Important Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Lawyer for Your Personal Injury Claim

You’ve heard the saying before: no one likes lawyers until they need them. It’s true. We aren’t the most popular bunch of folks, unfortunately, but when people find themselves needing legal representation, attorneys are there to help. It seems our lives are flooded with legal advertisements these days. Attorneys are on our tv’s, on billboards, sending you solicitations in the mail, on the radio, and all over the web. So do you know how to select the right lawyer for you and for your case? Below we will detail questions you should ask when choosing an attorney for your personal injury claim.

1. What areas of law do you handle?

Many attorneys are general practitioners meaning they handle a wide range of cases from traffic to criminal to domestic. This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, personal injury cases are complex and the laws relating to these cases are ever changing with state and federal legislation. As such, if you have been injured in a car accident or have a personal injury claim, we always recommend hiring a personal injury law firm who mostly handles personal injury or complex civil cases. This will help to ensure your attorney gets you the maximum recovery possible from the at fault insurance carrier and also by negotiating any liens you are required to reimburse. You wouldn’t hire an eye doctor to repair a broken ankle; don’t hire a criminal lawyer to handle a personal injury claim.

2. Will I be working directly with you or with your staff?

This is a big one. Sadly, we are in the era of the “law marts” or “law firm mills”. We at the Law Offices of Robert D. Rouse, III simply don’t agree with this business model. Essentially, it’s a high volume practice where most of the work is done by lower level staff members. That’s not to say that the staff members don’t do a good job, some of them are very good at what they do and have done it for many, many years. However, unless you have been to law school and are admitted to the bar in which you practice, you cannot attend court proceedings…period. As such, there is only so far a staff member can take you. Further, you want to make sure that when you a hire an attorney, he or she is accessible to you and available to answer your questions. Does the attorney timely respond to emails and phone calls? Does the attorney explain where you are in the legal process letting you know all of your options? Do you have to wait for what seems like forever before the attorney is available to meet with you? If you don’t feel like the attorney has time to meet with you when you go in for your initial consultation, they probably won’t have time for you during your case (unless the attorney is in trial or temporarily out of the office). Our attorneys are almost always available to speak with clients, and we try to have all calls returned and all emails responded to before the end of the business day. Indeed, we also often call clients at night and sometimes on weekends. Essentially, we make ourselves as available as possible to provide answers and guidance during uncertain times.

3. Have you handled cases like mine before?

If the answer to this question is “no” or “only a few” and you have a fairly straight forward car wreck case, dog bite case, products liability case, medical malpractice case, or other injury case, RUN do not walk away. You don’t want a lawyer figuring out personal injury with your claim. Now, this is not to say that a young lawyer who is working with a more experienced lawyer can’t do a fabulous job. This is just to say that if you are going to be working with a North Carolina attorney on your personal injury claim, you want to make sure that attorney is an experienced injury lawyer or, at a minimum, that the lawyer has access to one who will assist with all aspects of your case. Personal injury claims can be complex; you want an experienced lawyer.

4. Are you willing to file a lawsuit or take my case to court if we can’t get it resolved?

If the answer to this question is “no” or “we settle almost all of our cases prior to filing suit”, RUN do not walk away. You want a lawyer who is willing to fight to get you every penny. You do not want a lawyer who is in it to get a quick settlement for you, but you also don’t want a lawyer that pushes every case to trial. Not every case should be tried. Not every case should be settled. You need a lawyer who will take the time to get to know you, your case, and your circumstances and who will work with you to understand your needs and educate you so you can make decisions that are right for you and your family. Ultimately, however, make sure your lawyer is willing to take your case to court.

5. How long have you been practicing law?

While longer time practicing does not necessarily mean better representation (sometimes younger lawyers have more time to devote to their cases) you do want someone who has been practicing long enough in the field of practice that you are looking to hire an attorney for such that they are experienced in handling the types of cases that you have. This goes back to number 3 – make sure the attorney has handled many cases like yours before.

6. What fees/costs will I be responsible for?

Surprise! While most firms handle personal injury fees on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t pay attorneys fees unless there is a recovery made on your behalf and at that point, a certain pre-determined, fixed percentage is taken for a fee, many firms are “creative” when billing for other things. For example, does the firm you are speaking to charge for postage, copies, long distance calls, legal research, etc. What about costs: Expert witness fees, deposition fees, mediation fees, etc. If the law firm you hire helps you get medical payments insurance money, does that cost extra? We are amazed at what other firms charge for – some things we’ve never even though about! We think all clients deserve to know what will come out of their recovery and what we do and don’t charge for. We generally charge a standard 1/3 fee upon resolving your case. If we aren’t successful, we don’t get paid. We also charge for any out of pocket expenses (filing fees, court costs, mediation fees, etc.) We don’t charge for postage, phone calls, assisting with property damage where we are handling the injury claim, or obtain med pay money for clients. No hidden costs here!

If you have been injured in an accident and need a North Carolina personal injury lawyer, call our office to schedule your free consultation with one of our lawyers today! We are conveniently located in Pitt County, New Hanover County, and Carteret County.

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