Have you been hurt through no fault of your own? Then there is a chance you could have a personal injury case. But how do you know if your injury might warrant compensation? A good place to start is by consulting a personal injury lawyer. Not only can they help you determine if you might have a case, but they also work on contingency. This means they don’t get any money unless you win. So, they’re not going to waste their time — or yours — by taking on a case they don’t think has merit. That said, it helps to know if your injuries fall within the scope of what usually makes for a valid case. Here’s what you should expect before heading into your first meeting with a personal injury lawyer.
What Exactly Counts as a “Personal Injury?”
If you can prove your injuries were the result of someone else’s negligence, you may have a personal injury case. The most obvious example is injury resulting from a car accident, which we discuss separately in this auto consultation article. But beyond that, personal injury cases often emanate from dog bites, medical malpractice, product/drug liability, and slip-and-fall accidents.
Do you fit into any of these categories? If so, keep in mind, you may be entitled to a significant settlement. Especially if your injuries resulted in missed work, emotional distress, and/or costly medical bills.
What Makes for a Winning Personal Injury Claim?
As mentioned above, to win a personal injury case, you’ll have to prove that someone else’s negligence injured you. This is done through several legal angles, including proving the following:
- Damages. You must definitively demonstrate you were somehow injured.
- Duty. You must show the other party had a legal responsibility to keep you safe.
- Breach. You should also prove that the person or company you’re suing breached their duty by acting/failing to act.
- Causation. You must prove that your injuries occurred because of the other party’s negligent actions.
If you have evidence of these criteria, you may be in a strong position to win a personal injury settlement. This indicates it’s time to meet with a personal injury lawyer.
What Should I Bring to My In-Person Lawyer Consultation?
A consultation with a personal injury lawyer is important, and not just to determine if you might have a case. It will also help you ascertain if this lawyer is the right fit for you and vice versa. For this reason, most personal injury lawyers will offer a free consult.
To get the most out of your meeting, it helps to be prepared. This means bringing all the records you can gather to your initial consultation. (Here’s a free downloadable PI consultation checklist to help you prepare ahead of your in-person meeting.) While it might seem like an overwhelming number of documents, it will help your potential personal injury attorney understand what happened. The more info you supply upfront, the easier it will be for the lawyer to decide if they want to take your case.
Bring as many of the following items as possible to your consultation:
- Police reports
- 911 call recordings
- Photos or video evidence taken at the scene
- Any physical evidence from the event (such as ripped clothing, jewelry, shoes)
- Relevant medical records
- Medical bills and/or receipts
- Imaging of your injury, including photos, MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, etc.
- Prescriptions needed as a result of the injury and their prices
- Future treatment plans (i.e. physical therapy or surgeries) and expected costs
- Documentation of missed work as well as a pay stub to show lost wages
- Your health, auto, and homeowner’s insurance information
- Contact info and if possible written statements from any witnesses of the injury/accident
- A record of any correspondence/interaction you have had with the responsible party or their insurer
What Questions Will a Personal Injury Lawyer Likely Ask Me?
It is important to be open and honest with a personal injury attorney during a consultation. Why? This will increase your chances for a reciprocal relationship if you decide to move forward as a team. Know that during your consultation, your potential personal injury lawyer is also using the time to learn about you.
Be ready to answer some of the following questions:
- When, where, and how did your injury occur? The lawyer will want to know exact dates, times, and any other important factors, like inclement weather.
- Who saw what happened? This includes any witnesses of the actual event and police or EMTs on the scene (if applicable).
- Did you require medical attention? As in, did you go to the hospital immediately? Did you visit an urgent care clinic later? What was the prognosis for your injury? Do you have records and contact info for any healthcare providers (past and present)?
- How has this injury interfered with your life? In other words, have you missed work? Did you have to forfeit social activities you had previously planned (like a vacation)? Are you now unable to do everyday tasks without help?
- Did the other party or their insurance provider contact you? If so, what did you say? Is there a recording? To whom did you speak?
- Who else knows about the details of your personal injury? Do you have someone in your corner who has seen you struggle since the injury? Would they be willing to testify, or at least give a sworn statement on your behalf?
- How are you coping? In other words, are you in physical pain all the time? What is your current pain level? Are you experiencing any PTSD or other emotional distress since the injury?
What Questions Should I Ask My Matched Attorney?
Remember, your consultation is a two-way street. Make sure this is someone you can work with and trust. You need legal representation that makes you feel comfortable.
This also includes any special needs you have. For example, if you don’t have transportation or aren’t comfortable meeting in person regularly due to Covid, say so now. It’s okay to request routine communications by phone or email, if possible.
Here are other smart information-gathering questions you might ask:
- How many cases like mine have you handled? You want someone with experience. Ask what the outcome was; did they win or lose, and why?
- What is your fee arrangement?
- How long do I have to decide to move forward with a case? The statute of limitations varies from state to state.
- How long do you think it would take to resolve my case?
- What is the likelihood of a case like mine going to trial? Personal injury cases usually settle out of court, but you should know if it might go to trial.
- What do you think is fair compensation for my injury? You might also ask how they calculate damages.
- What do I say if the other party or their insurance contacts me? Remember anything you say or do could hurt your case.
- Can I contact you directly about my case? Ask how often you’ll get updates, and if they’re open to emails or phone calls from you.
Finally, the decision to pursue a personal injury claim ultimately rests with you. However, if your attorney’s willing to take your case on contingency, they believe you’ll win. And while a settlement can’t take away your trauma, it may make your future less painful.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online personal injury case evaluation now!
Kimberly Dawn Neumann
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann