Jill Kolodner | October 26, 2020 | Personal Injury
The aftermath of an accident or sudden injury can be overwhelming. Dealing with doctors, your employer, insurance claims adjusters, and others can leave you frustrated, anxious, and worried. It can be difficult to know whether you need to hire a personal injury lawyer.
The good news is that most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation. You can get the answer to your question about hiring a lawyer. You can also learn about your legal rights and other personal injury matters so that you can decide whether you need an attorney to handle your personal injury case.
What Do You Need to Know About a Free Personal Injury Consultation?
Most people have no idea what to expect during a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer. We want to help. Below are nine things to know before you attend a free consultation with an accident attorney.
1. The Attorney Asks Lots of Questions
Expect the attorney to ask you lots of questions. The consultation is an opportunity for the personal injury lawyer to learn about what happened to you. The attorney needs to learn the details about how you were injured and the severity of your injuries.
If you are unsure about an answer, tell the attorney. If you are guessing, also tell the attorney. Answering the attorney’s questions helps the attorney analyze your case and provide detailed legal advice.
2. You Need to Ask Lots of Questions
You also need to ask questions during the free consultation. Make a list of any concerns you have about your claim. Questions that you might want to add to your list include:
- How many car accident cases (or other types of personal injury claim) do you handle each year?
- What is your current caseload? How much time do you devote to my case?
- Can I call you if I have a problem or concern?
- Generally, how long does it take to settle an injury case similar to my case?
- Will my case go to trial?
- What is your success rate at trial?
- How are my medical bills paid?
- Are there things I should avoid while my case is active?
- What do you think my case is worth?
- How often will I receive updates about my case?
- Does the law firm have the necessary staff and resources to handle my case?
Do not forget that you are hiring the lawyer and law firm. It is acceptable to “interview” the lawyer to determine if they are the right lawyer for you.
3. Experienced Lawyers Do Not Offer Guarantees
Some of the above questions cannot be answered during an initial consultation. An experienced lawyer explains that there are no guarantees. Until the attorney has the opportunity to investigate your claim thoroughly, it would not be ethical to guess at the value of your claim or whether your case might go to court.
What the attorney can explain is how cases similar to your case have been resolved. He can give you an experienced, educated, and reasoned opinion, but not a guarantee.
4. The Lawyer Might Not Take Your Case
The lawyer may decide to take your case after meeting with you. There are legal reasons why an attorney could not take your case, such as a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest might arise if the attorney represented the defendant in your case or represents a company involved in your case.
Other reasons the attorney might decline to take your case include:
- The statute of limitations has expired
- Your damages are not high enough to justify the time and cost of pursuing the claim
- The type of case is outside of the law firm’s practice area
- There is insufficient evidence to prove fault
- You could be partially liable for the accident, which bars you from recovery under Maryland’s comparative negligence laws
If an attorney declines to take your accident case, ask the attorney for a reason. You can get a second opinion.
5. Discuss Attorneys’ Fees and Costs
Many personal injury lawyers take injury cases on a contingency fee basis. The attorneys’ fee is based on a percentage of the recovery in your case.
Questions that you should ask about attorneys’ fees and costs include:
- What is the percentage for a contingency fee?
- Will I owe any attorneys’ fees if you do not recover money for my claim?
- Will I have to pay for the costs of the case if you do not recover money for my claim?
- Does the percentage of the contingency fee change if a lawsuit is filed and/or my case goes to trial?
Review an attorney’s retainer agreement carefully and ask questions about anything you do not understand before signing the retainer agreement.
6. Bring Documents with You
Bring any documents related to your accident and injuries that you have with you to your free consultation. It will make the consultation more productive if the attorney has as much information about your claim as possible.
Documents to bring include:
- Accident reports or police reports
- Photographs of the accident scene
- Medical records
- Photographs of your injuries
- Witness statements
- Notes you made about the accident
- Insurance policies
- Results from diagnostic tests
Having this information available during the consultation helps you receive the most accurate information possible. However, do not let the lack of any of the above information keep you from reaching out to a personal injury lawyer to discuss your claim.
7. You are Not Required to Hire the Lawyer
The free consultation is a no-obligation meeting with an attorney. You are not required to hire that lawyer – or any lawyer – after a free consultation.
Do not feel pressured to make a decision during the consultation. Reputable attorneys understand that you need to think about the information you received before deciding whether to hire the lawyer.
8. You can Meet with Other Personal Injury Attorneys
You are free to meet with other personal injury lawyers before hiring an attorney to handle your personal injury claim. You are not required to disclose that you are meeting with several lawyers. It is your decision, and it is private.
9. Your Time to File a Personal Injury Claim is Limited
Do not delay when seeking legal advice about a personal injury claim. The Maryland Statutes of Limitations restrict your time to file a personal injury lawsuit. In some cases, there could be exceptions to the statute of limitations that shorten the time to file a personal injury lawsuit.
You could lose your right to seek compensation for your injuries and damages by waiting too long to talk with a lawyer. Deadlines apply in all personal injury cases, including truck accidents, motorcycle crashes, workers’ compensation claims, and many others.
It is generally in your best interest to meet with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident. If you are unsure whether you need an attorney’s help, err on the side of caution. Schedule a free consultation to get more information so that you can make the decision that is best for your situation.