What questions should I ask my lawyer?

by Evalyn
(White Plains, NY)

I was involved in a motor vehicle accident over two years ago. A car did not stop at very busy intersection while the lights were out. She claims she saw a green light so she proceeded. About four cars were involved in the collision.

My lawyer now wants to settle the case. I am on Social Security disability. I'm just wondering what questions should I ask my lawyer to make sure I'm getting the right settlement? Thanks you.

Visitor Question:
Disclaimer: Information provided in our response is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Under no circumstances should the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Our response does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Always get a formal case review from a licensed attorney in your area.

ANSWER for "What questions should I ask my lawyer?":

Evalyn (White Plains, NY):

Glad to help.

Go into the meeting with a positive attitude. Going in with a skeptical, cynical, or mistrusting attitude will only serve to place you and the attorney in an adversarial position. If that occurs your attorney may spend more time being defensive than actually reviewing the merits of your case and the process she utilized to negotiate the prospective settlemenmt amount.

It is always a good idea to meet with your attorney in her office. That way you have a chance to sit relatively quietly and with minimal interruption so you can review your entire case.

If you don't trust your attorney at this point you are not going to have faith in her judgment. Having faith in her abilities and her desire to secure the highest possible settlement will serve you well.

Remember, even though your attorney probably worked as hard as she could and used her legal abilities to the fullest, she still also only gets paid when you do. And even then her fee is on a contingency basis. With that understood there is a built in incentive for her to settle your case for the highest amount possible.

Once your attorney reviews the case with you and suggests what the optimal settlement should be you might ask her if she believes your chances of securing a higher settlement would be greater if instead of settling you proceed to trial.

There are some caveats to going to trial...

The first and most important is the possibility at the end of the trial you might end up with less money than the original settlement offer.

The second is the time it will take to actually get to trial.

The third is if you proceed to trial and the jury awards you a substantially higher amount than the insurance company thinks is appropriate they might decide to appeal the case. That could take up to a year or more.

The fourth is that the attorney's expenses will go up drastically once the trial begins. Remember, expenses come off the top of the gross settlement amount, then the lawyer gets her fee, then you get what remains.

After you have reviewed your entire file with your attorney, look into her eyes and ask her if the settlement she is suggesting is the best settlement possible with the facts and evidence in her possession. Once she tells you the amount, be satisfied.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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Comments for What questions should I ask my lawyer?

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by: david bahr

Is a lawyer first an officer of the court or is he first my advocate?

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