- Richard L. Duquette
Injury Lawyer Questions
How do you know if the personal injury lawyer you want to hire is qualified?
Lawyers should be selected for their expertise and experience in specific categories of cases. The “right lawyer” is the person who has substantial experience handling a case very similar to yours, who can and will take action at once. The “right lawyer” knows what to do immediately, acts effectively and with little wasted effort or wasted expenditures of your money.
Here are some Key Questions!
Do I trust this lawyer?
Go visit him/her and see if they are organized, how their staff treats your, do you have his undivided attention or is your visit interrupted with his busy work.
Look at his office. Is is a “shell” office, does he own it, how long has he been established in this location, or did he just recently move or change professions. You want a financially and emotionally stable lawyer.
Does your lawyer have a realistic perspective?
You want someone who will tell you the truth, not prey on your fears or patronize you in a time of need. Since lawyers are ethically prevented from guaranteeing results on a case, confirm sales talk with a request it be put in writing.
Does your lawyer have your best interest in mind?
Will he visit you on the weekends or in your home or go to the scene of the accident to better understand it? Your Lawyer and investigator should do so.
Has your lawyer ever been disciplined by the State Bar of California for ethical violations or criminal convictions in any state?
Has there license every been revoked or restricted?
Has the lawyer been sued for anything, including malpractice?
You can check the public records computer at the courthouse.
Is your Lawyer Qualified?
If you have a specialized case, your lawyer should have specialized experience in that field, not a “jack of all trades”. Every community has lawyers who are experts in specific areas of the law. Finding a specialist requires more than asking friends and relatives for their recommendations. Unless they have extensive experience in the legal community, their advice has to be considered in the context of their background. To rely merely upon advice from friends and relatives may greatly limit your prospects.
Has your lawyer tried a case and won/lost before a jury?
This is important, because it proves commitment, a valid track record which the defense will consider when evaluating your case and lawyer. You don’t want a lawyer who will sell your case short because of a fear of the jury system or himself. You want a lawyer who will fight, not just go through the motions.
Ask your lawyer for recent jury verdict results in writing.
These jury verdicts are public record and often their results are submitted to verdict data banks/publications which are drawn upon by both sides when evaluating a case. i.e. Trial Trends, Tri-Service, and Confidential Reports are a few such publications. You want a lawyer who can win. Mr. Duquette regularly reviews jury verdict reports to stay up on the latest case values and changes.
How many cases has your lawyer tried?
This will immediately tell you how he stacks up against his competition. Typically, the more cases tried, the better the lawyer is at communicating with the jury. This converts into a more realistic evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of your case by your attorney.
Has your lawyer sought out recent specialized training in trial lawyering?
Again, this will show if your lawyer is committed to his profession. Trial practice is an art and requires constant attention. Continuing education seminars are one thing like studying a football playbook, it’s another to scrimmage or practice your trial skills.
Does your lawyer have the technical equipment and ability to present your case in court?
For example, he should have a shadow box for x-rays, MRI’s and Cat Scans. He should have a laptop computer and video projector to project scanned images before the jury. Our office has these items, and trains in their use. We even generate our own in house enlarged poster exhibits of photos, graphs, diagrams and jury instructions at a low cost to you so you’re able to effectively communicate with the jury and compete with the insurance companies big litigation budgets.
How many years has your lawyer been representing people?
Often times lawyers switch sides because they feel they can make more money. However, some have always represented people and are committed to helping real people. Mr. Duquette has always represented individuals as opposed to the government, police or insurance companies.
How involved in his areas of practice is the lawyer?
Involved does not just mean “joining” a group or organization for display of the certificate. It means communicating with local and national trial lawyers, e-mail groups, putting on seminars in relevant areas of law, attending trial lawyer schools as well as local conventions. Mr. Duquette belongs to several e-mail groups and reviews about 50-75 e-mails a day in Personal Injury and Criminal law from local and national lawyers in these areas of practice. He’s put on and attended over 100 seminars geared to helping his clients, and has even spoke at a few.
Are your lawyers fees reasonable?
