Here is a list of questions to ask your lawyer to find out exactly what is going on in your injury case.
It’s not always easy to get the answers you are looking for from your lawyer. Some lawyers seem to speak an entirely different language. Worse yet, some lawyers talk down to their clients, and some are actually rude. I don’t know why lawyers just can’t seem to talk to their clients the same way they would to their friends or neighbors. Maybe it would help if lawyers were compelled to take courses in effective client communication, but don’t hold your breath.
This lack of lawyer communication skills seems to be on the rise, as I receive an ever increasing amount of phone calls from clients who are unhappy and fed up with their lawyers. Their main complaint is almost always related to how their lawyers speak and interact with them, or how they don’t. Another related complaint is that the clients aren’t sure that their cases are being handled properly and in a timely manner, and they are concerned that they may not receive the compensation they deserve because of that.
In an effort to help clients obtain the answers they need from their lawyers, I have put together a list of questions that can be useful when communicating with their lawyers. These questions are specifically geared to personal injury matters, as these are the only types of cases that I handle. The worst thing that you can do is to sit back and hope for the best. You only have one chance to get it right, so you need to be pro-active. So with that in mind here is my list of questions:
1. Ask your lawyer if a Summons & Complaint has been filed with the court, and if a Bill of Particulars has been served. Have your lawyer send you copies of both. Ask if a Preliminary Conference has been held in court, and if deposition dates have been selected. Make sure they have all of your medical records and test results, go over all of your medical treatment and testing with them. If your lawyer doesn’t have all of your records, the insurance company won’t have them, and that will affect the value of your case. What is the present case status, what is the next step, what else needs to be done, and how long will it take? When will your case be placed onto the trial calendar?
2. Ask what insurance company insures the party that injured you, what are the liability policy limits, and whether there is any excess insurance coverage. Have there been any settlement talks, and what offers have been made. What does your lawyer think is the realistic settlement value of your case? Does your lawyer think it can be settled or will a trial be necessary? Has your lawyer considered mediation or arbitration as a way of resolving your case? Has your lawyer hired a life care planner, vocational expert or economist to project your future medical care costs and loss of wages?
3. Watch for these warning signs; Your lawyer makes you feel like you are asking too many questions. You receive unclear responses that don’t really answer your questions. They tell you “don’t worry”, things will be happening “soon”, or the same thing they told you the last time you spoke to them. You have to call more than once to speak to them, there is a delay in them getting back to you, they don’t call you back, or you only get to speak to a secretary. If your lawyer’s responses leave you feeling unhappy and unsure about how your case is being handled, you have the right to consult another lawyer. Most lawyers can look up your case on the court computer system and advise you of what has taken place in your case so far, what else needs to be done and about how much longer it should take. Remember, you are allowed to change lawyers at anytime and for any reason. Further, changing lawyers will not delay your case or have any affect on the legal fee, as it will be split between the lawyers if you decide to change.
So go ahead and make that call to your lawyer today and show them that you know how to speak their language. You only have one chance to timely obtain the results that you truly deserve.