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13 Questions to Ask When Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney

According to the American Bar Association, there are nearly 1.3 million attorneys in the United States. Of that number, a vast majority of them are personal injury lawyers. Hundreds of thousands of personal injury lawsuits and claims are filed every year. But with such a large pool of available attorneys, it can be difficult to choose the best attorney for a particular case.

Worse yet, those in need of legal assistance come to lawyers after they’ve suffered devastating effects on their lives, their finances, their happiness and their families after an accident. The anxiety and stress from just that situation are enough. The last thing they need is an inexperienced attorney making matters worse when they’re already down.

When hiring a personal injury lawyer, many people may search the phone book, look online or recall back to mind television ads. Trusting advertising and marketing alone is not how to hire a personal injury lawyer.

Instead, think of hiring a lawyer, as a job interview.  This expert guide will discuss how to handle that interview with a prospective lawyer. You don’t have to choose the first lawyer you meet with to represent you.

Here are 13 questions you should ask every personal injury lawyer you consult with.

  1. Do you have time to handle my case?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are 30.6 million accidental injuries that result in emergency room visits each year. If even a fraction of those injuries turn into personal injury cases, the personal injury lawyers handling those cases are going to be busy. Meanwhile, medical bills, lost wages, and damages keep accumulating. Most states also have a statute of limitations for certain kinds of accidents, meaning that time is of the essence to file a claim or lawsuit.

Ask your prospective personal injury lawyer how many cases they are currently working on, how much time they will be dedicating to your case, and how long they think it will be until there is a resolution. While there are a lot of factors that can go into those answers, be wary of any overly vague responses from an attorney.

Portrait of a business man carrying a tablet computer on the street and looking thoughtful
  1. Who will be trying my case?

It is important to ask your prospective lawyer during the interview who will actually be handling your case. Who will be your contact? When you have questions, who do you ask? Assess the skills and personality of the person that will be representing the case. Do they have good people skills? Can they understand the impact the accident has had in your life? Do they seem to grasp the particulars of the case?

Many law firms have names on the wall but are part of a team of professionals that have the experience, the resources, the know-how and the dedication to reach the best possible results. This can include other lawyers as well as staff.

“Many people hire an attorney they see on TV thinking that person will actually be representing them. In reality, much of the work is often handled by non-attorney case managers, and hearings are attended by junior attorneys in the firms,” says HG.org, an online lawyer directory, and legal advice blog. “These junior attorneys and staff people may be completely qualified and do a phenomenal job on your case, but if it is important to you that you get a particular attorney, not just the firm in general, this is an important question to ask.

  1. Do you have experience with these types of cases?

All lawyers are not created equal. The legal profession is vast and complex. When hiring a personal injury lawyer, find a specialist in the area of your particular case. Ask for experience, results of past cases, references if the state allows them to provide them, and even peer reviews.

These can usually be accessed to some degree on the firm’s website on their results or testimonial pages. Additionally, checking online services like Avvo.com or LawKick.com that allow clients to rate lawyers based on their own experiences can be very valuable. These websites also work as directories to finding other experienced lawyers within that field of law.

“Obviously, you would not go to a brain surgeon to deliver your baby even though they are both doctors. By the same token, you should not go to an attorney who does not focus their practice on personal injury work. Different lawyers usually specialize in different areas of the law, and as a result, have specialized skills related to those areas,” said HG.com.

For example, some personal injury lawyers are very experienced at medical malpractice while others are just as skilled at vehicle accidents and property damage.

“Do not assume just based upon advertising that the lawyer has handled or tried your type of case,” said Avvo. “You are the one hiring, remember that.”

  1. What is your success rate?

This is a fair question. Just because a lawyer specializes in a particular field doesn’t mean he’s particularly good at it. If they have more losses than wins, that could be seen as a track record. Past performance could be an indicator of the future success of your own case.

If the law allows it in their state, a personal injury law firm may also advertise their success on their website, or their most recent high-profile wins as a way of showing their particular skillset.

Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future results, but at least you will have a better feel for what has been possible for this particular personal injury law firm.

  1. Do I pay any advanced costs if we lose?

Most personal injury cases involve expenses, and compensation is needed to care for medical and personal needs. But concern about any additional costs from engaging an attorney could be a turn-off for victims.