“A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.” —Abraham Lincoln
Attorneys set fees in various ways. One method is to charge by the hour. This rate is based upon his or her office overhead and other costs of doing business, plus an amount which will reasonably compensate for the attorney’s time as wee as well as his experience, the difficulty of the case etc. per the ethical rules. Fees on an hourly basis generally range from about $80.00 per hour to over $200.00 per hour. Some attorneys will also charge a flat fee, one price for the entire handling of a case. Others stagger or stair step the fee depending on the extent of work needed. The amount of the fee does not insure a first class job. In the final analysis, quality of service should be your prime concern.
Attorney fees are negotiable and Mr. Duquette’s fees are spelled out in his written contract with the client. If the fee is $1,000.00 or more, it must be in writing by law. Usually, Mr. Duquette will advance many costs associated with the litigation on a case by case basis. His fees are competitive and reasonable. Oftentimes a payment plan is used. NOTE, most personal injury cases are on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay until the case is over, or in other words….NO RECOVERY – NO ATTORNEY FEE. Double check if costs are advanced in whole or part by the attorney.
See the State Bar of California’s Rules on Fees
What if I can’t pay per hour to talk to an attorney and have him or her handle my case?
When a person or business acts wrongfully and injures an innocent person, the victim is given the right to sue the wrongdoer for fair compensation. Historically, only the wealthy were involved in lawsuits because lawyers charged fees for all services rendered, whether the case was won or lost. As a result, most people were unable to exercise their rights in courts and therefore suffered silently. More recently lawyers who represented these victims began drafting employment contracts which allowed the victim to obtain legal services without cost unless the suit was won, and then only on an agreed percentage of the recovery. This was the birth of the contingency fee. The now common contingency fee contract thus became the consumers’ key to the courthouse. It is used to some extent in every state in the United States and is approved by the American Bar Association. It is no longer restricted to personal injury cases, but is used in cases of business fraud, collection debts, and contractual disputes. The contingency fee principle has elevated the individual to the same legal level as the wealthiest corporation. This principle is not confined to lawyers and their clients. Many businesses pay their employees on a commission basis. Insurance companies usually pay their sales people on a percentage of the premiums collected. Stockbrokers charge fees based upon the dollar amount of their transactions. Real estate people charge a percentage of sale only if the sale is made. There are many such examples of the workings of a fair contingency system at work in our society.
How does the contingency fee work?
If any attorney takes a case on a contingency fee, the attorney only gets paid if the case is won. If the case is lost, the attorney gets no fee. In addition, the attorney will often agree to advance the costs of the suit for the client. These include filing fees, deposition transaction and reporting fees, investigators, photography and expert witness fees. These costs must be repaid to the attorney at the end of the case. By using a contingency fee arrangement, the injured victim is able to afford as qualified a lawyer as would be available if he or she could pay an hourly fee.
What kind of percentage is fair and reasonable?
Contingency fees may vary between 25% and 45% of the client’s recovery. The percentage in some cases is controlled by statute. Some of the matters which affect the size of the percentages are the complexity of the case, the experience of the attorney, the expense of the case, and other factors. Some attorneys charge a different percentage at different stages in the handling of the case. No matter what kind of fee arrangement you make with an attorney, the attorney is entitled only to a reasonable fee. What is reasonable depends on many things. The fee is, of course, subject to individual negotiation. If you feel that a suggested fee is too high and, having discussed it with the lawyer, are not satisfied with the explanation, then get an additional opinion from a second qualified attorney. As previously mentioned, the lowest percentage may not be the best for a competent, well-qualified lawyer who could probably obtain a result which would more than make up for the difference in a lower fee charged by a less competent or trained practitioner.
Should there be an attorney-client agreement in writing?
Yes! For your mutual protection and in order to avoid any misunderstandings, have the lawyer put you agreement in writing. Always read the contract before signing it. If you don’t understand it get someone you trust to explain it to you. Make sure the contract states the terms of your agreement and does not contain blank spaces. Obtain a copy for you records. If the contract is on a contingency fee basis, state law requires that at the time the contract is entered into, the attorney shall provide you with a duplicate copy signed by both you and the attorney.