If you are considering filing a personal injury claim, you may not know what to expect. We all hear commercials and see ads touting a free initial consultation with a lawyer, but what really happens at those meetings?
The no-cost, no-obligation personal injury consultation will help you make a lot of decisions regarding your claim, who you hire as legal counsel, and what to expect throughout what can be a lengthy process to collect monetary compensation to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses including pain and suffering incurred due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing.
While the vast majority of personal injury consultations are similar, there will be subtle differences for each type of claim (car accident, defective product, medical malpractice, wrongful death, slip and fall, dog bite, etc.). The length of the initial consultation will also vary.
Straightforward car accident cases in which an at-fault party caused your injury will not take as long as a defective product case that may have multiple liable parties such as the manufacturer, the distributor, and maybe even the company that transported the defective product to the store that sold it. It gets pretty complicated when more than one party is responsible for your injury.
Your personal injury lawyer must first establish the statute of limitations has not expired. The statute of limitations for personal injury cases varies in each state, but for many it’s four years. A lawyer cannot help you if the statute of limitations for filing a claim has passed.
You will get to know your lawyer during the initial consultation. If you don’t feel comfortable with your lawyer or you feel he’s not trustworthy, then keep looking. It’s imperative that good rapport is established right away.
Bring the following information with you to the consultation:
- Medical records related to injury
- Photos or videos of your injuries, accident scene, defective product, etc.
- Witness statements or their contact information
- Accident reports
- Citations or tickets
- Health insurance information
Notes you’ve taken about the accident or injury are crucial throughout the claim process; what happened, exactly, at the time of the injury, and how the injury has affected your life are the two most important topics for discussion with our personal injury attorney. For this reason, bring any notes about the accident or injury regarding:
- Weather conditions at time of the accident
- Traffic patterns at time of the accident
- What witnesses saw and said
- What the other party said
- What you felt
- How the accident affected you mentally, physically, and emotionally
- Medical treatment received
- Time missed from work and any interactions with your boss about missed time
- Any effects the accident or injury on your family relationships and social life
At the consultation, you will give a detailed account of what happened to your attorney. You will ask any questions you have during the consultation, so it is important to come prepared and bring notes to remind you of your questions.
The lawyer will discuss the validity of your case. If you don’t have one, a good lawyer will tell you that. No lawyer wants you to get your hopes up only to be disappointed when the decision on your case is rendered. Fees will be discussed and legal documents will be signed, if you decide to hire the lawyer right then and there.
You are encouraged to meet with more than one lawyer if your first choice is not ideal. Your legal team will then start handling your claim by contacting insurance companies, collecting information related to your case, and eventually negotiating a settlement. This could take weeks, months, and in some cases, years depending on the complexity of your claim and the severity of your injuries.