Time is money, and never has this statement held more weight than when you decide to work with an attorney. The better prepared you are when you speak with your attorney, the better your attorney and staff can assess and prepare your case to get you the compensation you need to recover.
But before you can even get to that point, you need to select the right attorney to work with and for you. You need to find someone you can rely on to have an open and honest dialogue with someone who truly has your best interests in mind and at heart.
Don’t settle for the first attorney you Google. Do some research to determine your potential attorney’s qualifications and expertise. Additionally, take some time to learn their personality at the consultation to decide if they are someone you can reasonably and closely work with and trust.
To make the best decision for you, your case, and your family, you need to ask the right questions to find your perfect fit. Here are some example questions to ask your attorney prospect before hiring them to handle your car accident claim:
Alabama is an at-fault state, which is the standard for many states when it comes to car accidents or personal injury claims. This standard means that the person at fault for the accident is responsible for the resulting damages.
Liability insurance doesn’t cover your injuries or repairs to your car. Alabama does require policies with minimum coverage amounts for bodily injury, death, and destruction of property, but these amounts are minimal and may not be enough to compensate you adequately for your incurred damages.
Unlike many other states, though, Alabama also applies a contributory negligence standard. When applied as a defense by the defendant, this legal standard can potentially bar you from receiving compensation if you caused or contributed, even partially, to the accident.
Make sure you tell the attorney all the details of your car accident so they can give you an accurate evaluation of your case. A good attorney will not pursue a case that is not likely to succeed.
First, the attorney you hire needs to be eligible to practice law in the state where your car accident occurred. Next, you want to ensure any attorney you work with has not only extensive knowledge of the state laws governing your claim but that they also have expertise handling car accidents, specifically.
Personal injury law covers a variety of injuries not exclusive to injuries incurred in car accidents. Some of these injuries happen due to negligence, and some are intentional. Medical negligence or malpractice, product liability, slip and falls, dog bites and workplace accidents are all examples of personal injuries.
Your attorney should not only be familiar with the complex laws involved in personal injury claims but should also be well-versed in laws exclusive to car accident claims. You want someone who’s already accumulated several years of practice.
Even if your attorney prospect has experience handling car accident claims, cases can vary significantly from one to the next. Your attorney needs to complete many tasks, including:
The more familiar the attorney is with your specific set of facts, the more accurately they can determine your chances for success and complete the needed tasks to get you a satisfactory result. The lawyer’s familiarity with your case is especially important when the facts related to your accident are rare, such as when you’re driving someone else’s car. Make sure the attorney you interview is confident about the probable outcome of your particular case before you decide to hire them.
Attorneys within the same firm often work together. But if you decide to hire an attorney based on the initial conversation or consultation you had with that person, and then someone else steps in to handle your case, it can feel like a betrayal of your trust and potentially cause you to question your choice. Buyer’s remorse is greater when you select an attorney largely because of their personality and your ability to confide in them easily.
Larger firms often use junior associates or even paralegals to handle various aspects of case prep before trial due to their lower rates. But it’s important to know who supervises them and who will potentially represent you in court, should your case advance to trial post-settlement efforts.
Communication is so important when you’re entrusting your physical, emotional, and financial recovery to someone. You need an attorney who has time to promptly and fully answer your questions and address your concerns, whether directly or via reliable and competent staff. You don’t want someone to get your signature and disappear.
Gain an understanding of how the firm updates its clients. Also, be aware of the best ways to get in touch with the attorney or the attorney’s staff should you need to talk (e.g., email, phone, text, other messaging services, video chat, etc.).
Most personal injury attorneys charge contingency fees. A contingency fee structure means you don’t pay anything until your attorney settles your case or secures you a jury award for compensation. The attorney then subtracts their fee from your payout based on a percentage agreed to per the initial contract for services. If you don’t win, your attorney walks with nothing.
