It can be difficult to know when you need a personal injury lawyer for an accident injury. Because many attorneys offer a free consultation, it does not hurt to talk to an attorney about your accident claim. You can learn a great deal of information about the claims process and your legal rights during an initial consultation.
During your initial consultation, you can expect the attorney to ask questions about the accident and your injury. The attorney attempts to gather as much information as possible from you during the consultation. Therefore, it can help to be prepared for the meeting.
Below are nine things you need to know about this first meeting. Keeping these things in mind can help you take full advantage of your free case review with an experienced injury lawyer.
Initial Consultations to Discuss Personal Injury Claims
1. You are not Required to Hire the Attorney
You are under no obligation to hire the attorney at the end of the consultation. You may take several days to think about the advice you received from the lawyer or to get a second opinion from another attorney.
2. Bring Documentation of Medical Treatment
Bring copies of your medical records or other documentation that your received medical treatment to your initial consultation. Evidence of medical treatment may include, but is not limited to, discharge records, x-rays, results of diagnostic tests, doctor’s statements, and copies of chart notes.
It is good to keep in mind that if you are in a car accident, some injuries may not show symptoms right away. Some neck and back injuries may take days or even weeks to show symptoms. Always tell your doctor you were in a car accident at the initial appointment, so the information is noted in your chart.
3. Other Items to Bring With You
There are other documents that you should bring with you to the initial consultation. Information that can help the attorney evaluate your claim include:
- Photographs of the accident scene and your injuries
- Police reports and accident reports
- Insurance policies
- Information regarding the other driver
- Traffic tickets or citations
- Insurance claims information
- Information about witnesses, including their names, contact information, and statements
- Any other information or documentation that is relevant to your accident claim
4. Personal Notes About the Accident
Write down as much as you can remember about the accident. Include details about how the accident occurred and what was said by all parties after the accident. Try to describe what occurred immediately before and after the accident.
The sooner you take notes after an accident, the better it is for your case. Time causes memories to fade. Try to take notes about the accident as soon after the accident as possible.
5. Notes About Your Injury and Recovery
It is a good idea to begin a pain and suffering journal. A journal allows you to track your pain levels and the challenges you face because of your injuries.
Include information in your journal about:
- The extent of your pain each day;
- The type and severity of your injuries;
- The medical care you received;
- Activities you cannot perform;
- Events and family functions you missed;
- Your emotional and mental state;
- The effect on your social and work life; and,
- How the injuries impact your personal relationships with family and friends.
6. Documentation of Financial Losses
In addition to your physical injuries, pain, and suffering, you likely incurred financial losses. Bring a list of your medical expenses, loss of income, and other expenses incurred because of the accident and your injuries. If you have receipts and bills, bring those documents with you too.
7. List of Questions for the Attorney
The attorney asks if you have any questions. It can be challenging to remember what you wanted to ask with so much information being shared during the meeting. It can help to have a list of your questions with you.
Questions you may want to ask a personal injury lawyer include:
- What can I expect if I hire a law firm?
- Will you handle filing an insurance claim?
- How much is my case worth?
- How long does it take to settle an injury claim?
- Should I file a personal injury lawsuit?
- How can I afford to pay the attorneys’ fees and costs?
- Is hiring an attorney necessary to handle my injury claim?
- Should I accept a settlement from the insurance company?
8. Discuss Attorneys’ Fees and Costs
Many injury attorneys accept cases on a contingency fee basis. You do not pay any attorneys’ fees until your claim is settled. The attorneys’ fees are based on a percentage of the settlement amount.
Make sure to ask the attorney about the fee schedule and how the costs of the case are paid.
9. Statute of Limitations
There is a limited amount of time to file a personal injury lawsuit. In many cases, victims have four years from the date of injury to file a claim under Florida statutes of limitations.
However, wrongful death and medical malpractice claims have statutes that govern the deadlines for filing claims. Additionally, some factors in a case could shorten the time to file a claim. Talk to an attorney now to avoid missing the deadline to file a personal injury claim.