If you’ve been involved in an accident, you may think about hiring a personal injury lawyer. But visiting a lawyer’s office for the first time might make anyone a bit nervous. However, there is no need to worry. This article will describe some of the things that you can expect during your first visit to a personal injury attorney.
Expect the Meeting to be Fairly Short
Your case is important. It is important to your lawyer as well. However, on a normal day, the average lawyer might have to meet with clients, write letters, return calls, and prepare briefs. So, most initial consultations last about one hour. While this might not seem like a long time, experienced lawyers know what questions to ask to make the best use of that hour.
Expect Questions – Lots of Questions
In the first meeting, the lawyer will ask you a number of questions. The attorney will ask basic “who, what, when” questions. In a personal injury case, the lawyer will also want to know the details of the accident. The lawyer will likely ask about your insurance policies, your injuries, and your financial losses. The attorney might even ask you how the accident has affected you emotionally. So, expect questions about your physical, mental, and financial health.
While it may seem odd to give personal information to a person that you’ve barely met, there is no need to worry. First, Alabama’s ethics rules require that all attorneys – even those you do not hire – maintain attorney-client privilege. The attorney-client privilege, with a few exceptions, prevents lawyers from telling people about the things their clients say. So, do not be afraid to tell your potential attorney about your case. The lawyer will keep it all confidential.
Second, the attorney will not be able to evaluate your case unless you provide a true and complete story. Holding back information or changing a fact that seems minor might cause your attorney to provide bad information. A good attorney will give you an honest evaluation, but no attorney can do this without all the facts.
Expect to Be Asked For Documents and Other Proof
Not only will the attorney ask questions, the attorney will likely ask for any proof that you have. Before calling the attorney or visiting the office, make sure that you have these items at the ready. Some things that lawyers often ask for include:
- Communications from insurance companies
- A list of witnesses
- Messages from witnesses
- Pictures of the accident scene
- Pictures showing injuries to you or others
- Pictures showing property damage
- Medical records
- Medical bills
- Any police reports
- Records of missed work
- Records of lost wages
- Records of normal wages (e.g. paystubs)
This list is not complete. Other things could be important in your case. Ask the attorney or the attorney’s assistant about other items you should have available.
Expect to Be Asked About Who You’ve Spoken To
While the statements that you make to your attorney are confidential, the things that you may have said to others are not. You might have said something about the accident that might hurt your recovery without even knowing it. The attorney may or may not be able to undo the damage, but your attorney needs to know to have a chance to make things better for your case.
Expect an Evaluation and Explanation
Toward the end of your first meeting with a personal injury attorney, the lawyer should be able to tell you the pros and cons of your case. (Note however, that lawyers cannot promise certain outcomes; they can only tell you what they expect based on past experiences.) The lawyer may offer to take your case on the spot. However, remember, you do not have to agree and are free to visit other attorneys before making a final decision.
While some attorneys agree to take cases during a consultation, others will want to take a little time to decide. If the lawyer does not take your case, it is not your fault; there might be many reasons. Feel free to visit another office.
Expect to Feel Comfortable
The first meeting is not just the attorney’s chance to evaluate your case. It is also your chance to evaluate the lawyer. An attorney-client relationship is a very close one. Before you hire anyone, make sure that you feel comfortable with their general personality and approach to things. Feel free to talk to multiple attorneys before making a final decision.
Expect to Talk About Money
You can expect the attorney to talk about money. (This is especially true if the attorney offers to take your case and you agree that you want to hire the attorney.) The attorney should explain – in clear language – how the billing process will work. The attorney should explain the hourly rate as well as charges for other items such as investigations, ordering records, or even making copies.
Note that most personal injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis. That means that they receive a portion of any amount you recover after the lawsuit. However, even in this arrangement, some attorneys still charge clients for certain costs. Be prepared to ask the attorney specific questions about billing practices.
Expect to Sign Documents
If you decide to hire an attorney, be prepared to sign documents. Signing a retainer or representation agreement will make the attorney your official legal representative in your case. Your lawyer may also ask you to sign releases that will allow them to access insurance information, medical records, and other items.
More Questions About Your First Visit to a Personal Injury Attorney?
Hopefully, this article has answered most of your questions about what to expect at your first visit to a personal injury attorney. If you have more questions or need to speak to an Alabama personal injury attorney, contact Collins Law, LLC. At Collins Law, we pride ourselves on making our clients feel comfortable from the very first meeting. Call Collins Law for a free consultation.