• Home >>

Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer

What Are The Best Questions to Ask A Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you’ve been injured in an accident, there are probably a number of questions going through your head as you try to manage the various aspects of both your life and the incident. There’s work, your home life, your medical expenses, insurance companies, and your recovery. Of course, there is also the legal side of things. If you believe you have a case against the individual who injured you, you probably have a number of good questions for a personal injury attorney.

While we at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers would be more than happy to answer any questions you have, we’ve written answers to what we believe are the top questions to ask a personal injury attorney for those who are exploring their options.

So what are some of the best questions to ask a personal injury lawyer? Let’s have a look.

#1. How does your fee work?

This is the first question asked of personal injury attorneys. How does your fee work? Or, How do you get paid? Or, How much do you get out of a settlement?

Virtually all personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. That means if you don’t recover any damages (money for your claim) neither does your lawyer. Nor would you be expected to pay your lawyer out of pocket for any of the work done on your case. 

The fee should be based upon a set percentage of the total settlement or judgment in your case. It should be clearly set out in the written attorney-client fee agreement you sign. Since this is a standard among personal injury lawyers, it would be somewhat suspicious if you found an attorney who did not offer a contingency fee arrangement.

Most injury attorneys in California advertise that there is no fee if there is no recovery. That doesn’t mean you won’t be paying them anything or that their services are free. They will be paid out of your personal injury settlement or judgment after you win your case.

You should not be expected to pay for either fees or case costs if your attorney fails to win the case by way of a settlement or judgment.

The premise behind contingency fee arrangements is that they play a critical role in providing everyone access to the courts. When someone is seriously injured in a traffic accident, they often suffer a significant loss of earnings because they are physically unable to perform their job. Further, they are likely facing large medical expenses, with bill collectors ready to pounce.

For these reasons, a contingency fee arrangement - rather than up front hourly lawyers' fees - may be the only way for the injured party to seek just compensation from the party who caused their injuries. It also affords them the opportunity to hold insurance companies, corporations and negligent individuals accountable for illegal actions that might otherwise go unpunished.

Make sure to ask about their particular fee arrangement when interviewing personal injury attorneys.

"Case Costs" are in Addition to "Fees"

Expenses - often called “case costs” – are separate from attorneys’ fees. A “fee” is what the attorney charges you for their expertise and work on your case. Expenses can include any out-of-pocket cost the attorney paid in order to try your case such as document production costs, expert witness fees, etc.

Commonly, case costs are advanced by the attorney until a favorable resolution is reached in your case, and then they are paid out of the settlement or judgment at the end of the case. Be sure to ask your personal injury attorney about their case cost policy.

#2. Will I End Up Owing You Money When My Case is Over?

Here is another one of the best questions to ask a personal injury traffic accident lawyer. It also is about the financial outcome of the case. “Will I end up owing you money in the end?”

A common (and very reasonable) concern people with personal injury cases have is whether or not they will be in a worse position financially if they hire an attorney to handle their injury case. Hiring a personal injury attorney can be an overwhelming and undesirable task. Clients in personal injury cases typically have never had such a case before and have never even had to think about injury lawyers, except maybe to chuckle at a cheesy late-night ad for a “1-800-we’ll-get-you-a-million-dollars” accident attorney.

People making the decision about hiring an attorney for their traffic accident case often say: “I am afraid that if I hire an attorney I may find myself in a situation where I am out of pocket more money than I already am since my accident.” For example, if the medical expenses, legal fees and legal costs end up being more than the settlement or judgment.

Make sure “Will I owe you anything if we don’t win my case?” is a question you ask any personal injury attorney you speak with.

Be sure to ask potential attorneys what they will do if there was not enough settlement money to cover all of your damages and the legal fees and costs. Find out if that attorney is willing to work with you for a fair resolution of the case with regard to attorneys’ fees. If he explains that his fee will be taken out of any settlement or judgment before your bills are paid, regardless of the outcome, this is a red flag that this attorney may be more concerned about earning his fee than compensating you for the damages you suffered in the case.

You want to be sure to find a personal injury lawyer who will determine their fee at the end of the case – even though you have a fee agreement with them in writing that sets out their fee up front. Most skilled personal injury attorneys will not discount their fee up front. They don’t have to. But, they will work with you on the backend for a fair division of the settlement funds.

Discount Lawyers

WARNING: If you see personal injury law firms advertising “discounted” fees or are willing to reduce their fee for you up front… BEWARE! They are typically high volume law firms, or are desperate for business.

It’s simple accounting. If a law firm discounts its fees it has to take on more cases to make the same amount of money. So, you and your case won’t get the attention it deserves. These “discount lawyers” will try to get you to settle your case too fast for less than full value, so they can increase their turnover.

So, you may save on fees, but you will end up with less money because your settlement is lower. 

Remember -- You almost always get what you pay for.

#3. Have You Taken A Case Like Mine Before?

There are some lawyers that are the legal equivalent of general practitioners. Much of the process of personal injury law is the art of negotiation. Those that come into a case without having a secure background in the process of dealing with insurance companies and opposing lawyers are not going to be able to leverage the best settlement possible for their clients.

Thus, there are three aspects to the case that a lawyer needs to have some expertise in to handle your personal injury case:

  • 1
    Fault. Being able to successfully argue that the defendant is at fault requires experience in the kind of personal injury case they are litigating. If an attorney specializes in product liability cases, you would not want them arguing a traffic liability case, and vice versa.
  • 2
    Injuries. You’re going to want an attorney that understands the sorts of injuries you have and has managed cases with plaintiffs that sustained these kinds of injuries before.
  • 3
    Negotiation. There’s nothing worse for a personal injury case than an inexperienced attorney going up against trained insurance adjusters and defense attorneys who handle dozens of these negotiations daily. This is also why it’s so important to vet your attorney beforehand.

