Having the right attorney for a car accident is a must when maximum financial compensation is the goal. And in North Carolina, it can be even more important than in other states due to the state’s pure contributory negligence law. Pure contributory negligence is the legal doctrine that any injured party who contributed to their own injury in any way can be denied financial compensation for those injuries. Even a 1% assessment by the court can result in the case being dismissed, which makes it even more important to have the right car accident lawyer.
Here are five basic questions any injured victim should ask when interviewing an attorney:
1. Do I have a case?
The first question a car accident victim should ask is if they even have a case against another driver. Under North Carolina law, even a small detail that indicates personal fault can end a claim quickly, and there is no technicality too small for an insurance company attorney to use when attempting to deny a claim that should be covered by the negligent respondent auto insurance policy. Your car accident lawyer becomes a defense attorney of sorts when this happens, and it happens far too often.
2. Have you represented cases like mine before?
There is no substitute for experience, especially when a car accident injury claim is being contested for any reason. While many attorneys represent obvious accident victims, only an experienced car accident lawyer can effectively represent a contested case in most situations. Some attorneys will not even attempt the legal task of going up against an insurance company attorney team in North Carolina without the requisite level of experience on their legal team. Always get a seasoned trial attorney – while it’s generally the case that claims are settled without going to trial, you need to know your car accident lawyer is experienced in taking the claim all the way if it becomes necessary.
3. What is the potential value of my case?
All accident injury claims are not equal when the case goes to court, as some egregious accident cases can include punitive damages under certain circumstances. This possibility gives your car accident lawyer significant leverage in negotiating a maximum settlement to avoid going to court. However, some cases with any amount of comparative negligence for multiple parties can also result in an insurance company forcing the case to court hoping for a favorable contributory negligence defense ruling. Typical damages sought and awarded are financial recovery for medical bills, lost wages when they apply, and general damages for ongoing issues including pain and suffering by the victim. Your lawyer should also make an assessment of any potential injuries that might manifest in the victim some time following the actual accident. Please review this article which covers such issues: Five Common Car Accident Injuries With Delayed Symptoms
While any experienced attorney will avoid projecting the outcome of a claim and suggesting a dollar amount, the attorney should talk with you about financial concerns such as policy limitations, and, should it be necessary to take the case to a civil trial, the likelihood of receiving damages from the other driver in the event of a trial.
4. How are car accident lawyer’s fees structured?
A car accident lawyer typically works on a contingency fee arrangement, and they do not get paid if the client does not get paid. This keeps frivolous injury claims out of court as attorneys rarely take a case that cannot deliver some amount of damages. Attorneys do often charge variable fees, so this could be a major concern. Attorneys who take on problematic cases will often want a higher percentage of the settlement, but it is worth the decision to hire if the alternative is zero compensation with representation from a lower-fee lawyer who might prove to be less experienced and less effective in handling the case.
In some law firms, the attorney you speak with in the intake session is not the car accident lawyer who will actually be handling the case. This is common with big-box law firms that have many attorneys working for the company. Smaller firms focused solely on car accidents and personal injury often are the best choice, and they will tell you exactly which attorney will be your personal representative.
These are just several of the questions that most accident victims will have when they interview a car accident lawyer. Always be sure to make a list of questions you may have before meeting with them, and feel free to ask any additional questions if it can help the decision to hire and the viability of the case. And be prepared for the attorneys to ask questions as well. Information is power, and good communication is essential when whole damages are the goal. Here are additional resources to help you through the process of filing a car accident claim: