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What to Expect in a Free Consultation with a Personal Injury Lawyer

Offered by Law Offices of Scott M. Miller, PLLC

Make sure you’re ready for the first step on your road to recovery

You’ve been injured in an accident. You’re looking at extensive medical treatment and may not be able to work. The insurance company is breathing down your neck. You need a personal injury lawyer’s help to get through this situation.

Fortunately, the vast majority of personal injury attorneys offer free consultations, so you can get a sense of how they may be able to help before you make the decision to hire. Here’s how to make the most of your free consultation.

Tell the attorney your story, in detail

You need to explain what happened in the incident that caused your injury, start to finish. If your injury happened over a period of time instead of in a single incident, start from the beginning and describe the situation in as much detail as you can. Don’t leave anything out. Just as hiding symptoms from your doctor can only be bad for your health, leaving out details when you talk to a lawyer can seriously hurt your potential case.

In addition to describing the accident itself, be prepared to talk in some detail about your medical condition. Explain the status of your injuries, the symptoms you’ve had and the details of your most recent doctor’s visit.

Bring whatever evidence you have

Personal injury cases are all about evidence. You have to prove that someone else caused your injury and that you sustained damages (financial losses) as a result of the injury. As such, a review of the available evidence is an important part of your free consultation.

You should bring all the following documents if you have them:

  • Medical records, including bills, discharge instructions, prescriptions for medication, and any other documentation of treatment you’ve received due to the accident.
  • Pay stubs, W-2s, or other income verification so your attorney can calculate your lost wages.
  • Names and contact information for witnesses, either people who saw the accident itself or others who may have information related to the accident.
  • Photographs of the accident scene, vehicle or property damage, and any visible injuries.
  • The police accident report if available.
  • A copy of your insurance policy and any other relevant insurance information.
  • Any communication you have already received from an insurance company.

Depending on the length of the consultation and the number of documents, the attorney may not review them all in detail during the consultation itself. At the very least, though, a scan of the documents can give a better sense of the scope, strengths, and weaknesses of your case.

That said, you should never delay a free consultation because you do not have some or all of those documents yet. It’s far more important that you talk to an attorney as soon as possible with whatever information you have. Your lawyer can investigate and gather whatever evidence is missing.

Be prepared for some tough questions

Let’s address the elephant in the room first: there are some people who fake or exaggerate their injuries and go to a personal injury lawyer thinking they can make easy money. They’re not even close to the majority of people who walk into our offices, but they do exist, and they make things harder for everyone else. Some of the questions you may be asked in a free consultation are intended to weed those people out – we don’t want to represent them any more than a judge wants to waste time dispensing of their lawsuits – and if you’re coming in with a legitimate injury claim, that may be frustrating. We get it. It’s just an unavoidable part of the process.

In addition to weeding out the frivolous claims, though, we need to get a sense of how the injury has affected your life. That may mean discussing your job, personal finances, home life, and even your sex life. You’ll also be asked some pointed questions about how the accident happened. In part, this is to make sure you’re ready for similarly pointed questions from the insurance company’s lawyers in depositions and potentially at trial.

With all that said, a lawyer has a responsibility to any prospective client to make sure they’re comfortable having candid discussions, and a good lawyer will be conscious of the fact that you’re hurting and need help. Naturally, the consultation should be confidential, as well.

Be prepared to ask your own questions, too.

A consultation is a two-way street: the attorney is deciding whether to take your case, and you’re deciding whether to hire the attorney. To get a sense of whether a given lawyer is the right fit for you, use these questions as a starting point:

  • How long have you been representing personal injury plaintiffs?
  • Have you handled cases similar to mine, and if so, how did they turn out?
  • Who in the law firm will be handling my case?
  • Will I be able to speak with my lawyer directly if I have a concern?
  • Have you taken cases to trial? If so, what is your success rate?
  • How long do you think my case will take to resolve?
  • What is my role in the process? How involved do I need to be?
  • Can I speak to a previous client about their experience?

Keep in mind that questions specific to your case may not be definitively answered during a free consultation, but the attorney should still explain as much as they can with the information that they have available. For instance, no lawyer can tell you exactly how long your case will take to resolve, since that will depend on details uncovered through investigation, your medical treatment, and how difficult the insurance company decides to be. The attorney should give you their best estimate based on their experience and be up-front about any uncertainties.

Make sure you ask about fees and costs

Personal injury attorneys almost always work on a contingency fee basis, which means the fee depends on the outcome of your case. If the attorney gets you a settlement or a verdict awarding you money, their fee will be a percentage of that recovery. Typically, a contingency fee is about one-third of the recovery, but it may vary depending on the jurisdiction, the type of case, and the amount of work needed to litigate it.

You should also ask about any case-related costs distinct from the attorney’s fee, such as court costs, filing fees and administrative expenses, like obtaining copies of documents. The contingency fee agreement means you don’t owe an attorney’s fee if you don’t win your case, but you may still be responsible for some of those out-of-pocket expenses. Make sure you discuss those costs in detail and are comfortable with the fee agreement before you sign.

Feel free to talk to multiple attorneys before you decide.

Again, finding the right fit is critical. If you aren’t sure you’re completely comfortable with one personal injury lawyer, talk to one or two more. You should only hire a lawyer when you know you’re prepared to have candid conversations with them about your health, your finances, and your life, not to mention the good, bad, and ugly parts of your legal case. Sometimes, that means taking the time to talk to multiple lawyers. It’s well worth the effort.

That said, you don’t have time to delay, either. Getting an attorney involved as soon as possible after you’re injured is essential to protect your rights. Once you have an attorney on your side, you can focus on healing while they handle the day-to-day with the insurance company, and they can start an investigation to secure critical evidence before it disappears. If you’ve been hurt in an accident, we highly recommend scheduling a free consultation with a personal injury attorney in your area as soon as possible.

The Law Offices of Scott M. Miller, PLLC is a personal injury firm based in Longwood, FL.

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The Law Offices of Scott M. Miller, PLLC, understands what’s at stake for you after a bad car, truck, or motorcycle accident. After a traffic accident, slip and fall, or animal at...