Questions To Askbefore you hire a lawyer
Essential Questions To Ask Before You Hire A Lawyer
Choosing a lawyer is tough – how do you know who to get? You want the best you can get, to be treated nicely and fairly, and to get the full value of your damages as quickly as possible. Here are some questions you should ask a lawyer before hiring them:
- Do I even need a lawyer? Is my case so small because I don’t have much medical that I would put more money in my pocket if I call the insurance company directly? Will you give me some guidance on how to do that without having to pay you?
- Are you going to handle my case personally?
- I know you say ‘No Fee if No Recovery’ and I get a free consultation, but if you lose my case are you going to want me to pay at least your expenses? Or do I really have no obligation whatsoever if we do not win my case?
- Do you go to court, take depositions, and fight these cases or do you just sign these up and let your associates do the work?
- Do you file lawsuits and try cases, or are we just going to collect a bunch of documents, send them to the claims adjustor and settle this case cheaply?
- Have you actually litigated and tried these kinds of cases? Do you continue to train and keep up with your trial skills?
- Do you have a reputation in the legal community and with claim adjusters and defense lawyers that you will fight to the very end for a case to ensure that you get the full value of the settlement of the claim rather than a reduced value?
- Do you have a packet of information (published articles, books, pamphlets, etc) to educate me about your firm so that I know that you will be able to strongly represent my interests?
- Are you going to look to try to get 50, 60, or 70% of my damages, or are you going to try your hardest to get 100% of my damages from the defendant?
- Do you have experience in winning difficult liability cases, pursuing claims where injuries are severe, finding additional insurance where no one else thought there was any, thinking outside the box, investigating claims and being aggressive to ensure that we get a fair recovery?
- How long have you been practicing in this field of law? Have you ever handled a case like mine before?
These are the main questions (and there are more below), and they are important. The public has a distrust of lawyers. Stories of bad lawyers get attention and lawyer jokes are legion. Know why sharks do not attack lawyers? Professional courtesy. But law is a profession that is well regulated. Lawyers must be licensed by the state in which they practice and there are civil and criminal penalties for practicing law or taking money to practice law without a license. Lawyers have Rules of Professional Conduct and an oath of admission to guide them in practice.
Missouri lawyers take the following oath:
I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Missouri;
That I will maintain the respect due courts of justice, judicial officers and members of my profession and will at all times conduct myself with dignity becoming of an officer of the Court in which I appear;
That I will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law;
That I will at all times conduct myself in accordance with the Rules of Professional Conduct; and,
That I will practice law to the best of my knowledge and ability and with consideration for the defenseless and oppressed.
So help me God.
Illinois Lawyers take this oath:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be), that I will support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Illinois, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of attorney and counselor at law to the best of my ability.
Lawyers have rules about honesty, diligence and communication to their clients and zealous advocacy for them. These rules are detailed, are typically uniform across the United States. Lawyers have to study ethics rules in law school, take a test on them to be admitted to the Bar, and take yearly continuing education on them throughout their careers. See the Rules of Professional conduct for Illinois lawyers and Missouri’s ethics rules. Members of the public (and clients) can complain of lawyers and lawyers can be disciplined, suspended or disbarred. The Supreme Courts of a State and sometimes the state bar associations regulate lawyers. You can find whether a lawyer has been disciplined on the Supreme Court websites of most states. You can check if a lawyer has been disciplined or disbarred in Illinois or in Missouri.
As you are further analyzing your choice of a lawyer, here are a number of additional questions you can ask.
- What are the possible outcomes of my case?
- Will you be able to assist me in finding good medical care?
- Will you be able to fight my liens for my insurance company or others who want to take money from my case?
- Do you charge additional money for fighting liens or if I have to get a loan or any other matter other than the percentage that you promised me?
- Are you willing to take my case for a lower percentage than what you have quoted?
- Are expenses included in your fees?
- Will you let me know what is going on with my case in a timely manner?
- Will you answer my phone calls and communicate with me?
- What style approach will you take–aggressive and zealous?
- Although I certainly want to settle my case, will you make sure I get all the money I can?
- Who else in your office will be working on my case?
- Can I have your personal cell phone number and email address so I can communicate with you about my case?
- What qualifications do you have to handle my case?
- Can you really add value to my case even if it is a smaller case?
- Is this is serious enough injury where I should get a lawyer?
- Does this lawyer have the right experience and resources?
- How is your firm’s track record?
- What kind of reputation to do you have?
- Do you feel comfortable with this lawyer?
- Do you have any certifications or peer awards?
- Is the lawyer trying to hard-sell you or is it obvious that they a robust business and having them as a teammate to fight your claim would be beneficial?
- If I terminate my representation of you before the matter is resolved, do I have to pay you?
- Will you be responsible for my case or will I be assigned to another lawyer? Or will you work as a team with other lawyers?
- Who is my primary contact?
- What is the best way to communicate with you?
- How are you going to tell me about what is going on with my case?
- Why should I hire you?
- How strong is my case?
- What are its weaknesses?
- What is the likely outcome of my case and what should I do?
If you have a workers’ compensation claim you should hire a lawyer: if you missed time from work and no one is paying you; if it has been more than a year and you haven’t settled your case; if your employer refuses to provide you medical care; if your employer refuses to pay you two-thirds of your weekly wage while you are off; if your employer tells you that your claim is not covered by work comp or that they will not pay any benefits at all; if you are contacted by nurse case manager or claim representatives; if your employer refuses to get you medical care and pay your medical bills; if your employer will not tell you who the medical doctors are that you should be seeing; if the company doctor returns you to work too soon when you are still hurt; if the employer is making up light duty work and doesn’t really have a position of you; if your employer fires you because you got hurt on the job; or if you think you have legal questions or need help.
In an automobile case, there are developments that raise your need for counsel. If your damages and injuries are serious; if the defendant or his insurance company is denying liability (or fault) for the accident when they should not; if they are asserting that there is no or limited insurance; if the insurance company is pressuring you; or if you think you have legal questions or need help. These are more detailed in my auto accident book.