As an attorney, I understand that for many people involved in their own legal matter the last thing that they want to do is meet and deal with an attorney. The process can be uncomfortable and intimidating for people, especially when a person is already not feeling well after the person has been injured in an auto accident or other personal injury incident.
At my law firm, I try to make the initial consultation process as comfortable and relaxing for people as possible. Although to do my job properly, there must be some questions and information gathering when I meet with a prospective client. This breakdown below will give you some information about what to expect at an initial personal injury consultation with the Law Offices of Paul L. Schneiderman.
(1) Free Consultation
It is important for one who is planning to have a personal injury case consultation with my firm to know that it will be a free consultation. There is no reason for any prospective personal injury client to be worried about any legal fees associated with an initial consultation meeting.
(2) The Meeting Can Be an In-Person Meeting or Zoom
Traditionally, a personal injury consultation will occur as an in-person meeting at a lawyer's office or at another location. However, in this 2020s pandemic era it can be very practical for a personal injury consultation to occur in a Zoom or virtual meeting setting. I can collaborate with a prospective client in what type of personal injury consultation meeting works best for the person.
(3) Accident and Related Reports
If an injured person has been involved in a car accident or another incident, it is important for the attorney to obtain a copy of any police report or similar report that may be available. A police report can help summarize how the incident occurred, a police report can provide further information about the other drivers involved in the incident and their insurance companies. Moreover, a police report can provide the names of witnesses and additional information.
One reason an attorney seeks a police report is that a report often includes basic contact information about the other parties involved in an accident incident; this information can help locate an opposing party with a service of process effort in the event a lawsuit occurs.
(4) Insurance Information
A good personal injury lawyer, to put it bluntly, is on a quest to try to acquire all insurance policies that may pertain to a personal injury case. This includes insurance information for the first party and the third-party claims. First party is a legal term for the client's claims with her own insurance entities. Third party is legal term for the personal injury client's claim against the alleged at fault parties.
On the first party insurance side, the attorney will want to learn more about the types of insurance policies that the prospective client had in effect at the time of her injuries. This can be a standard health insurance policy. It can also be a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy that is a no-fault auto insurance policy that can pay for an insured's health care treatment. (PIP policies can also cover income loss and household help). Medical Payments (also known as ‘Med-Pay' policies) polices can also be applicable.
In certain cases, the client's insurance may involve Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, or a Workers Compensation insurance arrangement. In fact, in some personal injury cases there can be multiple insurance policies making health care payments on the insured's behalf.
On the first party side, the subject of a possible underinsured motorist (UIM) or uninsured motorist (UM) insurance policy may come up.
On the third-party side, the attorney will want to do a thorough examination of all possible liable parties and the liability insurance the opposing parties may have available.
The bottom line is that the subject of insurance will be a part of the topics discussed at any personal injury consultation.
(5) Health Care Treatment
A personal injury consultation will involve a discussion with the prospective client about her health care treatment. The client's health care treatment can play a significant role in major aspects of a personal injury claim, as well as the client's recovery in general.
A discussion about the proper documentation of a personal injury claim is part of an initial consultation. Photographs and videos of an accident scene, along with pictures of a client's injury can be very important in terms of addressing such issues as liability and damages. Additional documentation may be necessary to address depending on the unique issues of a particular case.
(7) The Civil Litigation Process
I make it a practice to give the prospective client a basic overview of the civil litigation process. Many personal injury claims are resolved short of a lawsuit. However, in certain cases the client will file a lawsuit. At consultations, I spend some time going through with the prospective client the “A to Z” process of a civil lawsuit in an understandable way.
(8) Contingency Fee Discussion
In most American personal injury cases, the fee structure is based on a contingency fee. What this means is that the lawyer will accept a fixed percent of the recovery, which is the amount that the client may recover from the opposing parties. I frequently spend time at a consultation going through the fee agreement with the client.
(9) Case Value
Clients are always interested in learning about what the monetary value of their case may be. It is though very hard for a personal injury lawyer to predict the value of a personal injury case at the very beginning. This is because there are often unknowns right after a client's injury, such as the nature and extent of the client's treatment and the final prognosis of the client. In any event, I inform the client at the initial consultation that I will continue to collaborate with the client throughout the case in trying to access possible ranges of the case value. There are many factors to consider in the evaluation of a case value range.
(10) Miscellaneous Topics
Every case is unique and there are a range of miscellaneous issues that can come up at a personal injury consultation. One issue can be making sure that an adult guardian will be involved in a minor's claim. Or I can have discussions about the special needs a client may have in making sure that attorney-client communications are efficient.
Many personal injury consultations will involve human discussions about matters outside of the law, I am happy to learn more about a client's family, and his or her background. A chat about sports, and other topics can also naturally come up at a personal injury consultation.