The single most important question you SHOULD ask before hiring a personal injury lawyer in Kingston, New York

When you are searching for a personal injury lawyer, you don't know what to expect.  And why should you? You've never done this before--it's not like buying a used car.  For most people, the search for a lawyer consists of calling the first lawyer you happen to see on one of the omnipresent lawyer TV commercials--you know what I'm talking about--the loud, obnoxious lawyer commercials.

How you should conduct your search for a personal injury lawyer is a subject for another day. I couldn't cover the subject well enough in this article.  I want to give you the question that you SHOULD ask before hiring a lawyer (by the way: injury lawyers guard this secret and do not want you to know about it).

The most important question you SHOULD ask before hiring a lawyer

In personal injury lawsuits in New York, it is customary for your lawyer to pay all of the expenses of the lawsuit until there is a recovery.  At the end of the case when you recover money, your lawyer gets reimbursed for his expenses from the settlement money.  Everyone is happy.

What happens if you lose your case?  By the conclusion of your trial, your lawyer has spent tens of thousands of dollars (and sometimes more than $100k).  If you lose your case, there is no settlement money to reimburse your lawyer for his out-of-pocket expenses.  So, what happens? Does your lawyer simply eat the case expenses or does he turn to you with his hand out? It depends.

In New York, the retainer agreement will specify whether you are responsible for reimbursing the case expenses in the event you lose your case.  Depending on the law firm you hire, the retainer agreement may specify that you must reimburse your lawyer for case expenses (called "disbursements") if you lose your case.  This means you could get stuck with a very large bill at the end of your case.  Not a pretty picture.

Another possibility is that the retainer agreement may state that, win or lose, you are not responsible to reimburse your lawyer for the case expenses.  What a relief that is!  Under New York ethical rules, your lawyer can agree that you will not be responsible for reimbursing case expenses if you lose your case.  This is a relatively new rule and few lawyers in New York have such a provision in their retainer agreements (big surprise there!).

Before you hire a lawyer, ask whether you will be responsible for cases expenses if you lose your case. Let's face it, if you lose your case and you're faced with a $100k bill, there will be some awkward moments with your lawyer. It's better to confront this possibility before you hire a lawyer.

You SHOULD ask your lawyer, "What happens if I lose my case?  Will I be responsible for paying back the case expenses?"  If your lawyer says "no", then politely insist that your lawyer include a paragraph in the retainer agreement stating such.  You want to make sure that your lawyer's promise is set forth in writing in the retainer agreement.  Never take anyone's word--you weren't born yesterday, right?

If your lawyer states that you are responsible for cases expenses if you lose your case, then you've got some serious thinking to do. Do you want to hire the lawyer when you might be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars at the end of your case?  I didn't think so.

Find out if your lawyer will compromise and if all else fails, you can always tell your lawyer that you want to shop around before you sign his retainer agreement.  You know where this is heading.  Your lawyer will realize he is about to lose you as a client and he may have a sudden change of heart. 

Be proactive in protecting your rights, even with your lawyer.  If you don't, no one will.

Want to learn more about your rights?  Here's what you can do

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you have any questions or want to speak with me, I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 866-889-6882.  I write extensively about your rights and what you can do to protect them in chapter one of my book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, which you can get FREE of charge at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.