After a serious accident, one of the smartest steps you can take to protect your claim is to speak with an attorney. Most personal injury lawyers offer free initial consultations, so you won’t have to pay anything to get answers to your questions and the guidance you need to make informed decisions. This first meeting is also an opportunity to find out if the prospective attorney has the experience and credentials to handle your case.
There are certain documents you should bring to the initial consultation to make sure the meeting is as productive as possible. Examples include:
- A written description of what happened;
- The incident and/or police report if you have it;
- Contact information of eyewitnesses and all parties involved in the accident;
- Records of correspondence with the insurance company and anyone else associated with your case;
- Photographs and video footage;
- Bills, invoices, and receipts for injury- and accident-related expenses;
- Relevant insurance information, copies of driver’s licenses, medical records, income tax returns, paystubs, and other supporting documents; and
- A list of questions for the attorney.
Let’s take a closer look at what to bring to your initial consultation:
A Written Description of What Happened
A written account of events can help you recall important details during your first meeting with an attorney. You should write this description as soon as possible—while important facts are still fresh in your memory. Be sure to include the following details:
- The time, date, and location of the incident;
- The weather conditions, if applicable;
- What you were doing immediately before the accident;
- The apparent cause of the accident;
- A description of the injuries and/or property damage you sustained; and
- Statements from eyewitnesses and the at-fault party, including whether the at-fault party admitted fault or blamed you for the accident.
This information will help your attorney determine if your case has merit and identify any potential weaknesses that could lead to disputes. It will also provide a good starting point for the subsequent investigation.
The Incident and/or Police Report
If police attended the scene, an officer most likely created an accident report that summarizes what happened. This report will be a valuable piece of evidence for both your attorney and the insurance company. They will usually supply you with the incident report number, otherwise known as a DR #.
In some cases—such as when a slip and fall happens on a commercial property—an incident report is drafted even if officers did not attend the scene. Be sure to request a copy of this report, and submit that request in writing.
Contact Information of Relevant Parties
Your attorney will want the contact information of everyone involved in the accident, eyewitnesses, and other relevant parties. Below is an overview of the contact details that might contribute to the subsequent investigation:
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers of ambulance services, emergency rooms, hospitals, and/or urgent care centers;
- Names, business addresses, and phone numbers of all doctors and treatment providers who examined you or with whom you consulted;
- The names and telephone numbers of any insurance adjustors you’ve spoken with since your injury;
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone involved in the accident; and
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers of witnesses.
Records of Correspondence
Your lawyer will want to review any correspondence you’ve had with the insurance company, witnesses, or the opposing party. Be sure to bring the following to your initial consultation:
- Social media messages;
- Text messages;
- Letters; and
- A written description of any phone calls you’ve had related to the accident.
Moving forward, it’s imperative that you direct any phone calls and other correspondence related to the accident to your lawyer. The insurance adjuster may try to get recorded statements from you. It’s not uncommon for such statements to be taken out of context to dispute liability or damages. By letting your attorney handle this dialogue, you won’t have to worry about saying something that would jeopardize your case.
Photographs and Video Footage
If you took photos or videos of the accident scene or injuries, your attorney will want to review them. Photos can provide valuable insight into the cause of the incident and may be used by accident reconstruction experts to prove fault if there’s a liability dispute. Pictures and video footage can also be used to prove causation, the severity of injuries, and the value of the resulting damages.
Bills, Invoices, and Receipts
Your lawyer will want to review any bills, invoices, and receipts for injury- and accident-related expenses to determine the potential value of your claim. Be sure to bring any documentation of medical costs as well as receipts and invoices for domestic help, alternative transportation, child care, property repairs and replacement, and any other expenses you incurred due to the accident.
There are all sorts of documents that might contribute to the strength of your claim. Below are just a few examples of supporting documents your attorney may want to review:
- Health, homeowner’s, auto, and disability insurance policies;
- Copies of driver’s licenses;
- Any citations issued by law enforcement;
- Medical records such as diagnostic imaging and prescriptions; and
- Tax returns, paystubs, or bank statements that verify your income and any wages lost due to your injuries.
A List of Questions for the Attorney
One of the best ways to reduce any stress you’re feeling about the claims process is to get answers to your questions about the relevant statutes, case law, and the proceedings in general. You should write down these questions before your initial consultation.
Below are a few common questions you might want to ask:
- What is the statute of limitations that applies to my case?
- Do you see any potential weaknesses in my case?
- What are the next steps? What should I expect to happen over the coming weeks and months?
- Do you think it’s likely that a settlement will be reached?
- How long do you anticipate my case will take to resolve?
- What factors will influence the outcome of my case?
- What can I do to protect my claim?
- What is your fee structure?
- For how many years have you been representing personal injury clients?
- How many cases have you litigated that were similar to mine?
- Will you be handling the important elements of my case personally?
- Will you provide me with a direct line of contact?
- Can I call you on weekends?
Discuss Your Case with a Long Beach Personal Injury Lawyer Today: Call (562) 206-1939
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Attorney Michael D. Waks is ready to answer your questions and help you determine the most strategic way to proceed with your claim. For more than 30 years, Michael has been providing aggressive and compassionate representation to personal injury victims and their families.
Michael and his outstanding support staff have won numerous six- and seven-figure settlements and verdicts for clients throughout California. He knows what it takes to achieve successful outcomes both in and out of court. With extensive litigation experience, Michael isn’t afraid to take your case to trial if the opposing party refuses to pay a fair settlement.
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