Sometimes our clients wait a little longer than they should to contact us. One reason this happens is that some clients become intimidated. They’re not sure if it’s time to contact a lawyer yet. They’re not sure what to say. They’re not sure if the case is really strong enough and they’re afraid of wasting their lawyer’s time.
We empathize with all of these thoughts, which is why we wanted to give you this guide to your first appointment with your lawyer, as well as to subsequent appointments.
What do you say when contacting a personal injury lawyer?
Just say something like, “I’ve been injured in an accident and I’d like to request a case review.”
Your point of contact will set you up with an appointment. Most lawyers in the post-Covid era will meet with you via Zoom. Most personal injury lawyers will sometimes even travel to your hospital bed or house if you’re calling from the same city they’re in.
Zoom is a pretty convenient option and most documents can be sent via email or docusigned. The initial point of contact might direct you to send some information prior to the meeting if you’re meeting electronically.
Either way, you’ll pick a date and a time and you’ll go into more detail at that appointment.
Meeting With a Personal Injury Lawyer for the First Time
The first meeting sets the tone for the relationship to follow. It also helps you decide whether this is the lawyer you want to work with or not.
Gather Your Documentation
Try to bring as much evidence as you have to this initial meeting. This can include:
- The police report or incident report.
- Insurance information was gathered from the other driver.
- Contact information of any witnesses.
- Medical bills and discharge paperwork.
- Pay stubs and a number of missed workdays.
- Your own insurance company’s information.
If you are calling a few days after your accident you might not have very much to share yet. That’s okay. Most lawyers would rather you call early than wait to gather more documentation. You can share your own recollection of the accident with your lawyer as well.
Things to Ask at the Meeting
- How do your contingency fees work?
- How many personal injury cases have you worked on? What were the results?
- What are your initial thoughts about my case?
- Who will do most of the work on my case?
- About anything that is confusing to you, unclear to you, or worrying you.
The lawyer will be asking you questions as well.
Tips for The Meeting
Always be honest. Your lawyer can’t help you effectively if you don’t give them all the facts of your case to the very best of your ability. You may be tempted to dress up your own actions or to make them look better, but this will only hurt your case in the long run.
Remember, you aren’t just evaluating the lawyer. The lawyer is evaluating you and your case, to see if they want to take a risk on you. Since the lawyer doesn’t get paid unless you do and doesn’t require any money down from you, every client represents a risk in time, money, and opportunity costs.
It’s also helpful to stay as calm and as collected as you possibly can. This can ensure the facts of the case don’t get clouded with emotions.
What the Lawyer Will do at the Meeting
Your lawyer will have three goals at the initial meeting.
Tell You Whether You Have a Case
The first goal of the lawyer will be to ascertain whether or not you have a case strong enough or large enough to pursue.
If your losses are small then the insurance company is already a lot more likely to give you a reasonable settlement. It’s not necessarily advantageous to you or the lawyer to pursue a personal injury case. It’s on the big, hairy, expensive cases that insurance companies start fighting.
If it looks like you were at-fault for the accident or would have so much contributory liability that most of your settlement would be immediately taken away from you, then it’s also mostly a waste of your time and the lawyer’s time to press a claim. Instead, you’ll just want to make a claim with your own auto insurance company and reach to other sources of help, like your own short-term disability policy or your own insurance company’s benefits.
If you do have a case, the lawyer may offer to represent you.
Go Over Fees
The average contingency fee in Alberta is between 30% and 45%. The amount can depend on your lawyer’s skill and experience.
A lower contingency fee isn’t always advantageous. 70% of the $100,000 settlement that a novice lawyer can procure for you is less money than 65% of a $200,000 settlement brought to you by a lawyer with a track record ($70,000 vs. $130,000).
And while the fees seem high, you should remember that you are 91% more likely to recover any money at all with a lawyer’s help, and you’re likely to recover up to three times as much.
Don’t worry. Your lawyer is going to have to put in a lot of work for their share of the settlement, and personal injury settlements are already structured in a way to ensure that the settlement is larger than your monetary losses. You may not get rich on a personal injury settlement, but you won’t be left drowning in debt or unable to pay your bills, either.
Advice You on Next Steps
Your lawyer will tell you exactly what to do and expect next. You’ll also find out what your lawyer will do for you next. For example, if you’ve made the excellent choice to go to a lawyer before you start talking to insurance companies, then your lawyer will file a claim for you and will ensure that all future communication with the insurance company goes through the law office.
Follow your lawyer’s advice. You can lose a lot of money if you make the mistake of ignoring it.
Want to find out if our firm is right for you?
Most of our lawyers have been handling personal injury cases for over 20 years. Call (780) 413-9777 to schedule a case review today.