Most attorneys offer free consultations for injury victims. Use this helpful worksheet to choose the best attorney to handle your claim.
Use this helpful resource for your initial consultation with a personal injury attorney. Your notes, along with your first impressions, can help you decide which attorney is the best fit for you if you’ve consulted more than one. Print extra copies, and use a clean sheet for each attorney consultation.
To get the most out of your initial consultation, bring along your injury file, including any accident or incident reports, your medical bills to date, and copies of all correspondence from the at-fault party or their insurance company.
Click on the image below to download the PDF worksheet:
Why Consult a Personal Injury Attorney?
You can make an informed decision about moving forward with an injury claim if you’ve taken the time to consult with an experienced attorney. Most injury attorneys offer free consultations. You owe it to yourself to get a professional opinion of the strength of your claim and the amount of compensation you can reasonably expect.
The most common types of injury claims arise from vehicle collisions and slip and fall accidents. In most cases, you’re entitled to seek compensation for your damages from the at-fault driver or property owner. For injury victims, that means filing a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
If you’ve fully recovered from relatively minor injuries, you might decide to handle your own injury claim. If you are confident in your negotiation skills and know what your claim is worth, you’ll probably be fine. But it’s worth the time to get a legal opinion up front, especially when there’s no cost or obligation.
Similarly, claims involving severe injuries or wrongful death are best handled by an attorney to maximize compensation. Insurance companies routinely offer lower settlements on high-dollar claims to victims or families who aren’t represented by counsel.
Getting Ready for an Attorney Consultation
Use your Attorney Consultation Worksheet to begin taking notes from the very first phone call to the attorney’s office. At the top left of the first page, jot down the law office name, address, and telephone number.
On the right-hand side, note the date and location of your injury and what kind of accident (like car crash, slip and fall, dog bite) caused your injuries. If you know the at-fault party’s insurance company, write that down, too.
Personal injury lawyers are well acquainted with various insurance companies. That insight will help them evaluate the relative difficulty of settling your claim.
When you call to set up the appointment, write down the name and position of the person you spoke with, along with the date and time of the consultation. Get the name of the attorney you’ll meet with.
Organize all the injury claim paperwork and evidence you’ve gathered so far into a folder or binder to take with you to the initial attorney consultation.
The information you bring to the consultation will help the attorney evaluate the strength of your claim and possibly provide a rough idea of the amount of compensation you can expect.
Questions to Ask the Attorney
Knowledge and Experience: Experience counts when it comes to personal injury attorneys. Not only will an experienced attorney have extensive knowledge of state laws that will impact your claim, they’ll also have prior experience dealing with most major insurance companies.
In other words, an experienced injury attorney will know what it takes to maximize your injury compensation. That’s why you’ll start by asking the attorney how many cases they have handled like yours, and how often those cases ended up in court. Of course, you want to know how often they have won court cases for their clients.
About Your Case: Take advantage of this free consultation to get a professional opinion about the strengths and weaknesses of your case. If the facts are clear cut, and the at-fault party’s insurance company is accepting liability, you might decide to handle the claim on your own.
The attorney should be able to give you an estimate of your claim’s value. It’s okay to ask if it’s worth it for you to hire an attorney or (in the case of relatively minor injuries) you might end up with more money by negotiating your own settlement. Many attorneys won’t take very minor cases, as the work they put in won’t be worth the payout.
If you have significant damages, or your case might be complicated, ask the attorney if they are willing to take your case to court if it doesn’t settle. And, if they will have enough time to give your case the attention it deserves.
Find out up front how this attorney will keep you informed about your case status. Will you hear from the attorney or support staff? Ask if the attorney will be available when you have concerns or questions.
Legal Fees and Costs: Personal injury attorneys tend to work on a contingency fee basis, meaning their legal fees only get paid if they can settle your claim or win your case in court.
There may be room for you to negotiate legal fees if you’ve already done some legwork. Find out if this attorney charges a flat percentage (like 33%) for each case from start to finish, or if you’ll pay a lower percentage to start, and a higher percentage if a lawsuit is filed.
It’s important to understand that expenses are typically paid on top of the attorney’s fees. These expenses include court fees, copy costs, attorney travel expenses, paralegal hourly wages, and so on. You need to know how much the costs could be for your claim, and if you will have to pay the costs out of pocket if your claim doesn’t settle.
Questions to Ask Yourself After the Consultation
Take the time to ask yourself a few questions after you’ve left the attorney’s office. Your initial impression can tell you a lot about what it would be like to work with this attorney and their staff.
You are a potential client. Even though you won’t be paying money up front, you’re still paying for the services of an attorney and their staff. You should always be treated respectfully and courteously.
Write down how you were treated upon arrival, and how it made you feel. What did you think of the office? Some of the best attorneys have modest office spaces, but they should be clean and tidy. Support staff should be pleasant and polite.
Jot down your observations about the attorney. The attorney isn’t doing you a favor by offering a free consultation. It’s more like a job interview. You get to decide if you want to hire them or not.
Just like any other job applicant, the attorney should make a good first impression by being on time for your appointment, well groomed, and neatly dressed. The attorney should give you their full attention. Repeatedly checking a cell phone or tablet isn’t a good sign.
Did the attorney answer all your questions? The attorney should communicate using plain language you can understand. If legal terms are used, they should be explained.
An attorney-client relationship must be built on mutual trust and respect. An attorney may be qualified to handle your case, but you also should feel comfortable with them. It’s okay to consult with more than one attorney if that’s what it takes to find the right fit for you.
How Much is Your Injury Claim Worth?
Find out now with a FREE case review from an attorney…