Accidents are tragic; they come without any warning and disrupt the course of your entire life. If you or someone close to you is injured in an accident, you face a number of critical flash-decisions. You will have to seek out medical attention for sure, but even beyond that, you must find qualified and able legal representation for yourself. For people with no background in law or any similar experiences, there are a few standard questions which you can ask to understand if an attorney is the right fit for you.
The Attorney's Area of Specialization
The same way you wouldn't go to a cardiologist to fix a broken leg, you wouldn't go to a property lawyer or a corporate attorney for a personal injury case. The first thing you need to find out is whether this attorney's practice is entirely focused on personal injury law, as this would mean they have experience on their side and are also familiar with the tricks of the trade.
Specialization is no guarantee of skill when it comes to lawyers, so you've got to find out if the attorney you have come to for consultation has a good reputation. Feel free to ask him about his past experience in similar cases and the results of the same. It is true that young, inexperienced lawyers may be skilled and fervent enough to win the case in an impressive fashion, but that call, of whether you wish to place your fate in the hands of a newbie, is yours to make.
Find out specifically if your attorney is in any sort of disciplinary, legal or ethical trouble himself, as this could be a big red flag, and could hamper his ability to represent you in the case. This is, however, very rare for qualified and reputed attorneys. Also, find if they can provide references, to whom you can speak about the general experience and the service rendered.
Who Else Will Be Working On the Case?
Unlike television attorneys who handle entire cases themselves, real life situations require any attorney to have a team of professionals behind him, working round the clock in research and organization so that the entire suit moves smoothly and swiftly. Big firms may even send a junior attorney to the hearing instead, to report back to your attorney. You should know these things beforehand, and if required, also get to know the backroom staff before making an informed decision.
Expected Resolution Time
The longer the case drags on, the more you have to pay for medical bills. Also considering the fact that your name is on your firm's accident book, you could take time off from work due to the injury itself or the investigative doctor visits, legal proceedings, and the like. Of course, they will not be able to give you an exact time frame, but any good firm should be able to give you a tentative window within which they can close the case.
Whether the Attorney Works on a Contingency Basis
Most personal injury lawyers understand that at the time you come to them for representation, you are already being crushed by medical bills and a lowered income flow. This is why they do not charge for their services and take an earlier agreed-upon portion of the money you receive if the case comes to a settlement or the trial concludes in your favor. This is called a contingency fee mechanism, as the attorney's payment is contingent upon your winning the case.
You will find that some reputed firms are even willing to pay for any consultations and doctor visits you incur during the proceedings. You must find out beforehand if the attorney you have gone to follows a similar mechanism or charges by the hour.
Chances of Success
The general rule is that if a settlement is offered, it will be of a much lesser amount than what you would stand to win if the case went to trial. It is your attorney's duty to read up the facts of the case and figure out the feasibility of a trial win. Also, find out if the attorney usually goes to trial, because some personal injury lawyers try to skate by, by never going to trial and signing the first and quickest settlement offer they get, instead of getting you the maximum amount that they can.
Conflict of Interest
This is especially common in personal injury cases, as some attorneys might push you to accept a settlement while you want to go to trial. Some may wish to drag the offender to the courts "on principle" which may sound good on paper but has a drastically low chance of success, especially if you have just turned down a good settlement offer. In general, the choice of settlement or trial is always in the client's hands, but some attorneys may refuse to represent you further if you do not take the settlement they recommend. It is important that you discuss each of these things at length before the proceedings commence.