Working With Injury Lawyers
Have you been injured, but are hesitant to talk with a personal injury lawyer because you don't have any money? Hiring a personal injury lawyer usually isn't as expensive as working with other types of lawyers. Here are several tips to keep in mind as you interview and work with personal injury lawyers:
Consultations Are Free
Personal injury lawyers don't charge you for the opportunity to talk about your case. You can go in, describe what happened, and discuss the pros and cons of your case, as well as how much the lawyer thinks your case might be worth and how long it might take to see results.
Cases Are Taken "On Contingency"
Personal injury lawyers will generally take your case on what's called a "contingency fee basis." You're not required to pay any attorney's fees until you recover against the party at fault or their insurance company. If there's no recovery in your case, you don't owe any attorney's fees. When you do reach a settlement, the lawyer then charges a percentage of your overall settlement for lawyer's fees.
The exact contingency percentage you'll be charged varies from one location to another, and from one type of case to another. Percentages also sometime vary according to how much of a collection risk the lawyer perceives.
If you can't find a lawyer to take your personal injury case on a contingency fee basis, some lawyers will pursue a claim charging an hourly rate, billed monthly. The lawyer would be paid this amount whether or not you are successful in collecting on your injury. But beware that failing to find a lawyer to take your injury claim on a contingency fee basis is usually a sign that you don't have a very good case.
Regardless of what fee structure you and your lawyer agree to, there are expenses which are incurred in pursuing a case which will need to be paid.
Getting Your Costs Paid As You Go
Personal injury lawyers generally pay the costs of putting together your legal case, such as:
- Copies of police reports
- Medical records
- Office expenses such as copying
- Deposition fees
- Court filing fees
- Investigator charges
- Expert witness fees
The lawyer pays these expenses as they crop up, then you reimburse the lawyer for these expenses out of your settlement. It's obviously a gamble on the lawyer's part, so it's a good indication that the lawyer thinks you have a strong case. In certain cases in some states, a lawyer may agree not to ask you for reimbursement if your case doesn't produce a settlement.
It's important if you make an agreement with a lawyer to advance costs that you tack down how and when the costs will be repaid. Usually, a lawyer's contingency fee is based on the gross settlement amount, before costs are subtracted.
It's considered unethical in some states for a lawyer to advance the costs of your medical care. However, a good personal injury lawyer may be able to help you find sources of short-term loans if you cannot borrow from friends or family to pay your medical costs.
When You're Not Happy With Your Lawyer
Personal injury litigation is often slow, and if you've been injured you're likely to have financial pressures to settle the matter as soon as you can. For many people, this translates into dissatisfaction and frustration with their lawyer. If you're concerned about the progress of your case, make an appointment to speak with your lawyer, and be honest about the level of your frustration. Ask pointed questions about when you might expect to see results, and what the lawyer sees as the holdups in settlement.
If you're not satisfied with the answers you get from your lawyer, there's nothing wrong with talking with another lawyer for a "second opinion." When you interview another lawyer, listen carefully to how the lawyer answers your questions regarding how he or she might approach the case differently.
If you decide to switch lawyers, you'll want the new lawyer to contact your current lawyer to make the arrangements. Your current lawyer isn't allowed to do anything in transferring the case that could harm your case. The lawyers will work out the details of the file transfer, and take care of any financial arrangements that must be made. Whether and how much you'll owe your current lawyer will depend on:
- How far you've progressed in your case
- How much work your current lawyer has put in
- State laws
In some states, lawyers are allowed by law to put a lien on your court file for the amount of money you owe them when switching lawyers, with the lien to be paid when the case settles.
Clear communication is the key to working with your lawyer. If you're communicating, your lawyer will know what your expectations are and can keep you informed in the process. Cooperating with your lawyer is the best way to ensure that your personal injury case will be successful.