Meeting with an Injury Attorney
During your first meeting with an injury attorney after any accident, your lawyer will first want to hear about what happened, and he or she may collect a variety of information from you. The length of the initial interview can vary depending on the circumstances that led to your injuries. In rather straightforward cases like car accidents, the first meeting probably won't take very long, especially if you come prepared. In more complex cases like medical malpractice or injuries from defective products, the initial interview will usually take longer.
How Consultations Work
As you tell the lawyer about your accident, he or she may ask questions about it. Frequently, lawyers wait until you have told them everything before asking questions. While some of these questions may be difficult to hear, let alone answer, your lawyer does need to know the answers in order to help you find the best solution for your case. Your lawyer will collect a variety of information relating to your accident or injury, including facts about your medical treatment, others involved in the accident, potential witnesses, and more. He or she will likely also discuss practical aspects of your case such as a representation agreement, different types of legal fees, and the kinds of costs you can expect in your case.
What to Expect
Here is an idea of what you can expect during your first meeting with an injury attorney:
- The lawyer may ask you to sign a form authorizing the release of your medical information from health care providers, so that he or she can obtain your medical records on your behalf
- The lawyer will ask if you have talked to any insurance adjustors and if so, what you have said and whether you provided a recorded or written statement about the accident or injury.
- The lawyer will ask if anyone else has interviewed you about the accident or your injuries, and if so, with whom you spoke and the details of what was discussed.
- If it isn't evident by looking at you, the lawyer may ask about the current status of your injuries -- whether you are in pain, what your prognosis is, etc.
- The lawyer may advise you to see your doctor if you have any lingering physical problems or complaints. If you don't see your doctor and later decide to pursue a legal claim for your injuries, the defendant may argue that you aren't seriously hurt, on the theory that no doctor visit indicates no medical problems.
- The lawyer may decide to consider your case, and to contact you shortly after the meeting to discuss your legal options. This is a common practice in injury cases, so you should not read anything into it.
- The lawyer may decline to take your case. He or she may do this for many reasons, such as his or her current caseload, capabilities or specialties, economic situation, or family responsibilities. You also may learn that in the lawyer's opinion, you do not have much of a case. While this is valuable information, and it is better to get such an opinion early, you should by all means seek a second opinion from another attorney.
- The injury attorney may refer you to another lawyer. This happens when the lawyer cannot take your case for any number of reasons, or when he or she thinks that the other lawyer can do a better job under the circumstances.
- The lawyer may ask you to sign a retainer contract or other form of agreement for representation. Read the contract carefully and ask questions before you sign it. You should be able to take the contract home to study it before signing.
- The lawyer will tell you what the next steps are. There may be a factual investigation before a lawsuit is filed or settlement is considered, and the lawyer may be able to give you a rough estimate of how long it will take to resolve the case.
- The lawyer will tell you not to talk about the case with others, and that you should refer questions back to him or her. This is very important advice. Just as loose lips sink ships, stray comments can ruin your case in the courtroom.
- The lawyer will probably give you an idea of how he or she intends to keep you informed of progress in your case. There is no unified approach to this. Some lawyers provide periodic report letters; others call you on a periodic basis or when something happens; still others will ask you to call when you have questions.
Getting a Free Consultation
Accident lawsuits are often complex affairs, involving evidence gathering, expert witnesses, and a detailed knowledge of negligence law. As a result, it's important for accident victims to find an attorney who's experienced in accident cases in particular. To learn more about your claim at no cost to you, a great first step is to contact an attorney for a free case evaluation.