If you have been injured and are looking to hire a personal injury attorney, you are faced with hundreds of lawyers claiming to practice in that area. The attorney hired to represent you will have a big impact on your case and choosing the right attorney is an important decision. Beyond financial results, the right attorney can mean the difference between a professional and efficient process or a frustrating pattern of unanswered questions and unreturned phone calls and emails.
Here are some questions you should ask an attorney before you hire them:
What is your fee?
Most personal injury attorneys work for a contingency fee, which means they do not charge a retainer and aren’t paid by the hour. The typical contingency fee in Oregon is one-third prior to trial, and 40% if a case goes to trial.
However, some personal injury attorneys charge as much as 50% regardless of whether the case goes to trial.
Have you handled a case like mine before?
There are many different types of personal injury cases. For instance, I almost exclusively represent people who were injured while walking or riding their bicycles or people hurt by defective and dangerous products. There are some lawyers, though, who have only ever handled motor vehicle versus motor vehicle crashes and who do not understand the nuances of bicycle and pedestrian injury cases. Some people even wind up hiring lawyers who do not practice personal injury law regularly.
It’s important to hire a lawyer who has handled a case like yours before. Make sure you ask about the lawyer’s experience and practice areas.
What is your current caseload?
Personal injury attorneys have different practice models. Some firms operate with the model that they take on as many clients as they can find and then have non-attorney staff members handle the majority of the case. Some lawyers, like me, limit their case load so they can focus their energy and efforts on a client focused practice. It’s important for you to ask a lawyer how their office works to make sure your case will not just be tossed in with the 50, 60, or even 100 other cases the lawyer has.
Charley Gee is a Portland personal injury attorney. He exclusively represents injured people against insurance companies and corporations.