If you’ve been injured in an accident and want to file a claim, a personal injury attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve. However, sometimes the process for hiring a lawyer can seem confusing.
In most cases, your first interaction with an attorney is during the initial consultation. This may be in person or over the phone. Here’s what to expect during these meetings.
Now, you’ve probably seen commercials with lawyers offering free consultations. In fact, many attorneys do provide this service for no charge. But, keep in mind that some do not, so it’s always a good idea to ask.
That said, in most cases, the firm you speak with will likely mention whether there is a fee when you set up your first appointment. You may also check the attorney’s website for information on the costs of these consultations.
Bear in mind that attorneys are bound by strict ethical rules. This means that if you speak with a lawyer for the purpose of getting legal advice or services, you have formed an attorney-client relationship.
The attorney-client relationship is important because the lawyer is prohibited from sharing statements you make with anyone else. This is true even if you ultimately decide not to hire the attorney. Now, there are some limited exceptions to this rule, so you might consider asking the lawyer when and under what circumstances your information could be shared.
Now, there are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for your consultation. First, you should be ready to answer questions about the specific details of your case. You will likely be asked where, when, and how the injury occurred.
You should also consider bringing or taking note of any evidence you have that can help your claim. For example, photographs, police reports, or witness information can give the attorney a good idea of the strength of your case.
Note that the consultation is also an opportunity for you to find out whether this is someone you want to have a professional relationship with. To that end, you might consider asking about the attorney’s experience and background, as well as the firm’s support staff and present caseload.
Another important question to ask is what will be included in the fee agreement and how court costs will be paid. Note that for personal injury matters, law firms usually work on a contingency basis, rather than charging an hourly rate.
Contingency cases involve the attorney fronting the cost of pursuing your claim with the expectation of receiving a percentage of what you are awarded in either a court judgment or settlement. Keep in mind that this is usually around 30-40% of the total dollar amount of the award.
It’s important to note that there are risks in every lawsuit. Attorneys are aware of this, so any guarantees offered during a consultation should be seen as a major red flag. However, a lawyer is free to give you ballpark estimates based on prior cases.
Now, during or after the consultation, the attorney may decide not to take your case. There may be several reasons for this decision, including one or more of the following:
If the attorney doesn’t take your case, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral to someone else. That is, if they don’t offer on their own, first.
Keep in mind that if your case is declined by an attorney this does not necessarily mean that another lawyer will come to the same conclusion. In fact, it can be good to meet with more than one attorney even one has agreed to take your case. This ensures that you find someone that is the best fit for you.
After the consultation, you will likely have a good idea of whether or not the professional relationship is going to work. If you decide to hire the attorney, you’ll sign an agreement to have the firm represent you. This is a contract that will set forth the lawyer’s responsibilities and how he or she will be paid.
Once you have signed the fee agreement, the attorney will communicate to you the next steps. In personal injury matters, this typically involves contacting the opposing party’s attorney or insurance company.
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