Frequently Asked Questions Attorneys Typically Won’t Answer
Your attorney serves as a trusted guide through every step of the personal injury process. During the initial consultation and at all other points, you are encouraged to ask questions about your case and about personal injury law in general. Keep in mind, however, that while your attorney will strive to provide detailed answers, some questions cannot be answered right away.
If, when interviewing an attorney, you find that she or he has all the answers without knowing the facts, be wary. Don't be surprised if you fail to receive a clear answer to these common questions:
Can I Sue?
This is arguably the most frequently heard question at personal injury law firms — and the least answerable. Another common version of this question: "Do I have a case?" In both circumstances, the answer is virtually always yes.
Plaintiffs can sue for a variety of behaviors, both perceived and real. That doesn't mean that every case is worth pursuing. An accident attorney will not take every case — only cases with a realistic chance of success, so that it will be worth the client’s time and energy at the very end.
How Long Will My Case Last?
The length of personal injury cases varies wildly. Some clients achieve settlement promptly, while other cases drag on for longer periods. While your attorney may provide a ballpark estimate based on similar cases, an accurate prediction is simply not possible without knowing the details of a case. Instead of demanding a detailed timeline, inquire about the length of past cases, keeping in mind that your case could prove shorter or longer depending on a wide variety of factors.
How Much Will I Receive in Damages?
Your expected compensation depends on the extent of your injury, whether you suffered lost wages, and whether the defendant's behavior could be deemed reckless or malicious (as this might open the door for punitive damages). Compensation for emotional duress can also vary greatly from one case to the next. The plaintiff's role in the incident can further impact personal injury awards in contributory negligence and comparative fault states.
Don't trust an attorney who immediately provides a specific estimate of expected damages, particularly if you've yet to delve into the details of your case. As with the aforementioned timeline question, your attorney may provide a range based on past cases, but with the clear stipulation that your case may differ.
Will My Case Go to Trial?
A personal injury attorney should be prepared to take your case to trial, but also willing to settle if it's in your best interest. Early in the process, it's impossible to definitively determine whether your case will extend past settlement proceedings. A lot depends on the defendant and his or her counsel.
While your attorney cannot accurately predict whether you'll eventually end up in court, he or she can enlighten you on what to expect as it relates to litigation, and when in the process it will become more apparent whether or not a trial will be needed. Trial is not always the answer, but neither is settlement.
During initial consultations, attorneys are happy to answer questions about applicable law, their past successes, and the general process involved with a personal injury claim. They cannot, however, offer accurate predictions regarding case timelines or compensation, even after initially learning about the details of your particular case. Keep these limits in mind as you interview prospective attorneys and choose the ideal lawyer and/or law firm to handle your case.