Chances are you’ve never had to hire a personal injury attorney before, so you might not know what to expect during the initial consultation. This first meeting is a chance for you to assess the prospective lawyer’s credentials and experience, and to find out if you feel comfortable working with him or her. It’s also an opportunity for you to get answers to your questions and learn what might happen over the coming weeks and months.
Your attorney will ask a series of questions to determine if your claim has merit and how to proceed with the subsequent investigation. These questions will also help your lawyer identify any potential weaknesses in your case, anticipate complications that might arise down the road, and prepare accordingly.
Read on to learn a few questions your attorney might ask and why those questions are important:
1. How, where, and when did the accident occur?
Your attorney might start with a few general questions to get an idea of what happened. For your claim to be successful, you’ll have to prove that another party is liable for your damages. Explaining how, when, and where the accident occurred will give your lawyer an idea of who might be liable for your damages and the types of evidence that will be available to prove liability.
2. What types of injuries did you sustain?
Your attorney will need details about the injuries you’ve sustained to determine the kinds of damages that might be recoverable, the potential value of your claim, and the types of evidence that will be needed to prove damages. The severity of your injuries could also influence the timeline of your case since it’s often best to wait until a claimant has reached maximum medical improvement before entering settlement negotiations.
Sometimes it’s necessary to bring in medical experts to provide testimony regarding the severity of injuries and the long-term cost of treatment. A well-credentialed personal injury lawyer will know when to use medical experts and how to get the most value out of their testimony.
3. Have you undergone a medical evaluation yet?
One of the biggest mistakes a personal injury victim can make is to put off the medical evaluation. If you haven’t visited a doctor yet, your attorney will advise you to do so right away.
Delaying your diagnosis and treatment could make it more challenging to tie your injuries to the accident. It might also give the insurance company a reason to argue that your own negligence has caused your injuries to worsen, in which case you might not be able to recover compensation for 100 percent of your damages.
The best time to visit a doctor is right after sustaining an injury, or at least within 72 hours of the accident. However, some injuries only manifest minor or latent symptoms. If your attorney can prove that a reasonable person might not have visited a doctor right away, or that your condition would have been the same even if you had received an immediate diagnosis and treatment, it might still be possible to recover compensation for all your damages.
4. What is your prognosis?
If your injuries won’t heal for several months, it might be best to put off the settlement negotiations until you’ve reached maximum medical improvement. If you accept an early settlement and sign a release but your medical care turns out to be more expensive than anticipated, you won’t be able to seek further compensation.
Your prognosis could also influence the types of damages that can be included in your claim. If, for example, you sustained a permanent injury that will affect your ability to earn an income and your quality of life, you might be entitled to compensation for future medical bills, pain and suffering, lost enjoyment in life, and lost earning capacity.
5. Were you contacted by the claims adjuster? Did you provide a recorded statement?
Although every attorney takes a different approach to representing clients, there’s one piece of advice that most lawyers will provide: “Don’t give a recorded statement to the opposing party.” Providing such a statement won’t help your case but could certainly lead to complications.
If you’ve spoken to anyone affiliated with the insurance company, your lawyer will want to know the details of those conversations. Moving forward, all such correspondence should be directed to your attorney.
6. What were you doing just before the accident? Do you think the opposing party might argue that you were partially at fault?
Under California’s pure comparative negligence system, a personal injury claimant’s financial award can be reduced by his or her own percentage of fault. Your attorney will want to know if your own negligence might have contributed to your injuries in any way. You should also tell your lawyer if the at-fault party accepted fault or tried to blame you for the accident.
If you suspect a liability dispute might arise, it’s critical that you speak to an attorney right away. You’ll need strong evidence to overcome such a dispute or at least to minimize the percentage of fault assigned to you. Much of this evidence could be time-sensitive, so it’s important that your lawyer is able to perform an investigation as soon as possible.
7. What types of expenses have you incurred due to your injuries?
Medical bills and lost income aren’t the only types of economic damages a personal injury claimant can pursue. In fact, your claim can account for any reasonable and necessary costs you’ve incurred as a direct result of the tort. Common examples of such costs include domestic care, alternative transportation, child care, and home and vehicle modifications.
8. Have your injuries prevented you from returning to work?
Lost income can add up quickly after a serious accident. If you’ve been put out of work due to your injuries, your lawyer can make sure your claim accounts for any wages you’ve lost while recovering. Your attorney can also explain the evidence that will be needed to prove the value of such damages, which may include statements from your financial institutions, paystubs, and tax documents.
9. Have you posted anything about your case on social media?
If you’ve discussed your accident, injury, or case on social media, your attorney will want to see those posts to find out if they might be used by the insurance adjuster to dispute your claim. Your attorney may advise you to delete all such posts, as well as any photos taken of you since the accident. Your lawyer will also suggest that you disable your social media accounts until the resolution of your case.
Speak with a Long Beach Personal Injury Attorney Today
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
At the Law Office of Michael D. Waks, we offer free initial consultations to accident victims and their families. Attorney Michael Waks can answer your questions, help you make informed decisions, and determine the most strategic way to proceed with your claim.
Michael has more than 30 years of experience and has earned an AV-Preeminent rating from the Martindale-Hubbell attorney rating service. He has won numerous six- and seven-figure settlements and verdicts. To schedule a free case review, call our 24-hour phoneline at (562) 206-1939 or use our Contact Page to reach us online.
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