Some lawyers also charge other costs for what they may pay out, such as the money they spend to do scientific tests, deposition of witnesses, obtaining medical and police records, and (if the state allows it) paying for certain medical expenses in lieu of a settlement.

Most lawyers who do this will waive expenses if the client loses. However, when hiring a personal injury lawyer, be sure to ask how they handle this process ahead of time. Know what costs are expected if you lose and know what of the attorney’s expenses you will be expected to cover. Most personal injury lawyers will not ask for this, as they work on a contingency arrangement – which means that they only get paid if you do.

  1. What do you need from me before and during my case?

Even the best personal injury lawyer will need some of your time during the personal injury claims process. By taking on your case, the lawyer and the firm accept the burden of all the leg-work with the insurance companies, the gathering of information, the negotiation of settlements with insurance adjusters, and if the case goes to trial then they will handle that process as well. To ensure they have everything they need, they will need to be in regular contact with you.

This means you will need to explain how you have been affected by the accident, what losses you have experienced, providing updates on your medical treatment and care thus far, medical history, facts of the accident, any witnesses, any ongoing trauma, and the list goes on and on. It’s important the personal injury lawyer knows the impact the accident has had on you so that he can bring that to the negotiating table and present all the damages that have been sustained to secure the best possible settlement payout.


If the insurance company doesn’t offer a settlement that you’re happy with, the personal injury claim could go to court. While you may not be required to go to the court yourself, the lawyer will likely be in contact with you regarding your ongoing treatment and losses.

Ask this question, and be honest with the personal injury attorney in every regard.

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  1. How long will my case take to settle?

As bills and time out of work pile up, waiting can get more stressful.

“Every car accident is distinct due to a variety of contributing factors such as the circumstances surrounding the collision, the number of occupants in the vehicles, who was at fault, and the severity of your injuries,” says Kiley Law Group, LLC, Boston personal injury attorneys. “Because each accident is different, the claim that you file with an insurance company will also be different from the claim that was filed before or after your claim.”

It is impossible, then, to know how long a car claim will take to reach a settlement or be resolved. However, when hiring a personal injury lawyer, ask them how long this particular case will take in their estimation.

Factors such as the amount of time that’s passed until a claim was filed, the number of people involved, the extent of injuries, and court dates and scheduling availability can also affect the time it will take to settle an accident claim.

The Federal Bureau of Justice, which is a division of the Department of Justice, found in a recent study of personal injury cases that “about three-quarters of the cases were disposed through an agreed settlement or voluntary dismissal” and only three-percent were settled by a trial verdict. They also found that half of the cases in the study were completed within 14 months, with car accident cases being the quickest.

The longest case in their study period lasted 14 years and 5 months in a case of negligence that involved 14 defendants being sued by three individuals. The case was settled out of court.

Another study covering 2002-2003 by the Federal Bureau of Justice found that 98 percent of cases were settled. Most cases will take at least a few months and up to a few years, depending on if the case goes to trial and a settlement isn’t reached.  

  1. How much is my case worth?

An experienced personal injury lawyer will have some idea of the value, even though it may be an arbitrary guess at first. There should be a spectrum that they can provide.

For example, the Federal Bureau of Justice found in the 2002-2003 study that the median damage award was $201,000. This is the number where half of the cases were awarded higher amounts and half the cases were awarded lower amounts. The types of cases with the highest award amounts were medical malpractice and product liability cases.

To determine the value of the case, personal injury compensation costs will include factors such as the actual amount of the medical bills and treatment, wages lost as a result of the injury, if the injury is permanent or permanently scars the client or if the injuries resulted in death.

While it’s impossible to know for sure how much the settlement could be, when hiring a personal injury lawyer he should be aware of other personal injury cases and personal injury settlements in the specific area of your case. However, that being said, be wary of any attorney that gives you an overly specific number or gives you a ballpark number before he has heard all of the facts of the case from you.

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  1. Do I need to pay anything to start my case?

The vast majority of personal injury lawyers will work on a contingency basis, meaning they will not get paid unless you do. If you lose your case, they don’t get anything. If you win, they receive a percentage of the settlement. This contingency fee may be negotiable and may be dictated via a contract with the lawyer. So, know how much that will be.

If the fee is too high, the payout that the victim receives may be negligible. Or, if the lawyer charges by the hour, it can be a very expensive process without any promise of success.

