According to the CDC, road accidents are one of the leading causes of death in Americans aged between 1 and 54. But even when you’ve survived a crash, being victimized in a collision can have life-changing consequences.
Many people suffer whiplash or nerve damage. Others have broken bones or catastrophic injuries that leave them unable to work or function at the same level as they could before.
If that sounds familiar, you could be entitled to compensation and a car accident lawyer can help. But if you type the words “Miami car accident lawyer” into Google, you’ll quickly find yourself with a list of names and no way to tell if you’ve found the right lawyer for your situation. To make matters even more complicated, even once you do book a consultation, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused by the civil litigation process.
As you’re sitting in the legal office and the lawyer says, “Do you have any questions for me?”, there are some details that you’ll likely want to get to the bottom of. Read on to see a list of 10 questions that you can’t leave your consultation without asking.
1. Have You Handled Cases That Are Similar to Mine Before?
When you’re looking to hire an accident lawyer in Miami, there’s one quality that will give you a stronger chance of winning:
But not just any experience. You want relevant experience.
A lot of people think that anyone with a law degree and a successful Bar exam is qualified to handle any case they’re given. However, the rules of civil procedure can be complicated and there are certain details involved with the case that only a seasoned professional can handle.
In your workplace, chances are that your management team doesn’t ask the recent grads to do the heavy lifting on mission-critical projects. It’s the same thing with your car accident lawsuit. You have a better chance of getting the payout you deserve if you hire a lawyer who has tried and won cases that are similar to yours.
2. What Evidence Do You Need From Me?
In 2022, Russian boxer Arest Saakyan made headlines when he died after sustaining a serious head injury during a fight. According to Insider, the fighter was throwing punches earlier in the round only to need immediate medical attention just a few moments later.
This situation is just one example of how medical circumstances can change quickly.
Within the context of a car accident, for instance, people can seemingly look and feel normal. And in cases where there has been a soft tissue injury, the extent of the damage might not be obvious until a few weeks or months after the accident.
However, when your lawsuit is on the line, time is of the essence. Camera footage often gets deleted after a certain number of days or hours. In addition, people’s memories get shakier and witnesses who would have said you were t-boned at the scene are feeling less confident a few weeks later.
And then there’s the simple fact that you can’t go to court and have your lawyer tell the jury you were injured. You need to have medical records, photos, and other evidence that supports your claims.
Your lawyer will be able to tell you both what evidence you need to preserve and what evidence you need to gather.
3. How Strong Is My Case?
Even in cases where the person who’s suing has a strong argument, there are almost always details within the file that can cause serious challenges later on.
Maybe your key witness has terrible eyesight and isn’t as rock-solid as they seemed at first. Or perhaps your arm was already fractured and it’s not entirely clear if the accident was the real cause of your injuries. Either way, these are facts that your lawyer will have to work a little harder to overcome.
The presence of these weaknesses doesn’t mean that you can’t win. After all, there could be multiple witnesses agreeing on a general timeline of events. Maybe your previous fracture had already healed before the accident.
But either way, these are factors that can chip away at your case.
Consequently, before you take any steps toward pursuing your lawsuit, you’ll want to find out what your lawyer really thinks about your odds of winning.
4. What Deadlines Do We Have to Meet?
Have you ever watched a true crime show or a police procedural where the characters mention the “statute of limitations”? While murder might not be subject to the statute of limitations, you are on the clock if you’re suing after an accident.
According to Statute 95.11, you have four years to file a negligence claim from the date of your injury. And if you’re suing an insurer in relation to your property, your due date could be extended to five years.
At first glance, four years might seem like a long amount of time. But depending on the evidence you need to gather and the complexity of your injuries and your lawsuit, those years can fly by.
For this reason, most legal experts will tell you to consult with a car accident attorney as soon as you feasibly can.
Because it’s possible to lose your case, not because you’re wrong about the facts or because you don’t deserve compensation — but simply because you waited too long to file.
5. How Many Car Accident Cases Have You Taken to Court?
In 1992, the events that set the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee case into motion took place. Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old grandma, had ordered coffee at a drive-through window. The lady put the coffee between her legs before removing the lid to add sugar and cream when the scalding hot coffee spilled over her lap and left second and third-degree burns on her body.
After surgery and hospitalization, her medical bills alone added up to over $10,000. But when Ms. Leibeck asked McDonald’s to repay her, the company offered her $800.
