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Meeting With an Injury Attorney

During your first meeting with a personal injury attorney after an injury, they will want to hear about what happened. In any such meeting, the attorney and their legal team will collect many different kinds of information from you.

The length of the initial interview depends on the circumstances that led to your injuries. In rather straightforward cases, such as car accidents, the first meeting probably won't take very long if you come prepared. In more complicated cases, like wrongful death, medical malpractice, or claims involving injuries from defective products, the initial interview about your personal injury claim will often take longer.

Read on to learn more about what to expect when you meet with a personal injury attorney.

How Consultations Work

As you tell the lawyer about your injury, they may ask questions about it. Often, lawyers will wait until you have told them everything before asking questions. While some of these questions may make you uncomfortable, your lawyer does need to know the answers in order to help you find the best solution for your case.

Examples of the topics you'll cover with your attorney may include: 

  • Your medical treatment and medical bills
  • Parties involved in the accident
  • Potential witnesses at the accident scene

They will likely also discuss practical aspects of your case, such as a representation agreement, different types of attorney's fees, and the kinds of costs you can expect in your case.

The Basics of Attorney-Client Privilege

One of the foundations of the legal profession is the principle of attorney-client privilege. Attorney-client privilege ensures that communications between you and your attorney are confidential. This is designed to foster an open and honest dialogue, allowing you to provide all relevant information so that the attorney can offer the most effective legal advice. In general, whatever you discuss with your attorney is protected and will not be disclosed to third parties.

Exceptions to Attorney-Client Privilege

There are exceptions to this rule. If you share with your attorney plans to commit a crime, harm yourself or others, or cover up a crime, the attorney is not bound to keep this information confidential. In such cases, the attorney may have ethical or legal obligations to report this information to appropriate authorities.

Medical Privacy and Authorization Forms

When dealing with cases that involve personal injuries, medical malpractice, or other health-related issues, your attorney may need access to your medical records. In such instances, you may be asked to sign a medical authorization form that allows your healthcare providers to release your medical information to the attorney.

By signing such a form, you're waiving certain medical privacy rights, although it's for a specific purpose that should benefit your case. Make sure you're clear on what the authorization covers and how your information will be used.

Insurance Company Concerns

You might be worried that insurance companies could find out what you've discussed with your attorney. Rest assured, the principle of attorney-client privilege extends to prevent your attorney from disclosing confidential information you share with them to insurance companies without your explicit consent.

However, if your case progresses to litigation or settlement negotiations, some information might have to be shared as part of the legal process, but in general, this is done with your knowledge and permission.

What To Expect During Your Consultation

A personal injury attorney will likely address any or all of the following during your first meeting:

  • Whether you're willing to sign a form authorizing the release of your medical information from healthcare providers so that the attorney can obtain your medical records on your behalf
  • All or many of the details of your insurance coverage
  • Whether you have talked to any insurance adjusters, what you said to any such adjusters, and whether you provided a written statement about the accident or injury
  • Whether anyone else has interviewed you about the accident or your injuries, who those people were, and what you discussed exactly with them
  • The current status of your injuries, such as whether you are in pain and what your prognosis is
  • Recommendations that you seek medical care for the injuries if you have not done so already, given that a doctor's testimony will be very important in substantiating your claims
  • Whether the attorney will take your case
  • Referrals for other lawyers if they don't take your case
  • If they do take your case, they'll likely ask you to sign a retainer agreement, which you should read carefully before signing
  • What your legal options are based on or the specifics of your situation
  • What next steps will look like
  • An investigation before a lawsuit is filed or settlement is considered
  • An estimate of how long the case may take to resolve
  • The methods for how the attorney will update you, as well as the frequency with which the attorney will provide those updates

What To Send Ahead / Bring to Your First Meeting

Be sure to gather all relevant documents and send them ahead of the meeting, if possible. If you're dealing with a car accident, for example, you could make use of resources like FindLaw's car accident checklist to identify what you need. This could include:

  • Police reports
  • Medical records and bills
  • Vehicle repair estimates
  • Photographs of injuries or property damage
  • Witness statements
  • Insurance policy details

Personal Identification

It's generally good to have some form of ID with you. Also, bring any phone numbers or other contact information for other people involved in the case, if applicable.

What To Expect in Terms of Fees

Some attorneys offer free initial consultations, while others do not. Make sure you're clear on this before setting up the meeting. If you decide to proceed, discuss the fee structure. This could be hourly rates, flat fees, or contingency fees, which are common in personal injury cases. Be aware that there may be additional costs like court fees, paralegal time, or other expenses. Always ask for a detailed fee agreement.

What To Do if You Don't Have All the Information Yet

If you haven't managed to gather all the necessary documents or details, don't postpone the meeting. Bring whatever information you do have and be honest about what you're missing. Many times, the attorney can guide you on how to get the remaining pieces of information.

What Not To Expect From Your First Consultation

While the attorney can give you a general idea of how cases like yours might go, they can't promise specific outcomes or provide detailed legal advice until they've been officially hired and a client/attorney relationship has been established.

Unless it's an emergency, don't expect the attorney to start acting on your case right after the initial meeting. They will need time to review the details and possibly discuss your case with their team, if any.

What Comes Next?

After the initial consultation, the attorney will likely outline the next steps, which may include:

  • Further investigation: Collecting more evidence or speaking to witnesses
  • Legal research: Researching statutes, case law, and other legal aspects relevant to your case
  • Drafting documents: This could be a complaint to initiate a lawsuit, contract drafts, etc.
  • Strategy planning: A comprehensive strategy for how to proceed with your case

What To Do if You Decide Not To Hire the Attorney or if They Don't Take Your Case

If you decide not to hire the attorney or if they don't take your case, make sure to collect all your original documents from the attorney. It's okay to consult with multiple attorneys to find the right fit for you. If the attorney doesn't take your case, ask them for a referral to another attorney they trust.

If they decline your case, understanding why can provide valuable insight. Maybe your case isn't strong enough, or perhaps the attorney doesn't have the resources you need.

Get Legal Assistance From a Personal Injury Lawyer

Accident claims are often complex affairs involving evidence gathering, expert witnesses, and detailed knowledge of negligence law. As a result, it's important for accident victims to find an attorney who's experienced in accident cases.

To learn more, consider speaking with a local personal injury lawyer near you today. Many personal injury law firms offer free case evaluations, so you won't have to worry about paying anything upfront.

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