First and foremost, this article is not intended to intimidate you or dissuade you from seeking an attorney if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident. Also, by no means am I suggesting that you cannot meet with an attorney until you have the items that I list below. In fact, a delay in seeking advice from an attorney may be at your peril. The purpose of this article is to make you feel more comfortable about seeking legal advice in a personal injury case. For those wishing to enhance their first meeting with an attorney, this article should be viewed as a way to effectuate a more meaningful attorney/client dialogue, and nothing more.
In fact, most attorneys would rather you make your appointment sooner rather than later by bringing in whatever documents you can get your hands on. After all, your attorney can obtain whatever documents or paperwork they need at a later time. Nevertheless, it is said that time is an attorney's chief commodity and your first meeting is your opportunity to convince an attorney that your case is worth his or her time. What you bring to this first meeting can often make the difference as to whether or not an attorney will agree to take on your case.
Any documents that can help a lawyer more fully understand your case and help potentially persuade the attorney to take on your case would certainly be helpful. Attorneys, like most of the population, tend to learn and understand better through a mixture of verbal (listening to your story) and visual input (documents and pictures). It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Consequently, for the first meeting, pictures, repair records, medical records, and police reports are all tremendously helpful to bring for your attorney to review.
We attorneys understand that when we first meet with people who have sustained serious injuries, these people are often in a very confused state. These potential clients are often worried and confused about how to proceed now that they have been injured, who to call about medical care, and what they should be doing. Generally, it is the disorganization and uncertainty that causes injured victims to want to hire us. These victims are looking for someone who can put some of order to this perceived "out of control" situation. So, with an understanding that we have incredibly productive first meetings with clients who bring little, and at times, nothing with them on this list, there are some people who feel better if they have a master list of the ideal documents that we would like our clients to bring to their first meeting with us.
The documents that can turn a good first meeting into a great first meeting include:
1) Police report: When you order the police report, what you receive is not always the complete record. Witness statements, photos, and sometimes even the complete narrative by the police officer are not initially provided when you request your report. Consequently, you must be inclusive in your request and you must specify in your order that you want a copy of EVERYTHING.
2) List of medical providers: It is surprising how quickly your small list of medical providers grows after being injured in a car accident. To keep everything straight, you should get a business card from each of your medical providers as well as a list of your providers to give to your attorney so that your medical records can be ordered.
3) Insurance information: After a car crash, your health insurance, your car insurance, and the insurance of the at-fault become the most valuable pieces of information for your attorney. Compiling a list of the adjusters' names, addresses, telephone numbers, policy numbers, and claim numbers really helps your attorney and his staff in the long run.
4) Photos: Photos of your car, the other driver's car, your vehicle during the repair process, and your bruised or visually injured body parts are helpful. Photos of therapy sessions and shots of you with your physical therapist would also be a nice touch. You experienced it, so you might as well take a picture. Thanks to technology, it is easy to use your phone to take pictures of the previously mentioned items to show to your attorney at the first meeting.
5) Itemization of Medical Billing: Whenever I meet a client who brings me a spreadsheet of the medical bills incurred, I always feel that this is an especially organized and competent person. I do not think that I have ever turned down a client who took the time to itemize his or her medical expenses. This shows me the type of person you are and I greatly appreciate it.
6) Vehicle Repair Records: Repair estimates of your damaged vehicle are always helpful. But, initial repair estimates are often the result of just the first walk-around inspection of your vehicle. Usually, as your car is being repaired, more damage is found and the repair costs grow exponentially. For that reason, I always want to see the final repair bill, not just the initial estimate.
7) Resume': I appreciate seeing my client's resume during the first meeting. It succinctly provides me with information about your background that may be relevant to your claims for damages, including any applicable wage loss claims.
8) Written Chronology: Many times, writing is therapeutic for our clients. A chronology of events (written only for your attorney) can not only help a client emotionally, but it also helps me to fully understand the details of my client's injuries and subsequent care.
9) List of Friends and Family: This list is invaluable for putting your case together for trial. The names, contact information and a short description of what each person is best suited to talk about is also very helpful for a first meeting. For example, if your injuries have prevented you from playing in a local soccer league, you might want to include a friend who plays on your soccer team.
10) Written Questions: For my clients, the first meeting serves many different purposes, including getting their questions answered. Often, questions that are not written down are forgotten and do not get asked. Before the first meeting, I recommend that you take the time to write down all the questions you have. If the attorney you are meeting with seems annoyed about having to answer your questions, you might want to look for an attorney who does not mind clarifying and explaining the personal injury process to you. At my firm, we welcome questions from our clients.
At Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn L.L.C., we know what it is like to have your life turned upside down by a car wreck. Bringing at least some of the above information can help us get a head start on fully protecting your rights and bringing order to the disorder.