Questions to ask personal injury lawyer: do you practice law exclusively in the area of personal injury law?
You never want to pick a lawyer to handle your personal injury case unless that is his specialty. Many lawyers may say they do personal injury law, but also do real estate, criminal law, wills, etc. Do not pick this type of lawyer to handle your personal injury case.
Only specialists in this area of law (personal injury law) should be chosen to handle your case. You would not go to a family doctor to operate on your heart, you would go to a cardiologist. You would not go to a podiatrist or foot doctor if you have a broken arm. It is the same principle with regards to law and this is one of the most important questions to ask personal injury lawyer.
General practice lawyers may lead you to think they can handle your personal injury case and may be great lawyers in their particular field of practice, but it is difficult to keep up with the personal injury law as it is frequently changing each year.
General practice lawyers do not usually have the experience to handle personal injury cases and all the different issues that can arise, like subrogation, liens, different medical coding and practices, choosing the right doctor for your injuries, case strategy, dealing with the insurance adjusters and insurance companies when it comes time to negotiate a settlement.
I personally have more than 24 years of experience handling only personal injury cases. I have never practiced anything but personal injury law, so I would be considered a “specialist” in this area of law. In your questions to ask personal injury lawyer, feel free to ask me about my experience, how many personal injury cases that I have handled, how many cases that I have settled or taken to trial, etc.
When I first started practicing law in Hawaii, in 1991, my first job out of law school was with an insurance defense firm. Representing insurance companies for many years gave me the knowledge of how insurance companies defend personal injury claims and how they evaluate personal injury claims. As good criminal lawyers may start out in the prosecutor’s office, many very good personal injury lawyers first start practicing law from the insurance defense side.
Of course, insurance companies deserve to be defended just as everyone deserves a defense, but I found that my true passion was helping those unfortunate enough to be injured. I was never really that comfortable representing companies like State Farm and GEICO. I did not like the idea of denying claims of those persons who were injured or trying to lessen the amount of money that an injured person would receive. I prefer to represent the “little guy” and go against the billion dollar insurance companies.
Questions to ask personal injury lawyer: how long have you been practicing personal injury law?
Once you have found a “specialist”in personal injury, like myself, as one of the questions to ask personal injury lawyer, you need to ask how long they have been practicing personal injury law.
You do not want a junior or new personal injury lawyer who is recently out of law school handling your case as they just do not have the experience yet. I am not trying to put down young attorneys because I was once a young attorney, but I am simply saying that you do not want a young attorney “practicing” on your case and learning the ropes at your expense.
If I had a heart problem, I would not want a new, young cardiologist operating on me, I would want an experienced cardiologist who has done thousands of heart surgeries.
At the same time, you don’t want someone who is retiring and does not care about their clients anymore. So, one of the questions to ask personal injury lawyer is how much longer they will be practicing personal injury law.
In my case, I have loads of experience handling primarily car accident and motor vehicle cases in three different states: Colorado, Hawaii and Florida. I bring that knowledge to every case that I handle. In other words, I have had to adapt my practice to each state’s unique personal injury laws and use that advantage to achieve the best settlements for all of my clients.
Questions to ask personal injury lawyer: WHO IS GOING TO HANDLE YOUR PERSONAL INJURY CASE?
Will a paralegal or the personal injury lawyer will be handling your case from start to finish? I have learned personal injury law by handling thousands of personal injury cases. I personally handle every single case and client. I really do care about my clients as if they were part of my family and use my experience to get higher settlements than personal injury attorneys you see on TV. The problem with TV attorneys is that their business model is to get you in as a client, turn you over to a paralegal or legal assistant and never talk to you again.
IN LARGE LAW FIRMS, YOUR CASE WILL BE HANDLED BY PARALEGALS
Who negotiates your case in these large, TV type law firms? Usually, in these large law firms, the paralegals and new, young attorneys would be handling your case from start to finish. Why? Economics is the straight answer. With so much money being paid on TV and website advertising, these lawyers have to get you in and out as fast as they can. I don’t mean to overly criticize these types of lawyers, but would like to point out that I only handle a few clients at a time and give all my personal attention to each and every client, from start to finish.
These types of lawyers are highly motivated and compelled to settle your case as quickly as possible and usually do not get you “top dollar” for your injuries. I do not have that same pressure that large personal injury law firms have. I can methodically get better results because I usually have more experience than most personal injury lawyers and certainly have less cases than most large law firms. I purposefully have much fewer clients because I emphasize quality over quantity.
It is a shame that most injured victims immediately call the personal injury lawyers they see advertising heavily on TV as these are normally the lawyers who will have paralegals and young, junior lawyers handling your case.
QUESTIONS TO ASK PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER: WHAT DO YOUR CHARGE TO HANDLE MY CASE FROM START TO FINISH?
Other questions to ask personal injury lawyer is how much does the lawyer charge to handle your case from start to finish?
Just like most personal injury specialists, I charge a percentage of the total recovery. Most personal injury attorneys charge anywhere from 33.33% to 50% to handle a personal injury case. So, this is a very important questions to ask personal injury lawyer as you do not want to be surprised when you go to sign a Fee Contract with your personal injury lawyer.
I personally charge 33.33% which is on the low end of personal injury attorney’s fees. I normally and primarily handle car accident cases (whether that be involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, pedestrians, bicycles, etc.). If I settle your case with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, then a typical settlement would look something like this:
Minus 33.33% attorney’s fee$10,000.00
Minus unpaid medical bills$1,000.00
Net recovery to client$19,000.00
Personal injury lawyers charge what is called a contingency fee. The personal injury lawyer’s fee is contingent upon a recovery or settlement. So, if your personal injury lawyer recovers nothing from the insurance company, then you do not owe your lawyer anything (although some lawyers may charge you for office costs). Some personal injury lawyers try to charge more than 1/3 to settle your case! I recommend staying away from these excessive fee lawyers as there is no reason that a lawyer should charge you more than 1/3, in my opinion.
One reason a personal injury lawyer would charge more than 33.33% is to recoup more money for advertising or marketing and this is a cost that should not be passed on to the client, in my opinion.
Finally, ask the personal injury lawyer what costs will be involved in your case. Costs are separate from a personal injury lawyer’s fee. An example of a cost would be postage, copying, paying a doctor for a written opinion on your case, etc. Many times if a case is settled pre-suit, there are very little costs, just costs for copying, postage, etc. But, if a case has to go into court or litigation, then the costs can be much more, for expert witnesses, court reporters, and so on.