How to Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer
How to talk to a personal injury lawyer may not be a concern that most people would expect to have. However, when disaster strikes and you've suffered a personal injury, getting legal representation is one of the smartest choices you can make. After all, you've suffered substantial losses because of someone else's negligent or careless actions and would like meaningful compensation.
We understand it can be intimidating, and you don't know what to expect. Plus, consulting with a lawyer is supposed to cost a lot of money, right? In some instances, the answer would be yes. Legal counsel can be costly. However, personal injury lawyers have a different business model than, say, criminal defense lawyers.
Typically consultations with personal injury lawyers are free. At Morgan and Morgan, we offer free case evaluations to understand the facts of your case so we can determine if we can help you. If we take your case, you also won't owe any upfront fees. Instead, we take a percentage of your insurance settlement or an award handed down by a jury. However, that only happens if we win compensation for you, so there is no risk. Find out more with a free case evaluation.
Let's look at some other questions you may have concerning talking with a personal injury lawyer.
Talking to a Lawyer for the First Time
Remember that lawyers are people just like you but who went to law school to practice in the legal profession. Don't worry if you read a bunch of online legalese and need help understanding what it means. Plenty of legal terms are based on Latin, but your lawyer should break it down for you in easy-to-understand language. The best strategy for your first talk is to come prepared to share the details of your case. Depending on how complicated your legal issue is, the consult may last anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour.
What Will Be Discussed?
The purpose of the consultation is for your prospective lawyer to determine if you have grounds for a case and to gauge whether you would be a good witness if the case went to trial. This interview goes both ways. You're trying to judge whether they'd represent your claim well, and they're trying to see if you would be a good fit as a client.
Generally, a personal injury lawyer is trying to work out if your case is legitimate and if there are legal grounds to pursue it on your behalf. There are severe financial and professional consequences for lawyers that bring fraudulent or frivolous cases before the court, so when you're taken on as a client, they assume a fair amount of risk. Another reason personal injury lawyers carefully consider clients is that they only get paid if they win.
Suppose your claim lacks merit or has serious issues that can't be overcome, like the statute of limitations for your action is past the deadline. In that case, they won't invest their time and resources in a case they know they can't win.
Be Authentic and Forthcoming
Talking openly and honestly with your lawyer is crucial. If you fudge the facts to make yourself look better, it will likely backfire in a spectacular way. You should be aware that the other party's insurance company lawyers will represent them and conduct in-depth investigations. For instance, suppose you told your lawyer you were attentive to your surroundings before your injury in a slip-and-fall case. If the defendant's lawyers bring surveillance footage of you texting on your phone right before falling down the stairs, nothing your lawyer can say or do can repair the damage to your credibility.
Another action that will cause issues is if you show up to your appointment in a wheelchair and neck brace. Still, your attorney looks up your social media profiles and sees a picture of you out dancing the night before. Legal professionals always undertake their own investigation before accepting personal injury clients.
You would be doing yourself, your lawyer, and the court a disservice if you weren't authentic in your dealings. Furthermore, any injury case you have in the future would be marred by this history of fudging the facts. Any attorney, no matter how good, can only do their job of helping you if you help yourself.
Personal injury lawyers don't necessarily care if you had some fault in your accident, except in some states where your degree of fault would bar you from seeking compensation. Furthermore, everything you say to a lawyer is confidential and can't be used against you. The only exception may be if you consult with a lawyer, they decline to take you as a client, and you continue to divulge information to them. It's best to be honest about the facts and let your attorney devise a legal strategy if there is one.
Keep Your Emotions at Bay
When you've experienced a personal injury, we understand it can be an extraordinarily stressful and painful situation. You want justice and compensation for your expenses and suffering. While emotions can show authenticity, if you don't keep them under control, you might waste precious time during your consultation without getting your points across. While PTSD, depression, and other psychological effects from a personal injury are valid and compensable, the goal of your first meeting is to share the facts of your claim so a potential lawyer can make an assessment.
Your lawyer will want to know in detail how the personal injury has impacted your life physically and emotionally in due course as part of calculating the damages.
Ask Questions When You Don't Understand
If your lawyer is using terms or concepts that you need help understanding, tell them so. If you act as if you know all the legal terms and the process, they'll assume you do. However, you should know that most people aren't familiar with legal proceedings, and that's why they need lawyers. You should never feel inadequate for not grasping ideas to which you've had no prior exposure. A large part of a personal injury lawyer's role is to explain the process and lay out your options so you can make informed decisions.
