Most people go through life without needing to hire a lawyer. But if someone injures you in an accident, you may need to discuss your options with a legal professional.
Fortunately, most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation. This allows you to discuss your case and a lawyer’s ability to assist you before you commit to hiring the lawyer.
Here is a quick guide to six questions to discuss with a lawyer during a free consultation.
Before Your Free Consultation
A free consultation does not mean an unlimited consultation. The receptionist or legal secretary will tell you how long your meeting will last when you schedule your consultation. You should prepare beforehand so that you can use your time efficiently.
Some steps you can take before your consultation include:
- Reading the lawyer’s biography
- Gathering relevant case documents, including medical records and accident reports
- Brainstorming so that you can write down any questions you may have
Your goals in the free consultation will include:
- Interviewing the lawyer
- Discussing whether you have a case
- Discussing what the lawyer can do to help
- Getting answers to your questions about the law firm’s policies
If you do not hire lawyers routinely, you might not know what kinds of questions to ask during a free consultation.
Here are six questions that will help you gather the information that you need to choose a lawyer.
- What Experience Do You Have in Cases Like Mine?
The lawyer you choose can have a huge impact on the outcome of your case. The lawyer’s experience could be one of the biggest factors in your ability to obtain a positive outcome.
Any lawyer can handle an injury case. All lawyers receive training in tort law, the basis for injury claims. But experience distinguishes those who win big settlements and damage awards from those who lose cases or get low settlements.
Look for a lawyer who focuses on injury law. A busy lawyer might handle a couple of hundred cases every year. This provides the lawyer with experience in negotiating injury settlements and litigating injury lawsuits that a generalist would lack.
- What Strategy Would You Use for My Case?
The truth is that most lawyers will approach cases with similar strategies. This question serves two purposes. It helps you to understand what the lawyer will do for your case and how the lawyer will earn the legal fee you pay.
But more importantly, this question allows you to see the lawyer at work. You will see the lawyer’s abilities to think logically and communicate about complex issues.
A lawyer must have both skills in order to attain a successful outcome in your case. Most claims begin with an insurance claims adjuster. Your lawyer will need to explain your injuries and the losses they caused. Your lawyer will also need to negotiate skillfully by highlighting the facts and laws that favor your claim.
If the lawyer cannot settle the case, you will need to file a lawsuit to recover compensation. This means that the lawyer will need the communication skills to present your case to a jury, persuading them to award you damages.
During the free consultation, think about how the lawyer will perform in front of a claims adjuster or a jury. The lawyer’s ability to think logically and communicate persuasively could determine whether you win or lose your case.
- What Outcomes Can I Expect in My Case?
This discussion allows you to set your expectations for your case. Not every injury case will end with a million-dollar settlement. But at the same time, you should receive fair compensation for your losses.
A lawyer can review the documents you bring to the consultation and give you a range of possible outcomes.
This will also allow the lawyer to explain any weaknesses in your case. You want a lawyer who can have a candid discussion about problems that arise with your claim.
If the lawyer has concerns about your role in causing the accident or other issues that might diminish your damages, you should hear them out so that you can decide how to proceed.
- Who Will Work on My Case?
Large firms usually have a few partners or shareholders that originate cases and an army of associates who do the day-to-day work. This allows firms to handle a lot of cases efficiently. But it can lead to an impersonal relationship with your lawyer.
In other firms and solo practices, the lawyer you talk to during your free consultation will work on your case.
Neither law firm structure is better than the other. But you deserve to know who will work on your case so you can set your expectations.
- How Much Do You Charge for Legal Services?
The second most common source of disputes between lawyers and clients comes from fees. You can avoid this dispute by having a detailed discussion with the lawyer about fees and costs upfront.
Most injury lawyers charge a contingent fee. This means the lawyer will take a percentage of your settlement or damage award at the end of the case. You should understand the amount of the contingency fee and the way that the lawyer will calculate it.
Most injury attorneys also expect reimbursement for costs. The lawyer will usually advance the money for these expenses, which include court reporter fees and court filing fees, during the case. At the end of the case, you must repay the advance. You should discuss how the lawyer will deduct costs from your compensation.
How Will I Receive Updates About My Case?
The most common dispute between lawyers and clients surrounds communication. Under the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer must keep a client reasonably informed about the status of the case and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
You should discuss how often you will receive updates. You should also ask how you should contact the lawyer when you need to talk.
Finally, the lawyer should provide you with contact information for others in the firm who can provide information and updates about your case.
Hiring an Injury Lawyer
At the end of your free consultation, you should discuss the steps for hiring a lawyer. Florida requires written contingent fee agreements, so you should ask for a copy of the fee agreement to review.
Unless you have impending deadlines in your case, you should take time to choose a lawyer.