Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Car Accident Lawyer
A car accident lawyer can help make sure you get the recovery you deserve if someone injured you in a car accident, either by representing you for an insurance settlement or suing the other driver for damages. Read on for the top 10 questions to ask your car accident lawyer.
- How do you charge? This is usually one of the most important questions for most car accident victims, as you may want to sue, but may be afraid of being faced with large legal bills if you don’t win. Many car accident attorneys will work on a contingency fee basis, which means that they only get paid if you win. Contingent fee lawyers charge a percentage – usually around 30 percent – of the total settlement you receive. Still, this can be a better bet for many individuals who cannot afford the hourly fees a lawyer would charge if he or she didn’t win his or her case.
- What court fees and costs will I be responsible for? Even if a lawyer charges on a contingent fee basis, you may be responsible for court costs and fees and other costs the lawyer incurs in investigating and bringing the lawsuit. Find out exactly what costs you may have to pay, even if you lose the lawsuit.
- Do I have a case to sue? This is another fundamentally important question. To recover damages, you have to prove that the other person breached a duty to you by not acting with a reasonable degree of care when he or she caused the accident. You also have to prove you actually suffered damages. If you can’t meet your burden of proof, it is unlikely you will win your case.
- Whom should I name as the defendants? For most, it seems obvious that you should sue the person driving. However, that person may not have sufficient insurance or assets to cover your losses. In some cases, additional defendants may be responsible as well. For example, if the person who caused the accident was working for an employer and doing work-related tasks when he or she caused the accident, that person may have been acting as an “agent” of his or her employer. Under agency laws, that means the employer may also be responsible for your damages and should be named in the lawsuit as well.
- How long do I have to file my lawsuit? There is a statute of limitations – or a maximum time limit – that you have in most jurisdictions if you want to file a lawsuit. It is important to know what this deadline is, so you can make sure you file your lawsuit before the deadline passes.
- What are my potential damages? You may be able to recover not only for medical bills and lost wages, but also for pain and suffering, emotional distress, or other types of damages you suffered. Your lawyer should be able to fully explain to you the extent of your recovery options.
- What should I do to protect my case? Not only do you have to file your lawsuit within a given period of time, but you also may have to take other steps to protect your right to sue. Find out what the law requires in your area. Do you need a police report, for example, or must you file notice with your insurance company or the DMV?
- What is the difference between settling and suing: Most cases settle out of court, which means the defendant or his or her insurance company makes you an offer, and you can take that lump sum payment and, in exchange, waive your rights to sue. If you opt against settling, the case will go to trial, and a judge or jury will decide the defendant’s responsibility. It is important to understand this difference between suing and settling, and your attorney should be able to explain to you the merits of both options.
- Should I consider settling? Since most cases settle, it is common for you to receive some type of offer from the defendant. You should discuss this with your attorney, and carefully consider the pros and cons before you decide to settle. Remember, if you do settle, you can no longer sue for the accident, and your only recovery under the law will be the money paid to you in the settlement.
- How long do you think my case will take? It may take a long time for a case to go to trial and an even longer time for you to get your money. It is important to be aware of this, so you can make plans for how to handle medical bills in the meantime. If you need money immediately, settling may be your best option; alternatively, there are companies who will lend you money on the basis of an expected settlement or lawsuit victory that you can consider working with if you are committed to going to court.