Determining whether you need an attorney — and hiring the right firm — are the most important steps you can take to improve the outcome of your car accident case. As you would expect, attorneys with more experience and a more successful case record statistically achieve better case outcomes for their clients, even when randomly assigned to cases, as detailed by the University of Chicago Law Review. Therefore, it’s imperative to hire a firm that has a wide breadth of experience with cases like yours, and an excellent reputation for success overall.
But how do you determine an attorney’s competence and potential value to your case? For many car accident victims, the answer lies mainly in the initial consultation. Most car accident lawyers provide this service free of charge, giving potential clients a chance to discuss their case and evaluate next steps with an expert before making any decisions. In many ways, this consultation also serves as a type of a job interview for an attorney. You should use this opportunity to ask the lawyer questions about your case and how they would handle it — try the ones below.
Should I Pursue This Case?
Whether to pursue your car accident case depends on a number of factors, including your own goals for the case. The purpose of pursuing a car accident case is to secure a monetary recovery for your harms and losses. But not everyone involved in a car accident has a good case for a monetary recovery. For instance, if you share the majority of the responsibility for causing the accident, a lawsuit may not be the best choice for you. Trustworthy lawyers will review your case free of charge and will weigh the likelihood that a case will be resolved in your favor. They’ll use this information to make recommendations on how best to proceed so you can decide whether it is in your best interest to hire a lawyer to help.
What Is Your Background? Have You Taken Cases like This One Before?
Just like any field, lawyers have specialties, so it’s important to find one whose experience makes them a good fit for your case. Your attorney should not only specialize in car accident law but be able to point to past experience that aligns with your case. For instance, if you were hit by a drunk driver, the lawyer you eventually hire should be able to describe how their background with drunk driving car accident cases has prepared them to handle your case.
You’ll also want to know about your lawyer’s reputation among previous clients. At FVF, for instance, we recommend that clients read our reviews on Google, Yelp, and AVVO before making the decision to engage our services.
How Are Your Fees Structured?
Lawyers structure fees differently. Some may charge a flat fee or hourly rates. Others take cases on a contingency basis, meaning they will only be paid if a case resolves in your favor. For a car accident, you should strongly consider an attorney who structures their fees this way. It will allow you to defer payment until you receive compensation — and serves as a testament to your lawyer’s commitment to your case.
After all, if a firm will only receive payment if you do, they’ll have a strong incentive to only accept cases they feel will resolve favorably for their clients. They’ll also be motivated to work hard to maximize the financial recovery you’re entitled to under the law.
If your lawyer does take cases on a contingency basis, they’ll structure fees as a percentage of your settlement or compensation. You’ll want to know this rate before you hire a lawyer, as the industry standard is usually 33 ⅓ to 40 percent.
However, even when a lawyer takes cases on contingency fee, there may be additional fees for court costs, filings, records requests, and other expenses associated with your case. You also need to ask about these fees and how the firm handles them before signing a contract.
Who Will Be Handling My Case?
Lawyers are not the only team members at a law firm. Legal teams are also composed of paralegals, law clerks, case managers, litigation managers and assistants, among others. All of these team members may be involved in some aspect of your case — particularly your case manager, who will often be your first line of communication for questions as your case proceeds.
While lawyers divide their time among multiple cases, your attorney should be contacting you regularly — at least once a month — to check in and provide you with updates as your case proceeds. They should also reach out when there are important developments that warrant discussion and may impact your case.
What Kind of Damages Can I Claim?
There may be many economic damages in a serious car accident case, including property damage, medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost income, and more. There may also be more intangible losses: pain and suffering, physical impairment, emotional distress, and others. Some damages are more clear-cut than others; for instance, past medical costs are much simpler to calculate — and easier to prove — than pain and suffering. Once you explain the details of your case to your lawyer and they have had the chance to ask questions about what happened and how the accident has impacted your life, they should be able to advise you on damages.
At FVF, we invite accident victims to schedule a free consultation with one of our accomplished Austin car accident lawyers — and welcome any questions you have about your case or your rights and options. Contact us today to get started and get the answers you need to move forward.