Many people involved in a car crash or injured in a workplace accident have not filed a personal injury claim before. In fact, some may have never hired a lawyer for anything except perhaps to draft or review a legal contract to buy a house.
While each one is different, a typical personal injury case is done in a series of steps. To understand the process allows people to make more informed decisions and also enables them to have patience with this often very deliberate process. The first step is the initial consultation. Perhaps a friend or colleague recommended a lawyer, or you did some research on your own to come up with a candidate and set an appointment, which are typically free consultations.
At this time, your potential attorney will want to hear the details of the case from you. More complex cases like medical malpractice or a work injury will take more time, while a straightforward event like a car crash will likely take less time. It is crucial to be honest and understand that an attorney may ask difficult questions, but they are there to try and help you.
The lawyer will want to know what kind of insurance coverage you have, and whether you have talked with insurance adjusters. If the latter is the case, they will want to know what you said and whether you provided a written statement. They will also want to know if you have spoken with anyone else about your injuries.
They ask about your current condition and may recommend a doctor if you don’t have one already. It’s important to get any injuries treated, even lingering complaints after the initial accident. Remember: it’s hard to justify a personal injury suit if there is no injury that requires medical treatment, physical or otherwise.
It’s not uncommon for an attorney to conclude the meeting without deciding to take the case. They will do research on their end, and then follow up with you to discuss legal options. They may decline the case for any number of reasons, including current case load, experience with the nature of the claim, or they may feel that there isn’t a strong case. They may also refer you to another lawyer who they feel would be a better fit.
If they do accept the case
If the attorney does accept the case, the process moves along to the next steps. The attorney will do an investigation of their own, have you sign a retainer, give you their thoughts on how they expect the case to go to trial or be settled out of court, and how long it could take. They will also let you know how they will stay in touch (either regular updates or when something substantial happens).
Of course, they will be there to help families pick up the pieces, whether it’s securing adequate compensation for injuries or even speaking with creditors and bill collectors to ensure that stress levels remain manageable during the legal process and your recovery.