What Preparations Should I Make Before Talking With a Personal Injury Lawyer?
The best way to prepare yourself before a consultation is to gather all documentation and personal notes you have concerning the injury. Here are some examples:
A detailed timeline of the sequence of events - When and in what order events took place will be critical. For example, you left the grocery store at around 3 p.m., just as it started snowing, and exited the parking lot headed southbound on Lunar Street. You approached a green light at Lunar Street and Westward Drive when the other party turned left in front of you, causing the crash. You may not think that the time of day, weather, or intersection where an accident occurred matters, but all of the details could make a difference in your case. For example, if it were snowing, the other driver should have taken better care and drove more cautiously. It may be that a specific intersection has a history of similar accidents, and the city should have taken more precautions to make it safer.
Your doctor's contact information - Your lawyer will want to know how to contact your doctor so they can discuss your injuries, treatment, and prognosis.
Details about your injuries and medical bills - Documentation of injuries and medical bills is an enormous part of a personal injury claim. They'll want to know where you were treated, the dates of the treatment, a description of the services, any pending medical bills, and receipts for how much you've paid thus far, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines and therapeutics. Likewise, if the personal injury concerns just property, they'll want to know how it occurred and see the damage, estimates, invoices, and receipts for payments.
How much time you've missed from work - Lost wages should be reimbursed if your injury caused you to miss work. You should be prepared to provide your attorney with official documentation from your employer that details the dates you missed, your average weekly income, and any commissions, bonus, tips, overtime, or other accrued benefits you missed. Also, include any sick or vacation time you used up.
Give Heed to Your Lawyer's Advice
The purpose of working with a lawyer is to get professional insight. It only makes sense to involve a lawyer if you're prepared to consider their expert advice. Sometimes, lawyers tell you things you don't want to hear, especially when it comes to negotiating damages like pain and suffering. No one wants to hear how their agony comes down to dollars and cents. But that's how the civil justice system works.
Likewise, if your lawyer informs you that you should settle instead of risking all or nothing in a court case, they are speaking from experience about how similar cases have gone. Whether you like to hear it or not, the duty of a lawyer is to provide their clients with the best solutions to their problems. However, you're still ultimately in charge of the decisions made in how your legal matter proceeds.
What if I Cannot Talk to a Lawyer in Person Due to My Injuries?
Morgan and Morgan have dealt with personal injury cases for over 35 years, and we've seen it all. We're well aware that some potential clients are still in the hospital recovering from their injuries or that traveling to a lawyer's office is too much of a burden in your present physical condition. That's why we meet you where you are if that's what's needed. We can travel to the hospital or your home to continue our interview on a timeline that meets your needs.
How Should I Protect My Claim Before Talking to a Personal Injury Lawyer?
If you've suffered a personal injury, the following steps can be of significant consequence. Here is a general guide on how to protect your claim while you're looking for legal representation:
- Report the incident to authorities, whether it be police, management, or someone in charge of the property
- Request documentation of the incident from whomever it was reported
- File an incident report
- Keep records of events, injuries, pain, expenses, and losses
- Ask for witness contact information
- Seek medical care right away if the incident involves physical injuries
- Gather and retain all medical records, bills, and invoices
- Ask for someone to take pictures of the scene of the incident if relevant
- Never make a recorded statement before talking with a lawyer
- Do not talk to or sign anything from an insurance adjuster before getting legal counsel
- Tell medical providers to bill your health insurance for services rendered
Is It Really Possible to Hold the At-Fault Party Accountable for My Injuries?
Yes. If a party is found to be at fault through negligence for injuring you and your injuries resulted in financial losses, you have the right to file an insurance claim against them or file a civil lawsuit. When you go through the court system, these are called "torts." Courts can impose liability (or financial accountability), meaning they are responsible for paying for your expenses and losses. While insurance companies have independent protocols, they usually follow the same standards as courts for imposing liability.
Get in Touch With the Personal Injury Lawyers at Morgan and Morgan
We understand that hiring a personal injury lawyer is a big decision. Still, it could be one of the best decisions you ever make. It certainly deserves some thought. After all, you want the best representation possible. However, you can rest easy knowing that you'll work with some of the best lawyers in the industry when you choose Morgan and Morgan. With billions recovered for clients since 1985, you can put your trust in our law firm. Get in touch today for your free case evaluation.