I have an appointment to see an injury lawyer, what should I ask?
What is your contingency fee? What does that mean?
The contingency fee agreement is an arrangement where the attorney only receives his or her fee based on a percentage of what he or she recovers for you. This means that there is no legal fee unless there is monetary recovery. Contingency fee agreements are negotiable and typically range between 25% and 40%. Our firm’s usual fee is 33 1/3% but it does vary depending on the case. The stronger the case and the more severe the damages, the more negotiable the fee agreement will bet. Here, at West, Longenbaugh & Zickerman, we send potential new clients home with the fee agreement or e-mail it to them. We expect questions and we work with the client to be sure there is a full understanding of the agreement. No one wants to get off on the wrong foot.
Will I be responsible for any advance 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. What that means is the lawyer gets his or her fees first and then from your share comes the costs. In Arizona, the attorney must make the client responsible for costs win or lose. But a smart attorney in the personal injury field is not going to take a case he or she does not feel comfortable can be won. Remember if there is no recovery that attorney does not get paid. At our firm we spend significant time evaluating the case and advising our clients to prevent the unthinkable from happening.
Have you tried these types of personal injury cases before?
Ask for your lawyer’s experience and results. Ask to speak with former clients, if possible. You should be given time to review the fee agreement. Do not get pushed into signing a fee agreement. It is your case and you have to be comfortable with the injury lawyer you have selected. After 42 years of doing this work, I only want satisfied clients who are my best source of referral.
Do you have the time necessary to actually work on my case now?
Be very careful about going to the name everyone else knows. Sometimes called accident mills, these type of lawyers may not be able to give your case the attention it needs. Ask the lawyer if he or she will have the full time necessary to devote to your case and if the attorney has sufficient staff to handle the work load. It is important to 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. Sometimes the lawyer cannot answer that question. It is not he or she is avoiding the answer but caseloads ebb and flow and injury cases can go fast or slow all depending on factors not in the lawyer’s control. At West, Longenbaugh & Zickerman we limit our client intake to prevent the very problem that happens in the accident mill – too much work – not enough time. Your case will get the time and attention it needs.
When will my lawsuit be filed?
In many cases a decision has to be made based on factors the lawyer may not know at the initial interview. For instance if there are serious injuries with large medical bills and only a small policy of insurance, a law suit may not need to be filed at all. A demand letter setting the carrier up for bad faith (failure to pay a just claim that caused the insured harm) may be the better way to proceed. But, there should be an understanding of the process and timing. One factor to consider is the cost of litigation prior to a demand being made. Another thing to consider is filing too soon if all the damages are not known or ascertainable. But of course NEVER miss the statute of limitations.
Will my case actually go to trial? And if so when?
If you do not plan from day one to go to trial, you certainly will end up in trial. If you lawyer tells you that your case is going to settle, be very cautious about what you are settling it for. Although the average case does settle and there are some statistics that suggest only a few cases actually go to trial, be sure your lawyer is ready to try the case. You get the best results by being prepared. Many personal injury cases can be resolved within 2 years or less. Remember do not be too anxious to settle quickly as you may leave money on the table.
What is my case worth?
Any lawyer who can tell you the value of a case from the first interview has a crystal ball. Unfortunately the crystal ball is not the jury and may be way off. Based upon discovery, liability and unknown medical issues the lawyer cannot give you a very accurate “guess” at that first meeting. . But as the case progresses, your lawyer should be able to provide a range and explain the good points and unfortunately bad points of your case. Use your own judgment. Do not be fooled by lawyers who make promises that seem unrealistic. IF it is too good to be true……….
Will you be the actual attorney handling my case?
You should know who the primary lawyer is that will be handling your case. Some firms have you meet with a partner but fail to disclose who will actually handle the case. Some firms use a team approach and there is nothing wrong with that but you need to know who is going into the court room with you. At our firm West, Longenbaugh & Zickerman, you will be told who the primary lawyer is that is handling your case. Although from time to time another attorney may cover the primary attorney will try your case.
What will my participation in the lawsuit be?
Lawsuits are about teamwork between the lawyer and yourself. Yes you are part of the team. Make sure you understand your role and what is expected of you, including time commitments before hiring your lawyer. Our firm requires participation by all of our injured clients. Who else has the knowledge of the facts better? Who else can share the pain and suffering better than the actual client?
Will you get me more money than other attorneys and why?
Personal injury lawsuits are typically about money. You need to hire the personal injury lawyer that gives you the best opportunity. You only get to try your case once. One bit at the apple is the slogan used. So why hire a particular attorney? Here we pride ourselves on doing the very best for our clients. Time spent in preparation is always a the key to a better result for the client. You simply have to be willing to work harder than the defense team and we are that type of firm.
Do not be afraid to ask tough questions of any lawyer you are considering hiring. Your attorney should be focused on obtaining the maximum recovery for you.
We pride ourselves in Big Firm Representation with small firm caring!