Tort and personal injury lawsuits make up nearly 40% of all the civil cases in the U.S. in any given year. However, along with the prevalence of personal injury lawsuits comes a prevalence of personal injury lawyers. Many people who are the victims of accidents find attorneys to help represent them in obtaining compensation, but many simply hire the first attorney they encounter. Such a choice can be detrimental to your ability to recover, especially if the attorney’s style does not suit your personality. It is important to know how to ask the right questions before hiring someone to represent your interests.
Questions About Fees
Many clients are confused about how attorneys are paid and how much they charge. Most personal injury cases are taken on a contingency fee basis, to the point where if an attorney refuses, it is markedly unusual. A contingency fee is an agreement in which an attorney does not receive any money up front before beginning a representation, but is entitled to take a percentage – usually ⅓ – if successful in court. South Carolina courts very strictly define contingency fees and the agreements that must be signed in order to collect one. Contingency fees are actually banned in certain cases, but personal injury attorneys make use of them often – it can help a client who may have no money to hire an attorney initially.
One way many clients often become angry or disillusioned with their attorney is over the question of advanced costs. These include court expenses such as filing fees, and unless otherwise agreed upon, are usually deducted from the client’s share of any award. If no award is received, the client can be on the proverbial hook for a substantial amount of money. It is important to ask up front if an agreement can be worked out, so you as the client are not stuck with a large bill if your case is unsuccessful.
Questions About Timing
It is imperative to know how busy a firm is and how fast your case can be handled. A common pitfall many clients fall into is signing up with a well-known firm, and then finding that firm is too busy to file their case quickly, or give it the attention it deserves. In egregious cases, attorneys can even delay filing until the statute of limitations has passed, which is legal malpractice in most states. In South Carolina, the statute of limitations in personal injury cases is three years.
Another important question to ask is who will be handling your case specifically. Sometimes, the senior partner of a law firm may meet with new clients, while associates handle the real work. Know that a senior partner’s time is very valuable, and more often than not, they will not be handling your specific legal matter in larger firms.
Find An Attorney Who Is Knowledgeable & Professional
The general rule is simply to do your research before hiring any type of professional. When you are the victim of an accident, life is difficult and frightening enough. You need attorneys who will help, not hinder. The North Charleston personal injury attorneys at Callihan & Syracuse are knowledgeable and compassionate, and have a track record of success. Contact us today to discuss your options.