What Questions Should I Ask My Car Accident Attorney?Request Free Consultation
When pursuing damages for a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, choose a competent, experienced, and successful car accident attorney in Denver to guide you through this complex process, protect your rights, and seek maximum compensation.
Preparing questions to ask during your initial discussion can help you decide which lawyer to hire.
Why You Must Speak With an Attorney About Your Case
After a car accident, you may find that the physical and emotional toll and a host of legal complications you never anticipated overwhelm you. Suddenly, you find yourself in a world of insurance claims, medical bills, and negligence laws—a world that requires a legal education to navigate.
Given this complexity, retain a car accident lawyer. Your lawyer can thoroughly investigate your accident, liaise with insurance companies on your behalf, and represent you in a lawsuit if necessary. With a lawyer’s assistance, you can focus on your recovery while they protect and advance your legal rights.
Important Questions to Ask During Your Free Case Evaluation With a Car Accident Attorney
Choosing an attorney can feel daunting, especially when you’re already burdened with the aftermath of a car accident. You need someone who can professionally manage your case and empathize with your emotional distress. Asking the right questions during initial discussions can help you find the right fit.
These questions are not merely a formality. They can give you a clear picture of a lawyer’s experience, skills, and way of operating. The answers can help you determine whether they are well-equipped to handle your case. You can also confirm that their approach aligns with your expectations and that they are transparent about the costs involved.
Most personal injury lawyers offer free case evaluations. These are no-cost, no-obligation conversations you can have with a lawyer about your case. They can discuss the accident with you and tell you more about the process, while you can ask questions to help decide whether this is the attorney you want to handle your claim. Here is a look at some of the questions you can ask during your free case evaluation to better inform your choice of attorney:
How Much Experience Do You Have With Car Accident Cases?
Experience is an important quality for an attorney when handling your claim’s profound workload. You want an attorney who regularly works on car accident cases and understands the ins and outs of the process. Check whether a lawyer’s experience includes both successful settlements and verdicts.
Contrary to how legal matters appear on television or in movies, as Black’s Law Dictionary explains, around 95 percent of personal injury claims settle before they ever see the inside of a courtroom.
Most insurers prefer to settle claims, as this generally costs less, takes less time, and does not have the same uncertain outcome as litigation. Unfortunately, in the legal arena, this has resulted in a situation where many lawyers can negotiate settlements but lack courtroom experience.
If the insurance company fails to fairly compensate your claim, you can file a legal complaint in court. Your lawyer presents the case before a judge or jury, who decides liability and compensation.
While most claims resolve before the trial, there is always the chance that yours will be one of the few that require a lawsuit. If that happens, you want to ensure that the attorney handling your case has ample experience taking cases to trial.
How Would You Approach My Case?
Asking an attorney how they would approach your case allows you to better understand the process and how the attorney works. It also gives you insight into their experience.
The typical services a car accident attorney and their legal team provide include:
- Determining liability and identifying the insurance resources available to provide your compensation.
- Gathering evidence to prove liability, including police accident reports, photos from the scene, interviews with witnesses, medical documentation, and bills or receipts showing your expenses.
- Valuing your claim based on several factors, including the availability of insurance coverage, the severity of your injuries, the amount of property damage you sustained, and the negative psychological consequences of the accident, such as physical pain and suffering or emotional distress.
- Filing the claim with the insurance company and managing communications with the claims adjuster to relieve you of the burden of these conversations and protect the value of your claim from the tactics insurance companies commonly use to devalue personal injury claims.
- Negotiating with the insurance provider to garner a settlement offer that fairly compensates the financial and psychological harm you encountered.
- Managing the timing of the claims process to ensure your right to file a lawsuit. Every state has a deadline for filing personal injury claims, known as the statute of limitations. As Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute explains, the statute of limitations bars the filing of lawsuits after a certain amount of time has passed following the accident. In most states, this statutory deadline provides one to five years for either party in the dispute to initiate legal proceedings. Failing to meet this deadline prevents you from seeking compensation through the court process and frees the insurance company from the legal obligation of resolving your claim.
