Most people will go through life without ever hiring a lawyer. But when you suffer an injury due to the negligent or intentional acts of a person or business, you may need help getting fair compensation.

Baltimore personal injury lawyers usually offer a free initial consultation. During this consultation, you should expect the lawyer to listen to your story and offer some preliminary legal advice about your options. To make the most of your time, you should prepare before the meeting.

Here are ten things you should know about a free consultation with an injury lawyer:

1. Free Does Not Mean Unlimited

Lawyers offer a free consultation because the trusted relationship between a lawyer and client requires the parties to understand each other. Without a free consultation, both of you would walk into the relationship blind.

The free consultation allows the lawyer to understand your case and determine whether they can help you to solve your legal problem. It also allows you to meet the lawyer and decide whether that lawyer will be able to provide the representation you want for your case.

But “free” does not mean “unlimited.” When you make your appointment, a staff member will tell you how long the consultation will last. If the staff member does not give you a time limit, you should ask. You want to know how much time you have so you can cover all of the topics you need to address.

2. Interview the Lawyer

If things go well, you may decide to hire the lawyer after the free consultation. To make a well-reasoned decision, interview the lawyer.

Ask the attorney about their prior experiences with similar cases. This answer will help you to set your expectations for your case. It will also help you determine whether the lawyer has the right experience to handle your case.

You can also discuss the lawyer’s courtroom experience. Most cases end before going to trial. You need someone who can litigate your case if you cannot reach a fair settlement with the person or business that caused your injury.

3. Talk About Your Case

You should prepare to explain how you suffered your injuries — whether you received your injuries in a car accident, workplace accident, slip and fall accident, or through other preventable incidents.

Some of the documents you might bring to the consultation to help you tell your story include:

  • Medical records
  • Bills from doctors and therapists
  • Accident reports
  • Wage records
  • A list of witnesses

This information will help the attorney to quickly evaluate your case and provide some preliminary legal counsel during your consultation.

4. Define Your Goals

Your goals for your case will drive your legal strategy. Discussing your goals with the lawyer will help each of you to decide whether the relationship will be effective. 

Some of the factors you should consider in setting your goals may include:

  • Past out-of-pocket costs
  • Future costs
  • Lost income
  • Impact on your career

Based on these and other factors, your lawyer will help you to determine what you expect to receive in your case.

5. Be Open and Honest

A lawyer can only represent your best interests if you have open and honest communications. Some clients might find this difficult. A lawyer will keep everything you discuss confidential during your initial consultation.

You should disclose anything that affects your case, even if it could cause you embarrassment or prove detrimental to the goals of your case. 

For example, things you might disclose:

  • That you contributed to the cause of your accident
  • Your accident exacerbated a pre-existing injury
  • You suffered additional undisclosed injuries
  • Your injuries affect your mental health

A lawyer has the training and experience to downplay problematic facts and use other facts to your advantage. Discussing these things with your lawyer will help them to provide better representation.

6. Discuss Fees

One of the most common disputes between lawyers and clients centers around fees. Most injury lawyers charge a contingent fee. This means that the lawyer receives a share of your settlement or damage award.

This benefits you because the lawyer will usually not charge any fees upfront. If you lose your case, you won’t have to pay for the lawyer’s services.

Discuss the lawyer’s fee during the initial consultation. Even if you think you understand them, some lawyers have unique ways to calculate or collect fees that you should discuss.

7. Make Sure You Understand How to Reach Your Lawyer

Another common dispute between lawyers and clients surrounds unreturned phone calls, emails, and voice messages. Lawyers must keep clients reasonably informed of the status of their cases and provide prompt responses to requests for information.

You should discuss communication with a lawyer during your initial consultation. This will help you avoid miscommunication about how to reach the lawyer. You can also ask what other staff members within the firm can provide updates about your case.

8. Discuss Deadlines

Before you end your free consultation, you should discuss any deadlines that apply to the case. Generally, Maryland gives you three years after an accident to file a civil case. But some cases, like medical malpractice, have different statutes of limitations. 

Once the lawyer has a basic understanding of your case, they can outline a legal strategy for reaching your goals. This legal strategy will arise from the lawyer’s experience in similar cases, your injuries, and the resources of the person or business that caused the injury. 

This discussion will help to ensure that your case goals align with the lawyer’s proposed strategy.

10. Discuss the Next Steps

At the end of the consultation, you might decide to hire the lawyer. If you do, you should discuss the next steps. For example, Maryland requires written contingent fee agreements. You should ask for a copy of the fee agreement to review.

Most lawyers also provide a letter of engagement that outlines their terms of representation. You should discuss the scope of representation during your initial consultation so that the lawyer can prepare the engagement letter if and when you hire the law firm.

Hiring the Lawyer

Think about your decision. Hiring a lawyer can alter the course of your case. An experienced and knowledgeable lawyer can often produce better results than you could achieve by yourself. By approaching the free consultation as a meaningful discussion, you can ensure that you find a lawyer who will meet your individual needs.