The beginning of a potential legal action is one of the most crucial steps in determining how to tackle the issues you face after sustaining a personal injury due to the negligence of another. The more information you can obtain and provide to an attorney, the better.
Initially, your attorney is acting as an investigator trying to get all of the necessary information to best help you. Some of this information may seem irrelevant to you but having all of the information available, early in the legal process can save time and money down the line. It is also at this stage where most personal injury attorney’s are able to determine the extent of how much insurance coverage is available to help compensate you for your injuries and/or other damages.
Here is an idea of what you can expect during your first meeting with an injury attorney:
– The lawyer may ask you to sign a form authorizing the release of your medical information from health care providers, so that he or she can obtain your medical records on your behalf
– The lawyer will want to know about all of your insurance coverage.
– The lawyer will ask if you have talked to any insurance adjusters and if so, what you have said and whether you provided a recorded or written statement about the accident or injury.
– The lawyer will ask if anyone else has interviewed you about the accident or your injuries, and if so, with whom you spoke and the details of what was discussed.
– If it isn’t evident by looking at you, the lawyer may ask about the current status of your injuries — whether you are in pain, what your prognosis is, etc.
– The lawyer may advise you to see your doctor if you have any lingering physical problems or complaints. If you don’t see your doctor and later decide to pursue a legal claim for your injuries, the defendant may argue that you aren’t seriously hurt, on the theory that no doctor visit indicates no medical problems.
– The lawyer may decide to consider your case, and to contact you shortly after the meeting to discuss your legal options. This is a common practice in injury cases, so you should not read anything into it.
– The lawyer may decline to take your case. He or she may do this for many reasons, such as his or her current caseload, capabilities or specialties, economic situation, or family responsibilities. You also may learn that in the lawyer’s opinion, you do not have the basis to pursue a claim. While this is valuable information, and it is better to get such an opinion early, you should consider seeking a second opinion from another attorney.
– The injury attorney may refer you to another lawyer. This happens when the lawyer cannot take your case for any number of reasons, or when he or she thinks that the other lawyer can do a better job under the circumstances.
– The lawyer may ask you to sign a retainer contract or other form of agreement for representation. Read the contract carefully and ask questions before you sign it. You should be able to take the contract home to study it before signing.
– The lawyer will tell you what the next steps are. There may be a factual investigation before a lawsuit is filed or settlement is considered, and the lawyer may be able to give you a rough estimate of how long it will take to resolve the case.
– The lawyer will tell you not to talk about the case with others, and that you should refer questions back to him or her.
– The lawyer will probably give you an idea of how he or she intends to keep you informed of progress in your case. There is no unified approach to this. Some lawyers provide periodic report letters; others call you on a periodic basis or when something happens; still others will ask you to call when you have questions.”
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