  1. What is the personal injury claims process?

An attorney who regularly handles personal injury claims will understand the complex legal issues involved in your case. During the consultation, they will discuss the specifics of your accident case and explain the personal injury claims process to you.

This falls under four main areas of action:

  • Representing your interests
  • Investigation
  • Out of court settlements
  • (Possibly) Fighting a personal injury lawsuit in a trial

Representation means the law firm will handle the day-to-day tasks of dealing with the insurance adjuster, building your case, and negotiating a settlement. The investigation covers gathering evidence of your claim which includes police reports, witness statements, and expert consultations to determine the cost and impact of the accident on the victim and the family. If a settlement can be reached without going to court, the law firm will handle that process through negotiation. If negotiation fails and settlement to cover the costs cannot be reached, they may take it to court and fight a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf where it is up to a judge or jury to decide the settlement on your case.

Be sure when asking this question that the personal injury lawyer is familiar in all four main areas. It may also be worthwhile to ask how often he goes to court. Sometimes, lawyers are great negotiators but have never been to trial.

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  1. Can I wait to file my claim?

From the moment the personal injury occurs, the clock starts ticking. Waiting too long after the accident can prove to be a missed opportunity. For example, here in Massachusetts the statute of limitations, the period of time in which a lawsuit must be filed, is typically three years. Once the term is up, no lawsuit can be filed.  

Ask the prospective personal injury lawyer what the statute of limitations is in your area.

Additionally, as recent studies have found, witness testimony becomes increasingly less reliable as more time goes by or other details are presented after the fact.

  1. What do I do when I start receiving medical bills?

Ask the attorney this question if medical bills are still expected to be coming in, and if there is further treatment as a result of the accident. It’s vital that you know what to expect when it comes to paying bills and the lawyer will need to know how that process is going to represent you well.

Sometimes lawyers can negotiate with the medical institutions to place a lien or hold on those bills to halt collections until the case is settled. The healing process can be slow and painful, so it’s important to keep appointments with doctors and physical therapists, as well as document such visits. Be sure the personal injury law firm is aware of everything you do for treatment and the information is updated periodically.

If you finish your accident-related medical treatment before a personal injury lawsuit is filed, or a settlement is negotiated, let your attorney know so that he or she can accurately describe your injuries and recovery to the opposing parties.


Shot of a mature doctor examining his patient who is concerned about his knee

If you finish your accident-related medical treatment before a personal injury lawsuit is filed, or a settlement is negotiated, let your attorney know so that he or she can accurately describe your injuries and recovery to the opposing parties.

  1. Who will pay my lost wages?

Discuss this with your prospective lawyer. It should be the insurance company that pays this based on current wages – regardless if you are part-time, full-time, seasonal or self-employed. Having a lawyer that is familiar with this process is vital.

LawKick, a social network that matches victims with lawyers, says this is definitely the case with auto accidents.

“The at-fault driver’s insurance will try to lowball you and your insurance company in order to save as much money as possible. They will try to get away with whatever they can,” says LawKick. “Although your insurance company will advocate for you, it has a conflict of interest because it also wants to keep costs down and limit its own overhead.  Insurance companies often settle early in order to save money, so keep that in mind before you make the decision.”

If you go into each meeting with a prospective personal injury lawyer or firm and ask these questions, you’ll be well prepared to find the best lawyer to handle your case.

Additional Resources:

Do I have a claim?

https://www.tomkileylaw.com/frequently-asked-questions-personal-injury/#claim

What should I do now?

https://www.tomkileylaw.com/frequently-asked-questions-personal-injury/#now

How will I pay my medical bills?

https://www.tomkileylaw.com/frequently-asked-questions-personal-injury/#bills

Who will pay for my lost wages?

https://www.tomkileylaw.com/frequently-asked-questions-personal-injury/#wages

Should I talk to the insurance company?

https://www.tomkileylaw.com/frequently-asked-questions-personal-injury/#insurance

How long will my case take?

https://www.tomkileylaw.com/frequently-asked-questions-personal-injury/#long

What constitutes a premises liability case in Massachusetts?

https://www.tomkileylaw.com/frequently-asked-questions-personal-injury/#premises

What is my personal injury case worth?

https://www.tomkileylaw.com/frequently-asked-questions-personal-injury/#worth

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