This simple guide will help you choose the right personal injury lawyer to handle your claim, by giving you a set of simple questions to ask when interviewing a personal injury lawyer in Alberta.You’ve been injured in a car accident and it’s not your fault. Now you’ve got your insurance company calling you, asking you to fill out forms and provide all sorts of information. Next the insurance company for the person who injured you is calling asking for a statement, or access to your medical history. You’re in pain and the last thing you want to deal with is a mess of legal work and paperwork. It’s time to call a lawyer. Unfortunately, finding and choosing a personal injury lawyer can be just as time-consuming and confusing as dealing with insurance companies. Maybe you ask a friend or your doctor for a referral, or maybe you call the lawyer that did your will, or maybe you Google “personal injury lawyers” and start clicking. And once you finally get to speak to a lawyer, how do you know they will do a good job for you? Here’s a list of 5 simple, essential questions you need to ask when shopping for a personal injury lawyer in Alberta:
How many claims like mine did you handle in the past year?This simple question will let you know if the lawyer has the experience necessary to properly handle your claim. It always works because it’s a question about your specific situation. You want to know that a lawyer has seen and worked on injury claims just like yours many times in the recent past. An experienced personal injury lawyer is likely to have successfully handled hundreds of similar claims.
Do you charge a tiered fee or a flat fee?Personal injury lawyers in Alberta almost universally work on a no-win, no-fee basis. What you really want to know is if the fee will change or stay the same throughout the claim. Many injury lawyers use tiered fee structures where the fee increases at specific points during the claim. Here’s an example:
Fees are 25% if the claim is resolved before a Statement of Claim is filed, 30% if the claim is resolved before Questioning, 35% if the claim is resolved at ADR/JDR, and 40% if the claim is resolved at trial.Statement of Claim? Questioning? Trial? You may have no idea what these terms mean or what the process will be, and yet a lawyer might be asking you to agree to these confusing, ever-increasing fees. 25% sounds good, but what about 40%? On $100,000 that’s a difference in fees of $15,000 – no small amount. It’s pretty uncommon for the price of a service to change so many times, but many injury lawyers in Alberta use these types of agreements. You want your decisions and your lawyer’s decisions to be based on what’s best for you and your claim, not based on whether the fee will go up if the lawyer takes the next step. Look for a lawyer who can give you one price, guaranteed not to increase during the life of the claim.
Who pays for the expenses of running my claim?Most Alberta personal injury lawyers will cover the cost of the expenses related to running a claim, and these expenses are known as disbursements. Disbursements include things like the cost of a medical report from a doctor or a treatment record from a hospital, and total disbursements on a claim can run into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on factors such as the severity of the injuries. You want a personal injury lawyer who will cover your disbursements for you while your claim is ongoing.
Do I have to pay you anything more than your fee and GST?Some personal injury lawyers in Alberta behave more like airlines than lawyers. They have all kinds of fees and charges in addition to the percentage-based contingency fee they take on the money they recover for you. Some things to watch out for:
- Charging a fee on recovery of disbursements. You might owe your lawyer hundreds to thousands of dollars extra because of this type of charge.
- Keeping legal costs. If you win your claim you will be entitled to legal costs from the losing party. Some personal injury lawyers will keep all of these costs for themselves.
- Charging administration fees. Look for administration fees for things like opening and setting up your file, or providing files materials. These can be hundreds of dollars.