What to expect from your first meeting with a personal injury lawyer
The prospect of meeting with a lawyer may give you some anxiety, but knowing how the meeting will go and being prepared to answer their questions can put your mind at ease.
In order to make the meeting go as efficiently as possible, you’ll want to make sure you bring all of the paperwork and documentation related to your injury and incident.
If your attorney can see these in your first meeting, he or she can get a full picture of the situation faster.
Important things to bring to your first meeting with a personal injury lawyer
Gather these various documents and information before your first meeting with a personal injury attorney:
- All medical information
- Documents explaining diagnoses and treatment
- Bills from doctors and hospital
- Bills from physical therapist and/or chiropractor
- Documents explaining any future treatment needed
- Name and address of ambulance service used (if any)
- Name and address of hospital where you were first taken
- Dates you were admitted and released from the hospital
- List of current prescription medications
- Insurance information
- Paperwork explaining health insurance coverage
- Paperwork outlining auto insurance coverage (if the injury was a result of a car accident)
- Documentation of any lost work or income as a result of the injury (including dates missed).
- Copies of all official report(s)
- Police report with details of the incident
- Other reports taken of incident
- Any photos that were taken of the accident scene or injuries.
Questions a personal injury lawyer may ask you
You’ve likely just been through a traumatic experience, so it can be difficult to answer some of the questions that a lawyer may ask about your accident and injuries.
Keep in mind that the lawyer is also evaluating your case to make sure you’re a good fit, just as you should be evaluating their suitability. (See Why might a personal injury lawyer decline my case?)
If you know the types of questions they may ask ahead of time, you can prepare yourself both mentally and emotionally to respond to them.
A personal injury attorney does not ask questions just to make you relive the horrific moments of your accident – they ask because it will ultimately help you win your case. For that reason, it’s very important to give them all of the details that you can.
Let’s look at some possible questions they may ask at your first meeting:
- What specific injuries are you dealing with and how are you feeling now? How much pain are you experiencing? (See more on keeping a post-accident diary, including our sample diary form.)
- Have you seen a doctor and what is was the prognosis? (If you haven’t seen a doctor, they will strongly advise that you do in order to get documentation of your injuries.)
- Have you talked to any other lawyers or insurance representatives about your accident and what details did you give them?
- What type of auto and medical insurance coverage do you have? (You should also have the coverage details on hand.)
- Have you given a recorded statement about your accident or injury to your insurance company?
- Where are you employed? For how long? What do you do there?
- Have you been in any other accidents (before or since the one you are meeting about)?
- Have you received any notices of lien claims? (Bring lien notices with you.)
For a sneak peek behind the curtain, see this article from FindLaw that helps attorneys organize their personal injury cases. You can gain behind-the-scenes insight into the things they will ask you.
You’ll see you can also expect to sign any necessary authorizations so they can go ahead and get started requesting records right away:
- Insurance authorization
- wage loss authorization
- HIPPA-compliant authorization to obtain medical records
And the lawyer will want copies of your insurance cards, including Medicare or Medicaid.
It’s also important to explain how this incident has affected you, your family, and your everyday tasks – making a list of specifics beforehand can help you talk through it in the meeting.
Pain and suffering (as it is called in legal terms) is one aspect that can prove to be very valuable when your attorney is building your case.
How to decide if this lawyer is right for you
Even though you may feel like you need to commit after your first consultation, you are not tied to choosing the first personal injury attorney you meet. In fact, we recommend meeting with at least a couple to find someone that you feel comfortable with and who you feel can work for the best possible outcome.
You want to find a personal injury attorney who is experienced with the laws in your area and has a great deal of experience with your type of case.
If you don’t want to meet in person with each potential lawyer, you can get a good idea of their experience and demeanor through online reviews or a phone call to their office. However, we don’t recommend hiring a personal injury attorney until you’ve had an in-person meeting.
Paperwork and understanding lawyer fees
Once you’ve committed to a particular attorney, he or she will have you fill out a lot of paperwork. It may be a bit overwhelming and feel repetitive, but it’s important to fill it all out accurately to protect you legally.
Also, your lawyer will most likely ask you to sign a medical release form so he or she will have access to all of your medical records.
The last point you’ll need to discuss is what he or she charges for their legal services. Many lawyers will not charge you anything until they have won your case, which is called working on contingency.
There are some lawyers, however, that charge hourly, so finding out the details of how and what they charge in the beginning will prepare you for receiving the bill later. In addition, you’ll want to know details such as how individual expenses are handled.
Attorneys focus on your case so you don’t have to
After a traumatic experience, the last thing you want to do is spend all of your time and energy fighting for compensation. A personal injury lawyer is there to support you and do all of the hard, legal work so that you can focus on your recovery.
Your primary job following an accident is to take care of yourself and your family.
If you’ve been injured in an accident – whether it involved a car, defective product, or was a work-related incident – meeting with a personal injury lawyer right away will help take the stress of your case off your hands so you can work towards physical and emotional healing.