You have been injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident and have scheduled initial meeting with a lawyer. This meeting will give you an opportunity to evaluate whether you feel comfortable with and will trust the lawyer to handle any claim(s) you may have. Keep in mind, however, that the meeting will be used by the lawyer as an opportunity to make a preliminary assessment of merits of the case, of the damages (or value) of the case, and of you as a potential witness and client.
The lawyer will most likely want to hear your full description of the accident, examine all the documentation pertaining to the accident, and learn about the injuries you suffered as a result of the accident, all the treatment you have undergo and will need in the future for those injuries, and all additional expenses you have incurred and will likely incur in the future as a result of your injuries, including medical expense and loss of earning capacity.
In order to prepare for the meeting, you should put together a folder with the following documents for the lawyer:
1. The police report and/or accident report(s).
2. Photographs of the accident and accident scene.
3. All information you gathered regarding the other driver, including name, address, driver’s license number, vehicle year, make and model, license plate number, and insurance company.
4. The names and contact information of any witness(es) to the accident.
5. Photographs of damage to the vehicle(s) involved in the accident.
6. Cost estimates repairs for the damage to your vehicle.
7. Photographs of any injuries you suffered as a result of the accident.
8. All medical records concerning your treatment for the injuries you suffered as a result of the accident.
9. Documentation regarding any lost wages and other costs you incurred as a result of the accident.
10. Your automobile insurance policy.
In addition to the above, the lawyer will likely ask you about any prior medical history, any prior accidents you have been involved in, and any claims you may previously made for personal injuries. The lawyer may ask you to sign a medical release form to obtain copies pertinent medical records.
During the interview, the lawyer will assess you as a potential witness by judging how a jury is likely to feel towards you as a plaintiff, how well you describe the accident and communicate the nature of your injuries, and whether this is your first accident and personal injury claim or you have a long history of accidents and claims. The lawyer will also assess you as a client by taking into account whether you have been courteous to the lawyer’s staff, whether you have been easy to reach and have returned phone calls promptly, whether you have been organized and punctual, and whether you have reasonable expectations.
The lawyer will also evaluate the merits of the case by examining the circumstances of the accident as well as whether witnesses and the damage to the vehicles corroborate your version of the accident and indicate that the accident was due to someone else’s negligence. The lawyer will examine the police report, accident report(s), photographs of the accident, the accident scene and the damage to the vehicles, as well as the estimates of the cost to repair the vehicles as part of his evaluation. Basically, the lawyer will assess the likelihood of success in establishing that the accident was caused by the negligence of someone else.
The lawyer will also consider the damages (or value) of the case. The lawyer will consider such factors as the medical expenses you have incurred and will likely incur in the future for the treatment of your injuries, the amount by which your injuries will result in a loss of your earning capacity (this is more than just “lost wages” and may require calculating the market value of amount by which your capacity to earn has been impaired by your injuries), the nature of your injuries (for example, fractures, scars, loss of limb, etc.) your pain and suffering (which may be based upon the actual physical injuries and any resulting disability), whether the injuries are new or are an aggravation of preexisting injuries and conditions. Other damages to which plaintiffs may be entitled, depending on the applicable law, include a claim for emotional distress and a claim of loss of consortium by spouse, parents and children.
The lawyer will take into account whether there are factors that may reduce the amount of recoverable damages, such as the lack of reasonable care to minimize damages (for example, to minimize the loss of earning capacity), any liens that exist or may arise from workers compensation benefits and insurance payments, any legal defenses that may be raised used by the defendant, and whether any of the fault for the accident may be attributable to you, the plaintiff (the impact of this can vary depending on the applicable laws). As part of evaluating the recoverable damages, the lawyer will need to determine the amount of insurance available and whether it is sufficient to cover the damages.
Finally, the lawyer will consider the investment needed, in terms of time and cost, to resolve the case. This will largely depend on the complexity of the case. For example, (1) are there multiple defendants, (2) what is the nature of your injuries, and (3) will there be a need for experts, including medical experts, accident reconstruction experts, and vehicle safety specialist, to name just a few.
If the lawyer decides that he or she will pursue the case on your behalf, the lawyer will ask you to sign a retainer agreement. In personal injury cases, these are also often referred to as a Contingency Fee Agreement because lawyers who handle personal injury matters normally take them on contingency rather than on an hourly basis, meaning the lawyer will be paid only if there is a recovery in which case the lawyer’s fee will be a percentage of that recovery. If you wish for this lawyer to handle your claim and sign the agreement, the lawyer can then begin to work on the case.
Selecting an experienced, competent car crash lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Keep in mind that the law limits the amount of time you have to pursue a claim.
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