Costs associated with your cases, such as filing fees, expert witness fees, deposition fees, and charges to acquire your medical records, are either paid up-front by the client, or some firms advance these costs to their clients. If these costs are advanced, and you are not required to reimburse these out-of-pocket fees, the firm actually loses money if they’re unsuccessful in getting you compensated for your damages. Working under this fee structure gives the attorney incentive to get you a win.
This question is a bit tricky. You want to work with an experienced lawyer who’s also coveted, but you don’t want to work with an attorney who won’t have time for you. This is a difficult balance to strike. What you’re most comfortable with might also depend on the answers you receive to several other parallel questions, such as their communication preferences, knowledge of your case, their success rates, and what other clients have to say after working with them.
Most attorneys can give you a roundabout idea of what your case might be worth. Calculating your potential case worth is important to the firm when assessing whether your claim is worth pursuing. Even if they cannot provide you with a definitive number, they can typically explain influencing factors, including liability, evidence, and the severity or current status of your injury, all of which can impact your settlement or jury award.
You will also want to know what damages you can collect, such as medical expenses, lost income, future lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, or disfigurement.
Exact or unrealistic estimates are typically red flags.
Be sure that the attorney you choose is prepared to go to trial every single time. Having an arsenal of evidence can help steer fair and substantial settlement negotiations. Additionally, the hope isn’t always to settle. Sometimes, the maximum compensation is achieved in a courtroom by your jury peers. If that’s your case, you want to know that your attorney prospect has what it takes to win and can back it up with an extensive history of successful jury trials. Request solid examples.
Sometimes, attorneys have former clients that you can contact as a reference. A direct reference is more credible than a testimonial on the firm’s website or a social media review. First, you can ask specific questions about communication, case length, attorney knowledge and expertise, and satisfaction with the outcome of a reference. Next, you can receive non-filtered, honest responses to your inquiries.
Finally, it’s always a good sign if an attorney is willing to let you speak with a former client. This transparency is valuable in building a sense of trust and confidence in the attorney’s abilities, authority, and words. It’s important to show that it’s not just what they say, but what others have to say, as well, and they clearly won’t hold back or try to conceal or prevent open and revealing dialogue.
Some attorneys want you to take a backseat to the process as they gather evidence, prepare documents, get witness statements, and negotiate settlements. Other attorneys desire your presence and input. Find out your role and decide if your attorney prospect’s preference aligns with your comfort. If you prefer to be hands-off, you don’t want an attorney that requires your continual involvement. Contrarily, if you tend to hover and despise relinquishing control, more involvement is likely what you need.
If you trust the attorney you hire, it’s easier to bend to what they advise. Either way, make sure you can work closely and cooperatively with the attorney you choose, as well as their staff, and be confident in the attorney-client arrangement because chances are it’s more of a long-term relationship versus a quick resolution.
Personal injury cases can sometimes take years to resolve, especially when you proceed to court. A good attorney will know the value of your case and whether it’s worth prolonging or if pushing for an adequate and still sizeable settlement offer is in your best interests.
Most attorneys want to get you the compensation you need as quickly as possible. Resolving your case in a lesser amount of time is often more financially beneficial to the firm. If an attorney is familiar with the facts of your case, they should be able to give you a rough estimate of how long you’ll likely need to wait to get a payout.
Get everything you discussed in writing. You want to leave with a strong opinion of your car accident claim’s viability and a solid strategy if you should decide to proceed. A good lawyer will not move forward with a case they know will not succeed. Be honest about the details and facts of your case. If you’re unsure if a specific detail matters, ask. If you think of additional questions after leaving your consult, ensure that you can follow-up before committing.
If you want an attorney that is guaranteed to fight for you and is passionate about getting you the compensation you deserve to recover, contact our team at Taylor Martino, P.C., for a free, confidential consultation. We are confident that we can help you understand your best legal options.
To schedule time with one of our car accident lawyers to get your questions answered and feel confident about your case, contact us online or call our office at (251) 433-3131.