A personal injury claim can help an injured person recover his or her losses if they resulted from another party’s negligence, but the victim will likely need a personal injury attorney to navigate the legal process and help secure a settlement or cash award. If you or a loved one recently experienced a personal injury and expect to face legal action in the near future, you should know which questions to ask a personal injury attorney before agreeing to representation. You should also know which questions to ask after you have retained an attorney to represent your case.

General Legal Information During a Consultation

Most attorneys who offer free consultations to potential clients do so to help those who cannot afford legal counsel better understand their options before agreeing to representation and to find the cases with the highest chances of succeeding. No attorney has an obligation to offer free consultations, and there are no laws dictating what a free consultation must cover or how long it should last. Some attorneys limit free consultations to an hour or half hour or only offer free consultations over the phone while others only offer paid consultations in person.

If you take advantage of a free consultation offer, remember the attorney will likely be unwilling to offer specific legal advice about your case until you agree to representation. However, a paid consultation is somewhat like a temporary attorney-client agreement and most attorneys are generally more open to offering specific information during paid consultations. In a free consultation, you should ask questions about the attorney’s qualifications.

  • “How long have you practiced law, and specifically, how long have you practiced personal injury law?”
  • “What type of success rate have you had with personal injury claims in the past?”
  • “What special certifications have you earned?”
  • “Are you a member of any special legal professional organizations?”
  • “How does your firm bill for legal services?”

Of course, a potential client will want to know the attorney’s thoughts about his or her specific case. How forthcoming an attorney is with legal advice during a free consultation depends on the attorney. If you do have the option to ask about specific aspects of your case, or if you agree to representation or take advantage of a paid consultation offer, you should develop some questions geared toward your specific legal situation.

Specific Questions to Ask About Your Case

Prepare a list of questions ahead of time to ask your attorney once he or she agrees to offer legal advice in your case.

  • “What kind of compensation can I expect if I win?”
  • “Will you try to settle or take my case to trial?”
  • “Do you have any professional contacts who can act as expert witnesses in my case?”
  • “What are my chances of winning?”
  • “Do you see any potential for me to absorb any liability in this matter?”
  • “How will state and local laws influence my case?”

Understanding Your Attorney Better

When you start asking an attorney specific questions about your case, make sure you ask who will actually represent you in the case. You may meet with one attorney and then another partner handles your case. This can be difficult for a client who develops a rapport with an attorney during their initial consult only to discover someone else will handle the cases. Also make sure you understand the attorney’s communication policy. Will you have direct access to contact the attorney whenever necessary, or will your communication go through a legal assistant, junior partner, or another intermediary?

Ultimately, the initial consultation and first meetings with an attorney give you the opportunity to ensure the attorney is the right person to handle your case. Come prepared with all the evidence and documentation you need to support your case and a list of detailed questions to ask the attorney so you can have peace of mind when you agree to his or her representation.