Jones Act Info Center – What Questions Should I Ask My Attorney?
As a maritime worker, you face life-threatening situations in one of the most dangerous occupations on a daily basis. Through years of training and experience, you competent and capable of doing your job. However, no matter how competent you may be, injuries can still happen. When they do, you want to make sure you have an attorney who is equally competent in representing injured Mariners, getting them the maximum benefits they are entitled to. The question is, how do you determine whether an attorney is the best qualified to handle your case?
We’ve come up with some of the best questions to ask potential attorney candidates so that you can make the most informed decision.
1. Do You Handle Jones Act and Maritime Injury Cases?
This is the first question you want to ask for any attorney you talk to. Family and friends may be directing you towards “personal injury attorneys.” While it is true that you are injured, the laws that govern your case are much different from standard personal injury cases. You want an attorney that focuses on Jones Act and maritime law cases.
2. How Many Maritime Cases Have You Taken to Trial?
This question will help you determine the true experience level of the attorney. It will also give you insight into the attorney’s style. If they never take a case to trial, you may want to steer clear. This attorney might simply want to spend the least amount of time and effort on your case, which may significantly affect the compensation that you get.
3. How Many Maritime Cases Have Successfully Handled?
While not every maritime injury case goes to trial, you do want to find an attorney that has successfully gotten their clients compensation for their maritime injuries. If they can count the number of successful resolutions on only one hand, keep looking.
4. What Other Types of Cases Do You Handle?
If the attorney lists a great number of practice areas on their website, you might want to keep looking. It may be worth asking if one particular attorney handles just maritime injuries though. The last thing you need is someone who “dabbles” in a lot of different personal injury cases. Again, the laws of maritime injury are very specialized. You want someone equally focused to represent you.
5. I Live in _____ State – Can You Handle My Case?
Attorneys must be licensed to practice in the jurisdiction in which the accident occurred. This may be a state, or it may be federal. In most cases, the federal maritime law will apply, and most maritime injury attorneys will be able to represent you. However, the facts of your case will govern what laws apply. In addition to jurisdiction, you also want to make sure your attorney will not incur undue travel expenses if they are located in a different state from you.
6. Can I Talk To You, or Will I Be Passed on to a Junior Associate?
Communication is key in an attorney-client relationship. You should be able to have reasonable access to the attorney in charge of your case. If you are going to be encountering too many gatekeepers during your case, keep on looking.
7. Do You Charge a Consultation Fee?
Before you meet with an attorney, be sure you understand their consultation fees. Is this a free initial consultation? Or will you be expected to shell out several hundred dollars just to decide you don’t like the attorney?
8. Do I Have to Pay You Up-front?
Another important consideration is whether your attorney will work on a contingency basis. This means that the attorney will not get paid unless and until you do. If they do not accept cases on a contingency basis, you will have to pay fees upfront and as needed.
If you sustain a maritime injury, you want the most maritime experienced attorney working for you. Be sure to take the time to adequately vet your potential candidates to ensure you have the best experience possible.