With accident-related litigation, compromise and mediation aren’t uncommon. However, in cases where the defense and the plaintiff are so far apart, sometimes the only solution is to put it in front of a jury.
In Miami, an accident lawyer might be sending emails and making court filings up until the settlement is offered. If the situation calls for a trial jury, however, you’ll want to make sure that your attorney isn’t scared to defend your interests in court.
6. Who Else Will be Involved With My Case?
Here’s the truth about how law firms work behind the scenes:
Even when you’ve decided to hire a specific Miami car accident attorney, the lawyer isn’t necessarily the person who’s going to be handling your case from start to finish. Depending on the structure of the firm, there could be any number of paralegals, lawyers, and legal assistants drafting documents and reviewing your paperwork.
This is normal. And because highly skilled car accident lawyers are often in high demand, it’s often impossible for the attorney to do all of the administrative work themselves. What you don’t want, however, is to be in a situation where the lawyer you’ve hired is hands-off to the point of not being familiar with the facts of your case.
Regardless of who else will be assigned to the file, you need to be sure that the lawyer you’ve hired will be fully in control of your case.
7. What Kind of Damages Can I Be Compensated For?
When you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, there are a few avenues that you can use to pursue damages. These often include:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Lost income if you’ve had to take time away from work
- Medication, surgery, and recovery costs
- Punitive damages
Your lawyer will be able to review the facts of your case before giving you a general sense of the types of damages that you can expect to claim.
8. How Will Expenses Be Handled?
Although it’s not unusual to hear about the massive payouts awarded by juries at the end of trials, there’s an important element of civil litigation that many plaintiffs don’t know:
Lawsuits cost money.
For example, Florida lawyers make an average salary of $100,420. If a lawyer puts hundreds, or even thousands, of hours into your case, you could be left with a hefty hourly bill. Many car accident victims would struggle to cover that out of pocket.
The good news for people like you is that most law firms will work on a contingency basis. This is a percentage of the judgment or settlement costs. But even when your legal team is effectively working on the promise of receiving a future payment, that contingency fee isn’t necessarily going to cover the ongoing costs involved with litigation.
Filing statements of claim, hiring medical experts, and retaining collision reconstruction engineers are just a few examples of the normal, but expensive, lawsuit-related costs you might run into. Some lawyers will charge you a retainer fee while others will collect the costs from your winnings.
Before you agree to retain the services of your car accident lawyer, you’ll want to understand how the ongoing litigation costs will affect your wallet.
9. How Long Have You Been Practicing Law?
Remember what we said before about the importance of hiring an experienced car accident attorney in Miami? This is another question that relates to that.
At the end of the day, law school can do a lot to teach people about the theory of the legal system. But there’s more to a successful legal career than knowing case law.
For instance, some judges may be more willing to award punitive damages. Meanwhile, others are less inclined to do so unless a certain standard of bad behavior has been met.
Which defense lawyers are harder to litigate against? What tricks and strategies are all the insurance lawyers using to reduce payouts?
These are the types of details that you pick up naturally when you’ve spent a lot of time practicing law. With your compensation on the line, you’ll want to make sure that you’re hiring an experienced attorney who has had years to hone his or her craft.
10. How Long Do You Expect My Case to Take?
The unfortunate reality of suing careless drivers is that lawsuits can take time to resolve. And to make matters worse, it’s not always easy to estimate just how long your case will take.
If you’ve got a slam dunk case, the other side may offer to settle at an earlier stage of the process. However, if there are facts in dispute or both sides are proposing wildly different numbers, the litigation could go on for several years.
This information matters to car accident victims because you’ll need to plan your finances around both scenarios. While your car accident attorney may not be able to predict the future, they can give you an educated guess as to the timeframes involved with managing your case.
Don’t Hire a Car Accident Lawyer Without Asking These Questions
Between insurance adjusters and the other party’s lawyers, getting compensated as an accident victim can be extremely difficult. That’s why you need to hire a car accident lawyer with the experience and the skill needed to represent your interests effectively.
However, with so many Miami-based car accident lawyers offering their services, you’ll have to do some vetting. This list of questions will quickly give you a sense of whether you’ve found the right accident lawyer for your case.
Are you looking for an experienced car accident attorney in Miami? We’re here to help! Contact us for a free case review today.