Before you enlist the services of a personal injury attorney, it is very important that you learn basic information about them. This can be done in an informal interview over the phone and through e-mail, before you hire them.
You should not hesitate to conduct a thorough interview with the lawyer, since you will be working closely with them. The outcome of your personal injury claim will depend on having a solid client-attorney relationship before any litigation actually begins.
An interview of your potential lawyer should disclose detailed information in two general areas: information related to the lawyer and information related to your personal injury case. Ideally, you should formulate your own interview using a scripted checklist of questions organized around these two themes. To get you started, here are a few common questions:
Information related to the Lawyer:
- Background check-
- What school did the lawyer obtain their law degree from?
- What state bar associations have they been admitted to?
- Are they currently in good standing with the state bar? (i.e., not disbarred, no criminal history, has not been subject to discipline)
- In which jurisdictions are they permitted to appear in court?
- What is their record of cases won/lost in court?
- How long have they been practicing in the field of personal injury?
- Do they have any areas of expertise or special knowledge that might be relevant to your case?
- Lawyer’s role in their firm-
- Are they a partner, associate, or founding member?
- Will they be working alone or with a partner or team?
- Will they be assigning portions of the work to other lawyers?
- Personal views/conflicts of interest-
- Do they hold any personal views that might prevent them from effectively arguing your case? (For example, they are financially interested in the case’s outcome, etc.)
- Have they worked on other cases involving matters that are “substantially related” to your claim, especially for the opposing side?
- Are they currently representing another party that might be adverse to your claim, such as an insurance company?
Information related to your PI case:
- Success in related cases-
- Has the attorney ever handled a case like yours?
- What is the rate of success for clients in similar cases?
- How many have been won and how many have been settled?
- What is the estimated amount of monetary damages that you will be entitled to receive?
- Are there any other available remedies, such as an injunction?
- Can they give you a ballpark figure of how much the entire case will cost including fees?
- Will they be working on a contingency fee basis or an hourly rate?
- Will they accept payment in increments?
- What forms of payment will they accept?
- Will they be sharing the fee with another attorney?
- Projected outcome of your case-
- Do they know all the various arguments and defenses available for your case?
- Are they able to anticipate the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing side’s arguments?
- How long will the case take to resolve the dispute? (this may also be related to the overall cost of the suit)
- Are there any alternatives to litigation, such as mediation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR)?
- Is there any way to save time and resources by ending the suit quickly, such as through a motion to dismiss?
These are only general suggestions for possible inquiries- be sure to include any questions or concerns that might be relevant to your specific situation.
Double check the personal injury attorney’s credentials and confirm that they are validly licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction. You should also be aware that a court can dismiss an attorney if they have a conflict of interest that would impair their ability to represent you.
Also, in very limited instances, sometimes an additional attorney is needed. For example, some states allow a client to negotiate a separate, unrelated business contract with their current attorney, in which case another attorney may be needed to mediate the contract.
Finally, your communication with your personal injury lawyer should not end after the initial interview. Make sure that your attorney will stay in communication with you in order to update you with the progress of your case and inform you of any changes. You should be assured that your lawyer will represent you to the fullest extent possible.