You’re never really prepared to be the victim of a car accident—you’ve undoubtedly got a lot of questions about what comes next and how to handle your claim. It’s usually a good idea to talk to a personal injury lawyer before talking to the other driver’s representative, especially if you’ve been injured or there’s damage to your property. If you’re ready to hire a Baltimore personal injury lawyer, be sure to get the answers to these 15 questions before you sign on the dotted line.
- What type of law do you specialize in?
Of course you’ll want a lawyer who specializes in personal injury, but make sure your lawyer is experienced with your type of accident. An accident with a commercial truck driver might be handled in an entirely different way than one with an uninsured motorist, for example, so make sure your lawyer has handled your specific type of accident in the past.
- How many cases like mine have you handled?
Your lawyer should be honest about how many times he’s handled cases similar to yours and how many he’s taken to trial. You want a lawyer with experience winning personal injury cases in Baltimore. If you suffered extensive injuries or disability as a result of the accident, it’s even more important that your lawyer understands the medical aspects of your case and the long-term implications so he can accurately value your case and get you the money you deserve.
- How many personal injury cases have you actually taken to trial?
Many cases are settled outside the court room, but if a settlement can’t be reached, you want a personal injury lawyer who can successfully take your case to trial—and is prepared to do so if negotiations fail.
- Do you have time to work on my case right now?
One of the dangers of going with a “big name” Baltimore personal injury lawyer is that he may sign up a lot of cases and then sit on them until just before the statute of limitations expires. You want a lawyer who can get to work on your case right away.
- How long does it usually take to resolve a case like mine?
Your lawyer should be able to give you a reasonable estimate if he actually has experience with cases like yours. Remember, it’s not always in your best interest to settle quickly, especially if there is the potential for large damages or if you are still undergoing medical treatment and haven’t reached your full recovery potential. Your lawyer should be able to explain any unusual factors and give you an honest timeline for resolving your case.
- How much is my case worth?
Your lawyer should be able to give you a range of amounts and explain the unknown variables to you. Don’t be taken in by a lawyer who promises you a figure that seems unrealistic to you. If the number seems especially low to you, be sure you understand how your lawyer arrived at his estimate.
- Will you actually be handling my case, or hand it off to another attorney?
Find out if your consultation is just a meet-and-greet before your case is passed to a junior associate. Find out who your contact will be and who specifically will be preparing and potentially trying your case.
- What is your contingency fee?
Most personal injury cases are paid on a contingency basis; your lawyer takes a percentage (usually between 25% and 45%) of whatever you receive from the other driver and/or his insurance company. If you have a very strong case, or serious injuries, this percentage may be negotiable. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Can you estimate the advanced costs for my case?
There are always upfront costs associated with a personal injury case, usually for expenses such as obtaining copies of medical records, court filing fees, depositions, and expert witnesses, for example. These fees will come out of the award or settlement, so it’s a good idea to ask for an estimate, since they can add up quickly.
- How are advance costs handled?
It’s standard practice to deduct these costs from the award or settlement, but you should make sure that you aren’t responsible for any advanced costs if you lose your case.
- When will my lawsuit be filed?
In most cases, it’s best to file sooner rather than later. Ask for a specific date; barring any justifiable delays, your lawyer should be able to file within a month of taking your case. If he can’t, be sure to find out why.
- Will my case actually go to trial?
Your Baltimore personal injury lawyer should be prepared to take your case to trial if necessary. If he tells you right away that your case is going to settle, be sure you are comfortable with what you’re settling for.
- What is expected of me in this process?
Lawsuits are a partnership between you and your lawyer; be sure you know what role you will (or won’t) be expected to have in the process. If you are passionate about aspects of your case, be sure your attorney understands your feelings and lets you know how you can participate.
- If we disagree about the settlement offer, will you respect my wishes?
Some lawyers would rather take a quick pay off than fight for every dollar you may be entitled to. On the other hand, there are situations where you are best served in taking a settlement offer. Do you trust your lawyer to give you the best advice for your case, and to respect your wishes as much as possible? Will your lawyer withdraw from representing you if you don’t take his advice about a settlement offer?
- Is there anything I should be doing to improve my chances of success?
Your lawyer will probably suggest that you see certain specialists and consulting physicians, or talk to an investigator, among other things. Be concerned if your lawyer gives you the impression that once you hire him, you just need to sit back and wait for a check to arrive in the mail.
5 Additional Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer
Your lawyer should answer these questions in your initial consultation—in most cases, without you needing to ask. But before you hire a Baltimore personal injury lawyer, don’t forget these five bonus questions you really ought to ask.
- Have you ever been censured, disciplined by a legal or ethics committee, or suspended in the past?
The vast majority of lawyers have a clear record, but this could be a huge red flag. You need to feel confident that your lawyer can effectively represent you and that your money is safe in his trust account.
- Can I talk to some of your past clients for references?
Most jurisdictions now allow attorneys to give past clients for references. Don’t be afraid to call them; you may get valuable insight on how the lawyer will handle your case.
- What percentage of your Baltimore personal injury cases do you actually take to trial?
This is a good indicator of how your lawyer approaches personal injury cases; cases that go to trial typically result in much larger awards. If your lawyer tells you he rarely has to take a case to court, this may be a sign that he’s more interested in getting a quick pay-out rather than getting you everything you might be entitled to in your situation.
- How long does it take you to return phone calls?
This might seem like an odd question, but don’t be afraid to ask up front what kind of policy your lawyer has about communicating with you and answering your questions and phone calls. You’ll quickly grow dissatisfied with a lawyer who doesn’t return your calls and give clear answers to your questions and concerns.
- Do you think you’ll get me more money than another Baltimore accident lawyer? Why?
You only get once chance to try your case and get money for your damages, so don’t be embarrassed about wanting to get the best possible outcome. Your lawyer should be able to answer tough questions and explain why he’s the best person to take your case and get you the money you deserve.
The Law Offices of Randolph Rice, Jr., represents clients who have been injured as a result of another driver’s negligence. Mr. Rice is a former Assistant State Attorney with superior customer rankings for Baltimore personal injury law. If you have been injured in a car accident in Baltimore, contact his office today for a consultation at (410) 694-7291.