Most, if not all, personal injury attorneys will provide a free initial consultation for new cases. When you first call the lawyer, you should be prepared to provide certain basic information so that the consultation goes as smooth as possible. Even though the initial consultation is normally free, most lawyers will continue to provide free consultations for an injury case especially if the lawyer is interested in taking the case. But do not abuse this privilege. The lawyer will probably cut you off if he or she feels as though you are taking advantage of the consultations in order to handle the case yourself. When you call a lawyer, be prepared to discus the following matters: Free Consultation
Accident Facts. When describing your accident, be sure you know the date of the accident, the location of the accident, and the basic facts. For instance, in a car accident case, you might state that “I was involved in a car accident on March 1, 2012, on the Interstate 20.” In a slip-and-fall case, you might say “I fell at Walmart on March 1, 2012, when they were mopping the floor.” Refrain from discussing irrelevant matters, such as “the other driver was very rude” or “the store manager didn’t even call me the next day to see how I was doing.” Stick with the basic facts and try to keep emotions out of the discussions.
Injuries and Medical Treatment. Be prepared to describe your injuries, such as “I had a fractured collar bone” or “I strained my neck and back.” As the consultation progresses, the attorney will ask for more detailed information. If you went to the hospital by ambulance, then start there. Give a brief description of the treatment you had at the hospital. Then describe any further treatment in chronological order. You might say that “After a few days I wasn’t feeling any better and so I went to see my family doctor who ordered an MRI. The MRI showed a herniated disc so my doctor referred me to a specialist” and so on.
Prior Injuries or Claims. Your lawyer will almost always ask you if you had any previous injuries or personal injury claims. This information is very important. Therefore, you need to be up front and honest about any previous injuries from the start. However, just because you had a previous injury doesn’t mean you don’t have a case. I have successfully handled many cases where the client had a previous injury to the same part of the body. But your lawyer needs to know about it so that he or she can plan a strategy for your case with that fact in mind. There is nothing more devastating to your case than your lawyer being surprised about a prior injury that was not previously disclosed.
Settlement Value. Refrain from asking the lawyer what you can expect as a settlement. This sends the wrong message about your real intentions in pursuing your claim. If the lawyer brings up the issue of settlement value, then be very wary. No lawyer can legitimately give you an estimate of the value of your case during the consultation phase. Usually, any discussion of settlement value comes much later in the case after your attorney, the insurance company and any opposing attorney has the opportunity to conduct their investigation. If a lawyer attempts to discuss settle value with you during your consultation, rest assured that the lawyer is just trying to get you to commit to them. You should excuse yourself from the call and continue your search for an attorney.
Meet with Your Lawyer. Most lawyers have support staff that take new incoming case calls. If you are considering hiring a lawyer, then you should request the opportunity to talk or meet with the lawyer personally. If the lawyer is not available to discuss your case with you during the consultation, then there is a good chance you will have the same difficulty once you sign a contract with the lawyer. I make it a point to personally consult with every potential new client and maintain that same communication throughout the representation. If the client wants to meet me personally, then I set up an appointment. A lawyer/client relationship is a personal one and you should feel comfortable with who you are hiring from the very beginning. It’s that simple.