The first meeting with a personal injury lawyer is important. It establishes the basis for your future relationship. The more information and documents you bring to the meeting the better and more meaningful the initial meeting will be. Your personal injury lawyer will appreciate the time you took to obtain and organize any important documents relating to the accident, your injuries and subsequent treatment and impact they have had on your work and social activities.
If you have not had occasion to hire a lawyer in the past you may find your first visit to a lawyer’s office a little stressful and perhaps intimidating. Keep in mind that the lawyer is there to help you. You can be certain that whatever you tell the lawyer in the meeting will be held in the strictest confidence.
When to Meet
If you have been injured in an accident it is important to meet with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. A personal injury lawyer will provide you with the information you need to make a decision about seeking compensation. In order to provide that advice your lawyer will need to gather information and documents from any witnesses, your medical and treatment providers, and any necessary experts. You will need to continue to bring information and documents to your lawyer as the case progresses.
What Will it Cost to Meet
The first meeting with a personal injury lawyer should be free. If you decide to hire a lawyer the financial terms will be set out in a written retainer. Most personal injury lawyers are prepared to act on the basis of a contingency fee retainer so that what you pay will be based on a percentage of the damages recovered on your behalf. Under a contingency fee retainer you will not have to pay for any legal services until your case has been resolved.
Bring a List of Questions
The old saying that there is no such thing as a stupid question applies to your meetings with your lawyer. It is a personal injury lawyer’s job to ensure that you understand not only your rights and interests, but also the legal process that will be followed in pursuing your claim.
In order to get as much information as possible from your first meeting it is helpful to prepare your questions in advance and in writing. That way you won’t forget any of your questions. It is a good idea to bring a note pad to the meeting, in order to write down the answers to your questions and any other information your lawyer provides.
Questions you should ask at the first meeting include:
- What are your fees and when are they payable?
- What are the anticipated disbursements and when are they payable?
- What is a normal time-line for a case such as mine?
- What can I do to assist in the preparation of my case? and
- What is the likely outcome or when can you tell me if you think I have a good case?
What you Should Bring to the Meeting
The following is a list of the types of documents and information you generally should bring, if available, to an initial meeting with a personal injury lawyer:
- Two pieces of photo identification such as a driver’s licence and social insurance card (this is a Law Society of Ontario Requirement)
- Your date of birth, municipal address and full contact particulars
- Your Social Insurance and OHIP numbers
- The names and dates of birth of your spouse and children as well as their addresses if different from yours
- The names and addresses of anyone you believe may be responsible for causing the accident
- Copy of any applicable insurance policy such as vehicle insurance or home insurance
- The name and contact information of your own insurance agent, adjuster or any other insurance representative
- The name and contact information of the insurance agent, adjuster or any other insurance representative representing the person responsible for the accident
- Copies of any letters or other correspondence or documents exchanged with your insurance company, the other party’s insurance company or any other relevant insurance company, agent or adjuster
- Details of any extended health care insurance you have through employment or independently that cover any medical expenses at all
- Details of any disability insurance (short term or long term) you have through employment or independently/privately
- The date, time and location of the accident
- Photographs of the accident site
- Photographs of any damage to your car or clothing or other personal or real property
- Copy of any police report provided to you or alternatively if you were not given a police report, the police report or incident number
- Details of any oral or written statements you may have given to a police officer, your insurance company or the other party’s insurance company
- The names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the incident
- Copies of any witness statements you may have received
- Details of any information or documents you gave to anyone who attended at the accident
- Details of any information or documents you gave to anyone subsequent to the accident
Particulars Of Motor Vehicle Accidents
- Copies of any documents relevant to the accident such as documents exchanged between you and the other drivers or victims and the police
- Details of any information or documents you gave the police at the accident
- Details of any information or documents you gave the police subsequent to the accident
- Details of any charges, tickets or fines given to you by police relating to the accident
- Details of any charges, tickets or fines given to anyone else by police relating to the accident
- A full written summary of the accident, persons involved and events since the accident such as visits with insurance companies, police, witnesses and health care providers;
Injury and Treatment Particulars
- Photographs of your injuries
- The names and addresses of the hospital you were taken to immediately after the accident
- Names and addresses of any health care provider that has treated you
- Names and addresses of any health care provider that will be treating you in the future
- The dates that you were taken to any health care provider or hospital and reason for the visit
- Full details of your employment or method of earning income such as a business income
- Details of all dates you were unable to work due to the accident and your injuries
- Details of any benefits you needed to take from work because of inability to work due to the accident and your injuries such as vacation and/or sick leave
- Copies of any medical bills or invoices
- Copies of any bills or invoices for expenses you incurred because of the accident such as parking, assistive devices, etc.
- Copies of any other documents you believe may be relevant
- Details of any other information you believe may even remotely be relevant
The type of documents and information you bring will depend on the type of accident you were involved in and the nature and types of injuries you have suffered. You may not have most of this information and documentation available to you when you decide that you want to consult a personal injury lawyer. Gathering the necessary information and documentation is an ongoing process so do not delay in contacting a personal injury lawyer just because you do not have all of the information and documentation listed above.
You will have to provide additional documents and information to your lawyer as your case develops because you will likely have ongoing dealings with health care providers and other third parties. The important thing to remember is that you should provide your lawyer with any information or documents you believe may be even remotely relevant. Your personal injury lawyer can decide if the information and documents are relevant and helpful.
Be Open and Honest with Your Lawyer
Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential and protected by solicitor client privilege. Your lawyer cannot be compelled to disclose this information to anyone or to testify against you. This privilege exists even if you decide not to hire the lawyer.
It is essential that you tell your lawyer all of the facts that you believe are good and bad about your situation and case. All of the important facts, including those facts that you believe may not be good for your case, must be disclosed and discussed with your lawyer. If you want an informed assessment of your case, you need to be open and honest. It will not serve your interests in the long run to withhold “bad’ facts from your lawyer. They will likely be discovered at some point during the litigation and when they are it may be too late for your lawyer to minimize the damage that they cause to your case. It is much better for your lawyer to know the facts that are not necessarily good for you at the beginning of the file in order to prepare to answer that part of your case.