Are you in the market for a personal injury lawyer in the New Year? If you’ve never had a personal injury case before, the process may be confusing. Sure, you can open the phone book and pick one. That might work for finding a nearby dry cleaner or late-night diner, but it probably won’t get you the right legal counsel for your case.
Interview Potential Attorneys
Much like interviewing for a job, you’ll want to talk to more than one attorney. Initial consultations are free in New York, so it’s possible to talk to several before making a decision. Just like a job interview, you want to make sure that the attorney you hire is also a good fit.
Take notes during each visit, and use your best judgment to decide which attorney to hire. You can even create a standard list of questions to bring into the interview. Use a template document, print multiple copies and add enough space to write down the answers for each one. You don’t have to sign with the first one you visit—and you don’t want to hire one you don’t like!
It’s natural to ask “small talk” questions when you meet with an attorney. But beyond that, you want to know if he or she has the experience to work with your legal issues. Questions like:
- “What kind of personal injury cases do you handle?” You want to make sure that the individual not only handles cases in the personal injury niche Whbut your specific type of case: slip & fall, car crash, workplace injuries, uninsured driver, etc. Someone who “works with all types of personal injury cases” but isn’t specific may not be your best choice.
- “What kind of fee arrangement do you typically use?” Many personal injury attorneys use a contingency fee arrangement, where their legal fees are taken out of your case settlement. Not all attorneys use this arrangement; many charge a flat fee or by the hour. Make sure you ask.
- “Is a retainer required?” Some attorneys require a retainer fee to begin working on your case. It’s similar to a down payment on a car or real estate. Some may not, but you need to find out before you sign anything, or you’ll find yourself being required to pay one. This should be part of the fee arrangement discussion.
- “Who will be working on my case?” Is he or she going to be working on your case, or will it be assigned to someone else?
- “Who would be my point of contact?” You don’t want to continually explain your case every time you call, so you’ll want to make sure there is a specific point of contact to ask for when you call.
- “How will you keep me informed of my case status?” Will they call, email, send letters? Should you call? How long will it take to have your call returned? Will they charge you for phone calls and/or emails? You’ll want to know how things are progressing, and if there are any developments.
- “If I were to hire you, what would you need from me?” Of course, they will ask for any evidence and documents. Beyond that, they’ll tell you what else you’ll be asked to provide, and how it will help your case.
If you’ve narrowed down your choice or choices, you want to make sure they are who they say they are. Have they been sanctioned, suspended, or had client complaints? The New York Unified Court System has a free online search tool that lets you check out any attorney in the state before you hire them. Each one will give you their “pitch.” Make sure they haven’t misrepresented themselves, or caused harm to other client cases before you sign anything.
After you’ve interviewed one or more personal injury lawyers, review your notes, their track records, and consider what was discussed in each interview. Which had the best experience? Which one stood out? You’ll be spending a fair amount of time with the individual you hire to represent you, so make sure you are comfortable with him or her before signing an agreement.
The Experienced East Village Personal Injury Law Firm
Hoffmaier & Hoffmaier has been helping East Village New Yorkers for over 25 years and we’re ready to help you, too. Call us at (212) 777-9400 and we’ll talk to you about your case—our first consultation is free. (We also have Spanish- and Chinese-speaking employees if you’d like to talk with them.) Our contingency fee basis means we don’t get paid unless we settle your case or win the trial.