you, the accident victim, in case an error is made that damages your case.)
Q: When will I be charged? (Personal injury lawyers usually charge a contingency fee that is charged at the end of the case and only if you are successful.)
Q: How much will I be charged? (Personal injury lawyers usually charge 1/3 of the net amount recovered after expenses.)
Q: Will I be charged a legal fee if you do not recover money for me?
Q: Am I responsible for case expenses if you do not recover money for me?
Q: Are there any other alternatives to resolve my claim besides a lawsuit? Do you ever utilize mediation and arbitration? (Mediation and arbitration are useful tools to obtain a speedy and fair result.)
Q: Have you or your law firm done any trials?
Q: (If married) Is my spouse entitled to any of my settlement or money awarded? What happens if I get divorced?
Q: (If a child is injured) Which parent will bring the claim? Is the parent entitled to any money? What happens to my child’s settlement money?