How do I find the right personal injury or medical malpractice lawyer?
Many lawyers are general practitioners who can handle a wide variety of cases. Your objective should be to find a lawyer with the most experience with the type of problem that you have. Ask the lawyer for their "track record" with cases like yours. Look at their web sites to see if they have successfully handled such matters. You certainly do not want a generalist cutting his or her teeth on your case.
How much is my personal injury case worth?
In many cases, the value of a claim is reduced by the comparative negligence of the person bringing the claim. Many of these factors are not known until the lawyer investigates the claim or even begins the litigation. The attorney's job is to advise the client as to whether an offer of settlement is fair and then let the client decide.
How long does it take for my case to resolve?
An experienced lawyer will be able to give you a general idea as to how long the case may take to resolve. Generally speaking, the more complex the case, the longer it takes. Sometimes a relatively simple case can take a long time to resolve because of disputed liability or medical causation issues.
Most lawyers will not attempt to resolve a case until the client has reached a medical end result. That is the point at which the person is either healed or has reached a plateau where a physician has reported that the patient will not improve any further. This is because the lawyer needs to know the future consequences, if any, of the injury. Your lawyer should be able to tell you at the beginning of the case approximately long it may take to resolve. Since every claim is unique, there is no set rule.
A straightforward case could take 6 months to resolve. A complex case could take 5 - 7 years.
Will my personal injury or medical malpractice case go to trial?
Most personal injury and medical malpractice cases are resolved by settlement. However, until the lawyer knows the details of the accident or occurrence which gave rise to the injury and the nature and extent of the injuries, the lawyer cannot state with any degree of certainty how long the case will take or whether the case may go to trial. The most important factor is how long it takes for the person to reach a medical end result. The value of a case cannot be known until the client is done treating for his or her injuries.
A lawyer who takes every case with the belief that it will have to go to trial consistently gets the best result by way of settlement. Lawyers who only settle cases develop a reputation as someone who will take any amount of money, just to get ride of the case. Look for a lawyer who has tried cases.
How much will it cost me to have my case handled?
Most lawyers take personal injury and medical malpractice cases on a contingency fee basis, which means they are only paid when the case is settled. The usual practice in personal injury cases is for the lawyer to take a fee of one-third out of the recovery. Most lawyers can tell a client in advance if the client has to pay expenses up front. Otherwise, the case should not cost the client any money out of pocket.
Beware the medical malpractice lawyer who charges a flat fee to review your case for merit. Some lawyers will ask the client for $5,000 to $10,000 to review a case. In all probability, that lawyer is making a living reviewing cases, instead of handling and recovering on selective cases with merit.
What is the process once I hire a personal injury or medical malpractice lawyer?
At the beginning of the case, the lawyer will interview you concerning the incident, your background, and any relevant factors to the case. You will sign authorizations so the attorney may obtain your medical records. The lawyer will also review and have you sign a contingent fee agreement which explains the terms of the representation.
The next phase of the case is the initial investigation to determine both the facts of the incident that and the nature of the injuries suffered. Following the investigation, the lawyer will send a claim letter to the responsible party and establish contact with their insurance company. If a law suit is filed, the client will answer written questions, give a deposition and testify at trial.