- Representing your case in the pre-trial process and during litigation. Before the trial, a lawyer can gather additional evidence, file motions in court, and respond to motions that the at-fault party and the insurer’s legal team filed. Pre-trial is also a time for jury selection, the preparation of evidence exhibits, and witness deposition.
- Pursuing compensation on your behalf from a negotiated settlement or a court award.
- Providing you with the guidance you need to make informed decisions about accepting settlement offers or filing a lawsuit, as those decisions are yours to make.
Knowing how the process typically proceeds and the role of a personal injury lawyer when handling your case can help you gauge a lawyer’s understanding and experience of personal injury law during initial discussions.
What Is Your Fee Structure?
Most car accident attorneys use a contingent fee billing method to ensure that anyone who needs legal help after suffering an injury due to someone else’s negligence has access.
As the United States Office of Government Ethics notes, a contingency fee is a payment arrangement where an attorney or law firm agrees that the payment of legal fees is contingent on a successful outcome. In other words, your attorney does not receive payment if they fail to win your case.
A contingency fee generally works like this:
- When you decide to hire an attorney to handle your claim, you must sign a contingent fee agreement. This legally binding agreement outlines the services the attorney will provide and designates a percentage of the award they receive on your behalf as payment for their services.
- Work begins immediately on your case without you having to pay any upfront costs. The attorney does not bill by the hour while the case is active.
- At the end of the case, the proceeds from a negotiated settlement or court verdict go directly to your attorney. They place the money in a trust. From that trust, they deduct the agreed-upon percentage for their payment. They also deduct any amount needed to settle medical liens from your healthcare providers or insurers who offered treatment but are yet to receive payment.
- Your attorney meets with you to sign documents that finalize your case and provides an account of their payment and the settlement of medical liens. You then receive the remainder of the compensation.
Most but not all personal injury lawyers use contingent fee billing. You must understand how your attorney charges for their services and handles other costs, such as filing fees.
How Will You Communicate With Me Through the Process?
Your personal injury attorney communicates with insurance companies about your claim, with witnesses about what they saw, with the judge or jury to help them understand the financial and psychological consequences you experience due to someone else’s negligence, and with your medical providers to understand your injuries and the treatments you have received.
They also communicate with you, answering your questions, updating you on the case’s progress, and staying informed of where you are with your treatment.
You must know how your legal team will communicate with you, how frequently it will provide updates, and your point of contact should questions or concerns arise. You can learn more about how a firm communicates with its clients and whether email, phone calls, and video conferencing are options for discussing your case with your legal team.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
An attorney likely cannot tell you how much your case is worth during the case evaluation, as they only value a claim once your condition stabilizes and you complete treatment or a medical professional determines your injuries will not improve.
However, it is still a question worth asking during the case evaluation as it gives you better insight into the types of compensation available and the strategies lawyers use to obtain the maximum damages for their clients.
Who Will Work on My Case?
A significant amount of legwork goes into personal injury claims. Your attorney likely has a team of legal professionals to assist them. Some attorneys handle intake and settlement negotiations, while more experienced lawyers step in to handle litigation.
Asking who will work on your case gives you a greater understanding of how a firm divides the work and more insight into your points of contact.
What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses of My Case?
Again, your attorney likely will need more time to answer this question. The information they provide, however, can lead to a further discussion about what you can do to protect your claim’s value and what information your attorney may want to uncover as they investigate the claim. It can also help you gauge their overall enthusiasm for working on your case.
Given the complexity of the personal injury claims process, retain a car accident lawyer. Your lawyer can thoroughly investigate your accident, liaise with insurance companies on your behalf, and represent you in a lawsuit if necessary. With a lawyer’s assistance, you can focus on your recovery while they work to protect and advance your legal rights.