Remember, to find the BEST personal injury attorney for your case it’s not enough that the lawyer you select has “personal injury” experience, but they should also have specific experience – and ideally a LOT of it – in your particular case niche.

For example, does the personal injury law firm you are considering exclusively focus all of their time, energy and resources on the narrow type of personal injury case you have like bicycle accidents, dog bite cases, motorcycle accidents, harassment or assault cases, or medical malpractice cases? Or, do they handle all of these types of cases, and not have any particular focus - except a focus on bringing on a large number of clients and making a ton of money? Make sure any attorney you are interviewing has a laser-focus on your particular accident type.

Also, you want to be sure the law firm has experience handling cases where you were injured. So, even if you live in Seattle, but you were injured as a tourist in Los Angeles  or in San Francisco on business, you want to be sure your personal injury lawyer has worked on numerous cases in that area.

Beware! There are various attorney “rating” sites that reward attorneys who pay for listings. Just because a lawyer has a dozen "Awesome Lawyer" badges on their website, doesn't mean they are actually awesome. They may have just paid for the badges.

#4. Will I Have Access to You as My Lawyer Throughout My Case?

This is one of the top questions to ask any personal injury lawyer you are interviewing. The number one complaint lawyers get from their clients is they are not accessible. They don’t return phone calls or emails or, they simply “disappear” for months on end and leave the client wondering what is going on with their case.

Make sure to face this issue head-on before you hire a personal injury lawyer and find out what their communication style is, so you aren’t left in the dark.

Ask them how accessible they will be. This is crucial!

Attorney-client communication should be a top priority for your injury lawyer. 

If you read their customer reviews, you should see that most of their former clients talk about how well they communicate and how much they keep people informed about the process. Does this lawyer or law firm enjoy educating clients along the way? Do they respond to client questions and concerns? Will you have direct access to your assigned lawyer? Can you email your lawyer if you have important legal questions about your case?

In short, an important question to ask a personal injury lawyer you are considering is "will I have direct access to my attorney? AND do you return emails and phone calls? You should expect great communication from your personal injury lawyer!

#5. Do You Litigate Cases and/or Take Them to Trial?

The majority of traffic accident cases will not go to trial. And frankly many of them don’t even require a lawsuit, as they can be resolved in the personal injury insurance claims process. There are however some injury cases that do require litigation and/or trial. These involve some of the more tragic instances when an individual has either suffered a catastrophic injury, or they were killed in the accident.

In those cases, it will be necessary to have an attorney that has litigation and trial experience. To get more than the average personal injury settlement, they may need to take your case to the next level, so you want to be sure they have the experience to do that.

So, one of the most important questions to ask a personal injury lawyer is what sort of litigation, trial and negotiation experience they have.

Make sure you choose the best personal injury attorney for your particular case and injury type. You want to make sure the law firm is a good fit for your own style of conflict resolution and your risk tolerance.

#6. Can You Provide References from Past Clients?

This is not an unreasonable request for a client to make of their attorney. However, due to attorney-client confidentiality, personal injury lawyers cannot simply give out their past clients’ contact information. 

Instead, take it upon yourself to do diligent research online to see what past clients are saying about this lawyer or law firm. In the instance where there are few, no or poor reviews online from former clients, there is likely a problem. If there are several reviews, be sure to read them closely to make sure the reviewers are touching on the top qualities you are looking for in a personal injury lawyer.

For example, see the below client review. If you see reviews like this - ones where former clients straight-up invite you to contact them to find out more about their experience in working with the law firm, this is a good sign!

If you're someone who is considering an attorney for a personal accident, I highly recommend Sally Morin and her professional staff of attorneys. If you would like to know more details, feel free to contact me via Yelp and I would be happy to share more details. While I use Yelp quite often, I rarely post reviews... unless I'm truly blown away by great service (or angry with horrible service). If there were a sixth star, I would certainly give it to Rebecca and Sally!

Walt W.

#7. What Can I Do to Ensure the Success of My Case?

This is a very important question for your personal injury attorney. There are several things you can do to strengthen your case or damage it throughout the process. This could mean the difference of thousands of dollars in your pocket.

For instance, more cases are destroyed by social media nowadays than ever before. Even well-meaning folks who just want to comfort their friends and family run the risk of negatively impacting their settlement.

For instance, if you’ve been seriously injured in a car accident, you may want to put your family and friends at ease by posting to social media that you’re “doing ok.” Nonetheless, that bit of information can be used against you by the insurance company or an opposing lawyer. They will take it as evidence that you are not as seriously injured as you claim to be.

For that reason, it’s extremely important to avoid posting on social media or talking about the case during the insurance claim and litigation processes.

Ask your personal injury attorney what you can do to help and what you should do to avoid hurting the value of your claim.

#8. How Long Will My Case Take to Resolve?

While no attorney will be able to predict with 100% accuracy when all the legal proceedings will be completed, it’s not unreasonable to ask for a ballpark figure. Much of this depends on what the insurance company does or how opposing counsel defends their client.

Most cases can be resolved relatively quickly... if things go smoothly. However, in many instances, negotiations can get difficult and neither side will seem like they want to budge. Medical exams will need to be taken and plaintiffs will need to be present in order to answer questions. This can result in time taken away from work and other disruptions to your schedule. The timeline is really going to depend on many factors in your case. That’s why you’ll want to add this to your list of the top questions to ask the personal injury attorneys you are interviewing.
We Continue to Stay Open and Operate During the Shelter in Place Order - Learn More