After being involved in a car accident, it’s important to gather as many allies as possible to help aid in the recovery process. There is perhaps no ally more important than a trusted car accident attorney. While some car accident claims can be handled on your own, having a personal injury lawyer by your side throughout the process can increase your chances of success and ensure your rights are protected.
While many law firms offer free initial consultations for new clients, it can be hard to know what to expect from such meetings. For most people scheduling such meetings may be their first time ever interacting with a professional attorney. New settings, new people and new procedures can be daunting, especially in the wake of a crash when you might still be feeling shaken up. So how should you go about preparing for a meeting with a car accident lawyer?
What to Expect
When most people envision a meeting at an attorney’s office, their minds go to luxurious boardrooms and formal conversations. While that’s certainly possible for some law firms, you might be surprised to find that most offices are far less fussy. Like any other office setting, law firms vary in their philosophies and attitudes. You may very well end up chatting casually with a paralegal, or meeting with just one of the many qualified lawyers on the staff.
Your first meeting with a car accident attorney shouldn’t cost you anything. In fact, many firms work on a contingency basis, meaning no money will be owed unless the case is successful. In such situations, the lawyer’s fees will come directly from your settlement. This will all be discussed in the first meeting, so don’t worry too much about understanding the possible ways the financial end of the relationship will shake out.
You’ll likely spend much of your appointment filling out paperwork. The attorney will want all the details about your accident, as well as information about the injuries you and your passengers sustained. They may also require you to sign a form authorizing the release of your medical records so that the firm can obtain your medical history on your behalf.
What to Bring
Documentation is critically important for the success of your claim, so you’ll need to bring in anything and everything that might pertain to the accident. Copies of the police report, tickets you might have received in connection to the accident, and the contact information of other drivers involved in the collision are definitely necessary. Copies of medical records or notes from your doctor should also be brought along.
If you took any photos or video of the accident scene, be ready to share those with your attorney, too. It may be easiest to transfer these files onto a flash drive to easily pass along. Alternatively, your lawyer may prefer you to email the images to the firm directly.
It’s also a good idea to bring along any evidence you have to show that the incident has impacted your finances. Repair bills from your mechanic, medical bills, and even proof of your lost wages because of the wreck can be important tools to help illustrate the toll the accident has taken on your livelihood. Not sure what kind of evidence is appropriate? When in doubt, bring it along to your appointment; your attorney will have insight into whether a particular document is useful for your claim.
What to Ask
Case evaluations are not just an opportunity for an attorney to decide whether or not to take on your case. These meetings also offer accident victims the chance to select a lawyer they feel will do the best job representing them and their best interests. With that in mind, it’s important to come to your consultation with questions. Write down the ones you want to address so you won’t forget to ask something important. Consider asking about:
- How experienced an attorney is
- Whether or not the firm works on a contingency basis
- Their perceived strengths and weaknesses of the case
- The chances of the claim being settled out of court
- What kind of documentation they will need before making a settlement demand
- The options for escalating the claim to a lawsuit if a reasonable settlement offer cannot be reached
Far from the only things you should ask about, these are just a few topics to consider when making your own list of questions. Above all, it’s important to weigh what you are looking for in an attorney with what is most important to the success of your case. After meeting with several lawyers in your area, you’ll begin to understand what matters most to you; some attorneys are great communicators, willing to loop clients in on every step of the process, while others are excellent investigators, eager to work independently and keep you posted on only the highlights of your case. Determining your preferences will help you select the car accident lawyer who is right for your claim.