How to Interview a Prospective Personal Injury Attorney

By Greg Kohn

If you find yourself needing to hire a New Jersey personal injury attorney, how can you find a high-quality lawyer who will advocate aggressively, keep you informed about developments on your case, and work relentlessly to get you the best possible result? Word-of-mouth is valuable, but you might not have a friend or relative who can recommend a great personal injury attorney to you.

You might need to find one for yourself. Here are some suggestions on how to interview a prospective personal injury attorney.

How Many Cases Like Yours Has the Lawyer or Law Firm Handled?

Don’t be afraid to ask about the attorney’s track record, particularly if you have a sophisticated injury claim that will be expensive to litigate, like medical malpractice or product liability. If the case will require the use of expert witnesses like engineers or physicians, it falls into this category.

You need to know if the lawyer has handled cases like yours successfully. If the attorney has only handled “simple” injury claims, like parking lot fender-bender cases, you might not want them handling your dangerous prescription drug case. Also, because sophisticated cases are often expensive, you will need assurance that the firm has the financial resources to handle a case like yours.

How Do Their Contingency Fees Work?

Lawyers handle most personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis. Under this fee arrangement, you do not pay any upfront legal fees. The lawyer gets paid at the end of the matter out of the settlement proceeds or court verdict. 

You will want to get the attorney’s fee agreement terms in writing signed by the lawyer and you at the beginning of the case. The contract should specify the exact percentage the attorney will receive and explain the different percentages. For example, the lawyer might get one-third of the settlement but a higher percentage if the attorney has to file a lawsuit because there is more work involved in preparing for trial and trying the case.

You do not want a lawyer who will automatically file a quick lawsuit in every injury case just to try to get the higher percentage. If the case is not likely to settle or the filing deadline is coming up soon, the attorney will have a good reason to file a lawsuit.

Settlements vs. Trials

Some personal injuries never try their injury cases. If they cannot get a settlement quickly, they often refer the case to another law firm that will handle the pre-trial and trial phases. The danger of going with one of these “settle or refer it out” lawyers is that the insurance companies know who they are, so they are not likely to make a fair offer.

Personal Injury Does Not Mean General Practice

Personal injury is a specialty, so you do not want a lawyer who will take anything that walks in the door. It is perfectly reasonable to ask what other types of cases the attorney handles besides personal injury. It is fine if other lawyers in the firm handle other types of cases.

Who Pays the Litigation Expenses During the Case?

Make sure the fee agreement stipulates who will pay the litigation costs during the case. Some law firms bear these costs for the client and wait until the end of the matter to get reimbursed, while some other lawyers do not have the financial resources to do that so their clients have to pay these costs during the case, which can cost many thousands of dollars. A New Jersey personal injury attorney can handle every stage of your personal injury claim from negotiating with the insurance company to taking the case to trial. Get in touch with our office today for help, we offer a free consultation.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.