You are about to have your first meeting with an experienced, highly competent car crash lawyer about a potential personal injury claim. By keeping in mind that the lawyer will use the meeting to assess you and your potential claim, you will be able to prepare in a way that leave the right impression with the lawyer and makes it more likely that he or she will agree to represent you.
First, get organized. The lawyer will need certain documents from you in order to evaluate your potential claim. Put together a folder with the following documents before your meeting:
1. The police report and/or accident report(s). These reports will help the lawyer get additional descriptions of the accident, determine the identity of any witnesses and their view of how the accident happened and who is at fault, find out about any special circumstances such as alcohol, and whether anyone was cited for the accident.
2. Photographs of the accident and accident scene. The photographs will help the lawyer get a sense of the accident scene and (if the photographs were taken at the time of the accident) the amount of traffic, visibility, and weather conditions.
3. All information you gathered regarding the other driver, including name, address, driver’s license number, vehicle year, make and model, license plate number, and insurance company. The lawyer will need to identify the other driver to find out as much about the driver as possible, including whether (and how much) insurance the driver has, and whether the driver has been involved in other accidents.
4. The names and contact information of any witness(es) to the accident. Witnesses can be very helpful in establishing who is at fault for the accident. The lawyer will want to determine whether all the witnesses give a similar account of the accident and whether they are credible.
5. Photographs of damage to the vehicle(s) involved in the accident and estimates (or bills) of repair costs. The lawyer will also be able to gauge the location and extent of the damage to the vehicles involved. All too often insurance adjusters handling car crash cases judge the claim of injuries by the extent of damage to the vehicles. They, and potential jurors, tend to look at serious injuries in cases involving minor damage to the vehicles suspiciously. While there are many severe injuries that can be sustained in cases involving low impact or minor vehicle damage, the lawyer will need to determine how much resistance may be posed by claims adjusters and potential jurors.
6. Photographs of any injuries you suffered as a result of the accident. For injuries that are visible, such as hematomas, fractures, cuts and resulting scarring, photographs are the best way to relate the severity of the injury. It may also be possible to use photographs can also be used to show the progress of your treatment.
7. All medical records concerning the diagnosis of the injuries you suffered as a result of the accident and of the treatment you have undergone for those injuries. These records will help your lawyer determine the extent of your injuries, your treatment for those injuries, and the cost of the treatments. In certain cases, the injuries may require long term, or even life-long treatment. In such cases, the lawyer will ask your doctors for documentation of the need for future treatments.
8. Documentation regarding any lost wages (or loss of earning capacity) and other costs you incurred as a result of the accident. These are compensable losses.
9. Your automobile insurance policy. The lawyer will need to determine all sources of potential insurance coverage for your claim in case the driver at fault is uninsured or underinsured. If your value of your claim is likely to exceed the insurance available from the other driver and you have greater coverage from your own uninsured/underinsured section of your policy, your lawyer may be able to access your policy for additional coverage.
In addition, you should also put together a list of all prior personal injury (or other legal claims) you have made and a description of any relevant medical history. Insurance companies keep track of all such claims and may use information about such claims in valuing your current claim. Both insurance adjusters and defendant’s lawyers will try to use the existence of prior claims and prior similar injuries to reduce the value of your current claim.
By being well prepared for your initial meeting, you will demonstrate to the lawyer that you are responsible, organized, and dependable. Along the way be sure you courteous to the lawyer’s staff, been easy to reach and return phone calls promptly, be punctual, and have reasonable expectations. This is important for top car crash lawyers who have the luxury of turning down cases involving clients who may prove difficult to work with.
If the lawyer decides to further investigate or to pursue the claim on your behalf, the lawyer will likely ask you to sign a medical release form to obtain copies pertinent medical records. The lawyer will also likely ask you to sign a retainer agreement. In personal injury cases, these are also often referred to as a Contingency Fee Agreement because lawyers who handle personal injury matters normally take them on contingency rather than on an hourly basis, meaning the lawyer will be paid only if there is a recovery in which case the lawyer’s fee will be a percentage of that recovery. The agreement will likely contain a provision allowing the lawyer to withdraw as your lawyer if additional information leads the lawyer to reevaluate the claim. If you wish for this lawyer to handle your claim and sign the agreement, the lawyer can then begin to work on the case.
Selecting an experienced, competent car crash lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Keep in mind that the law limits the amount of time you have to pursue a claim.
Joseph Hernandez is an attorney focused on complex personal injury and catastrophic injury matters. For more information about how a Car Crash Lawyer can help you visit his website at http://www.vehicle-accident-law.com/car-crash-lawyer.shtml
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