Before a lawyer formally accepts your personal injury case, you will attend an initial consultation. This brief meeting allows him to evaluate the strength of your case before deciding whether to represent you.
Purpose of the Initial Personal Injury Consultation
Since personal injury lawyers generally accept cases on a contingency basis, they do not charge upfront fees for their services. Instead, they accept a percentage of the final settlement as the fee for legal representation.
A contingency fee agreement means a lawyer won’t get paid if he can’t negotiate a settlement. Therefore, the lawyer is looking for any red flags that would cast doubt on the validity of your case or the likelihood of obtaining a fair settlement. For example, if too much time has passed since the accident, the statute of limitations may mean there simply isn’t enough time to prepare a solid claim.
Questions Asked During the Initial Consultation
During the initial consultation, you can expect to be asked questions similar to the following:
- When did the accident happen?
- Can you describe how the accident happened?
- Did other people witness the accident?
- What type of injuries did you suffer?
- What medical treatment did you receive?
- Are you currently experiencing any pain or discomfort?
- If your injuries have not fully healed, what does your healthcare provider say about your prognosis?
- Are your injuries related to any medical issues you’ve experienced in the past? (For example, did you have previous back pain made worse by the accident?)
- In addition to physical discomfort, have you noticed any emotional changes such as anxiety or depression related to the accident?
- Have you already talked to any insurance adjusters? If so, what did you say? Was your statement recorded or written?
- Have you spoken to anyone else about the accident? If so, who did you talk to and what did you say? Was your statement recorded or written?
Documents the Lawyer May Ask to See Regarding Your Accident
In addition to interviewing you about the circumstances surrounding your accident, the lawyer may ask to see supporting documents to help assess the strength of your case. This may include:
- Your insurance card and any copies of your policy
- Records from medical treatment you’ve received
- Medical bills
- Copies of pay stubs showing lost wages
- Photographs pertaining to the accident
- Contact information for any witnesses
You don’t need to postpone seeking legal representation until you’ve gathered all of these documents. However, if you can bring whatever paperwork you already have, this will allow the lawyer to more accurately assess the strength of your case.
If the lawyer decides that your case is worth pursuing, he will outline some of the strengths and potential weakness he anticipates based on past experience with similar claims. Then, you’ll discuss payment arrangements for representation.
In addition to the contract for services, you’ll also be asked to sign forms that allow the lawyer to obtain evidence to support your case. This includes a release to obtain your medical records and contact the insurance company on your behalf. Read everything carefully before signing, and ask questions about any points that are unclear.
Questions You Should Ask
Don’t forget that the initial consultation is also a chance for you to evaluate whether the personal injury lawyer is someone you wish to have handling your case. Some questions you can ask to help determine your lawyer’s qualifications include:
- How long have you been practicing law?
- What percentage of your practice is devoted to personal injury cases?
- How many cases have you taken to trial? What were the results?
- How will you communicate with me about the progress of my case? Will I be working directly with you or another member of your firm?
- Can you provide references from past clients?
Contact Neblett, Beard & Arsenault
The experienced legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault is committed to helping Louisiana residents obtain compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering following accidents caused by another party’s negligence. To discuss your pending personal injury claim, contact us online or call us directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Appointments are available at six convenient locations throughout the state.