I have probably met with hundreds of people over the years to discuss their potential case. Every meeting is different. Some people come with a list of specific questions. Other people are frankly intimidated at the prospect of meeting with an attorney. It is usually their first time sitting down with a lawyer in person. If you are going to call or meet with an attorney to discuss your Oregon or Washington injury claim, here are a few things you may want to ask the attorney.
1. How do you pay the attorney fee?
You are a potential client, and as such, you have a right to know how the fees work. Do not be shy about asking about the fee agreement. In many cases, attorneys charge a contingent fee. This means that the attorney does not recover a fee unless he or she recovers money to compensate you for your injury. This could be in the form of a settlement, arbitration, or jury verdict. Typically, the fee is a percentage of the recovery.
It is a good idea to know what the attorney means by "recovery." For example, if you are injured in a car that is insured in the State of Oregon, you are covered by personal injury protection benefits. This is a no-fault medical insurance policy that will pay your bills for necessary care, regardless of who is at fault. You may want to know if the attorney considers the payment of PIP benefits to be part of the "recovery." This can make a big difference in your overall recovery when the case is finished.
2. What about costs?
In addition to the attorney fee, most fee agreements address case costs. Costs are those things that the attorney will spend money on to prepare your case for a settlement demand, or for litigation. Typical case costs include the cost of obtaining medical records and bills, police reports, and other documents. In some cases, the attorney may have to hire an investigator, or a physician to review records or perform and examination.
Some attorneys will pay the costs as they are incurred, and then recover the costs that were advanced at the end of the case. You should have an idea of how the attorney handles costs. Ask also about what items the attorney will charge as costs.
3. What is your experience with these kinds of cases?
Some attorneys limit their practice to specific areas, and others are generalists. It is a good idea to know how much experience the potential attorney has in handling your injury case. This is important because many insurance companies will keep track of how an attorney approaches a case when representing an injured person. Attorneys that are willing to go to arbitration or trial may be in a better position to get you the best result possible because the insurance company knows that the attorney is willing to go "all the way" if that is necessary. Be sure to ask about the attorney's practical experience.
4. Who is going to handle my case?
There are some attorneys who have several legal assistants and paralegals, or even younger associate attorneys that take on many of the duties of handling the case. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are a lot of moving parts to these cases. However, you should have an idea of who you will be working with, and who will help you make decisions on how to move forward at the case.
5. How long this is going to take?
If an attorney is being upfront with you about an Oregon or Washington injury claim, he or she will give you a range or estimate as to how long a case may take. It is sometimes difficult to give an accurate estimate as to how long it will take to resolve a claim, especially at the very beginning. Many things can happen along the way, but you should get a basic idea of how long you will be working with the attorney on this particular legal matter.
6. How do you evaluate the value of my case?
This is a question that may help you figure out the third question regarding experience. In our office, we have more than one way to evaluate a case. We will also not provide an estimate of the case's value at the very beginning, because we don't have the information we need to give you an intelligent answer. However, it's a good idea to know the process that goes along with evaluating the value of your case.
7. What is your communication policy?
Probably the biggest complaint people have about attorneys is that they do not return phone calls. You should ask about how the office will communicate with you and provide information about the case. In our office, we typically schedule phone conferences or in person appointments to answer questions and discuss the case with our clients. This works very well for us and our clients because everyone is on the same page about how and when we will be able to talk about the case.
8. Tell Us Your Story
When we meet with the client for the first time, we want to hear what they have to say about their case, and their concerns. Our overall goal is to learn their story, and then answer any questions they may have about the case, and about how we work with clients. If you or somebody you know would like to talk about a case, call us at 503-325-8600. Even if we are not able to handle your case, we are happy to provide you options.