Most personal injury fee agreements are based upon the contingency fee agreement. This means that there is no legal fee unless there is a monetary recovery. If there is merit to your personal injury case, rest assured you will find an attorney to take your case on a contingency fee agreement. Contingency fee agreements are negotiable and typically range between 25% and 40%. The stronger the case and more severe the damages, the more negotiable the fee agreement will be.
Will I be responsible for any advanced case costs at all if we lose?
In addition to the contingency fee, lawyers also charge any costs advanced. The costs can be substantial, and are almost always deducted from the client's share. Make sure your lawyer takes the case whereby you are not responsible for the costs, even if you are unsuccessful. Make sure to ask for a guarantee that you will not be responsible for any out-of-pocket expenses.
Have you tried these types of personal injury cases before?
Lawyers are hungry for personal injury lawsuits. There is immense competition and advertising. Do not assume just based upon advertising that the lawyer has handled or tried your type of case. Ask for your lawyer's experience and results. Ask to speak to former clients, if possible. You need to control the consultation. Do not be intimidated or bullied by the lawyer. You are the one hiring, remember that.
Do you have the time necessary to actually work on my case now?
Be very careful about going to the name everyone else knows. Lawyers love to get clients signed up and then sit on the cases, while they sign up additional new cases. This is certainly not all lawyers, but it happens all too often. Lawyers will sign up a client and then wait 12-18 months to file suit, just prior to the statute of limitations. That delay is harming you. It is delaying money that you may be entitled to. Ask the lawyer if he will have the full time necessary to devote to your case? I would ask the lawyer how many other cases he has pending and how much of his time does he plan on devoting to your specific case?
When will my lawsuit be filed?
Demand specific answers. Many lawyers do not like to work on specific cases until there is a deadline. I have seen all too often, viable lawsuits sit for a year or two because there was no pending statute of limitations. If you have a lawsuit, I am a strong believer that it can be very beneficial to file suit sooner than later. Unless there is a justifiable delay in filing, I would ask if your case will be filed within 2 weeks?
Will my case actually go to trial? And if so when?
Your lawyer better be expecting every single case to go to trial. If your lawyer tells you that your case is going to settle, be very cautious about what you are settling for. It is hard to be properly compensated if you are not prepared to go trial. Ask for time frames. It will be hard to give exact answers, but these are relevant questions. Many personal injury cases can be resolved within 2-3 years, sometimes less.
What is my case worth?
Ask this question. Your lawyer will have some idea. It is true that it can be a broad range based upon discovery, liability and unknown medical issues. At the very least, your lawyer should be able to provide a spectrum and explain the unknowns to you. Use your own judgment. Do not be fooled by lawyers who make promises that seem unrealistic.
Will you be the actual attorney handling my case?:
Be careful about the meet and greet, and then never seeing that lawyer again. Find out specifically who will be handling your case? Who will be your contact? Who will you be speaking to on the telephone? etc. Be careful about meeting the persons in charge, only to later realize that an associate will be handling your case.
What will my participation in the lawsuit be?
This is a very important question. Lawsuits are about teamwork. Make sure you understand your role and what is expected (or not expected) before hiring your lawyer. If you are very passionate about your case, you may want to stay more involved. Will your lawyer let you? (Some will and some won't).
Will you get me more money than other attorneys and why?
Personal injury lawsuits are typically about money. Sometimes, you'll be in a position to make change, but a majority of the cases focus on obtaining the maximum recovery for you. You need to hire the personal injury lawyer that gives you that best opportunity. You only get to try your case once. You need to make the most of it. It is your lawsuit, and you need to be prepared to ask tough questions of any lawyer you are considering to hire.