Car accidents are, unfortunately, a common reality in today’s fast-paced, highly mobile society. As a driver, you likely have a general idea of what to do in the immediate aftermath of a traffic accident and may even understand the potential importance of a car accident attorney’s expertise.
However, if you have never dealt with the legal system as it applies to auto accident personal injury claims, you may not only feel unsure about the road ahead in the long run but also about the prospect of meeting with your lawyer for the first time.
In this blog, we guide you through the basics of your consultation with a prospective car accident attorney.
When to Make Your Appointment
Not every collision warrants involving a personal injury litigator. However, many drivers put off speaking to a lawyer because they aren’t sure if they require representation, want to file a claim, or need help representing their interests after an accident.
In many cases, the sooner you contact a car accident attorney, the better the attorney can apply his or her legal expertise to your situation. In fact, many lawyers and other legal authorities recommend calling a lawyer at the scene of the accident if you are able once you’ve contacted emergency responders and law enforcement.
This type of early contact can protect you from the common pitfalls associated with accident reporting and insurance company negotiation.
You should also understand, however, that unless the statute of limitations has passed on your personal injury claim, the time is never too late to discuss your options with a lawyer. You may decide to seek representation after the immediate incident when you:
Begin the process on your own, but realize that you need advice to strengthen your claim
Feel that the insurance companies involved don’t offer appropriate settlements
Learn that the other driver acted recklessly or negligently and that those actions directly resulted in the accident
Realize the accident caused significant injuries or property damage
Receive a claim rejection for damages that should fall under your policy or the policy of the other involved driver
Many law firms offer free consultations to help injured individuals determine if they should pursue their claim. If you feel concerned about the cost of setting up a meeting, raise this question when making an appointment so you know what to expect from the initial consultation.
How to Prepare for the Meeting
Your first meeting with a personal injury lawyer acts somewhat like a two-way interview. You have the opportunity to learn more about your prospective attorney’s areas of practice, credentials, and experience. Your lawyer also has the opportunity to evaluate the facts of your case and help you determine the next best step.
In an effort to assist this exchange, do a little preparation before your appointment. Start with a list of questions you would like to ask the representative you speak to. For example, common topics of discussion during consultations include:
The method and frequency of communication with your legal representative
Legal fees, including whether payment is expected as a retainer, collected from the final settlement, or both
The general timeline between the attorney taking your case and him or her making an initial settlement demand of the insurance company
The relative strength of your claim as well as if and how you could strengthen it
The frequency of times this firm has taken any personal injury claims to court as lawsuits rather than settling them
The advocate who would work on your case from the firm and their professional experience with car accident personal injury claims similar to yours
You may want to think about how satisfied you are with answers to your questions, how comfortable you feel, and how sure you are whether the firm seems able to handle your claim. Use these factors to determine if the firm is a good fit.
To evaluate your case, the attorney will need all the evidentiary records you have available. These records may include:
Communication with insurance companies, such as written settlement offers, printed email correspondence, or a summary of all phone conversations since the accident
Information gathered at the scene, such as accident photographs, vehicle information, and witness contact information
Official reports, such as estimates for car repairs and the accident report filed by law enforcement
Paperwork generated during medical care, such as admissions or discharge records, X-rays, and bills
These records create the basis of your claim and help your attorney get a clear picture of the damages inflicted during the accident. He or she may also ask you specific questions related to the accident, your injuries, and the effect on your daily life.
Use this general guide to get the most out of your first meeting with your car accident attorney. In addition to these tips, bring up any concerns you have about your specific circumstances before or at the beginning of the meeting to make confident, informed decisions about your legal representation.
For experienced assistance with your personal injury claim in the wake of a car accident, trust the dedicated litigators at Shay & Associates.