1) Am I obligated if I call or e-mail to discuss my case?
All consultations are free. Fees are charged only if your case is accepted and a recovery of money damages is accomplished. If, after discussing your case, you decide not to pursue it or decide to do so with another law firm, there is no obligation on your part. Of course, any information you have given us is protected by the attorney-client privilege and will not be disclosed to anyone without your permission.
2) What kind of information will a lawyer need from me?
A lawyer generally needs information regarding the medical treatment you have been receiving to treat your injury for any kind of claims. Usually the lawyer will need the name and address of your current treating medical provider, as well as any other medical provider you have seen by referral, such as a physical therapist. You should also be prepared to provide the name and address of any medical provider you have seen during the five-year period preceding the injury, because your pre-injury medical condition can often affect the value of your claim and also save the time to settle the case.
For example, if you were injured in a car accident, it is important that you provide information regarding your own automobile insurance coverage as well, so your lawyer can determine whether medical payments coverage or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage affords additional coverage for you.
3) What documents should I bring with me when I meet with a lawyer?
The more information you are able to give your lawyer, the easier it will be for him or her to determine if your claim will be successful. Infact you should not hide anything from your lawyer if you want him/her to win the case. You should supply any documents that might have a bearing on your case. Accident reports, for example, contain eyewitness accounts and details about auto accidents.
Copies of medical reports from doctors and hospitals will describe your injuries. Information about the other driver's insurance is extremely helpful, as are any photographs you have of the accident or of your injury, particularly the place or spot and the timing. If you haven't collected any documents at the time of your first meeting, don't worry - your lawyer will be able to obtain them as well.
4) What can I expect at the first consultation?
Your lawyer should be able to tell you if you have a legal claim that has merit. If it does, your lawyer will likely ask you to sign a retainer agreement. A lawyer cannot represent you without a written retainer agreement. Once that agreement is in effect, your attorney should start gathering the information needed to try your case.
No competent lawyer should tell you what your case is worth, at the first visit. To arrive at a figure for damages, your lawyer will need to determine the extent of your injuries, including pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, the cost of medical treatment and lost wages.
5) Do I have to give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster?
Some insurance contracts do have cooperation clauses. However, you may not be obligated to give a recorded statement, and if you do, it may later be used against you. If you do choose to give a recorded statement, be sure to ask for a copy of the transcript.
6) How long should I wait before contacting a lawyer?
The sooner your lawyer can get started working for you, the better. Remember, you have only a certain amount of time to go to the court, and the longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to obtain the evidence you need to support your case. Furthermore, if you have submitted your claim to an insurance company, the insurance adjuster you are dealing with may have settled hundreds of cases in the past year alone. They are highly trained at negotiations. It is important to be very careful and cautious when talking with an insurance adjuster; you very well may need a lawyer to help you through the process.
7) What does it mean to settle a case?
Settling a case means that you agree to accept money in return for dismissing your claim against the person who injured you. You'll actually sign documents releasing the other side of any further liability. To help you decide whether to accept the settlement offer or not, your lawyer will be able to provide a realistic assessment of whether a lawsuit based on your claim will be successful.
Settlement also can take place at any point in a lawsuit once it is filed, including before trial or even after a case has been tried but before a jury reaches a verdict and after trial while the case is on appeal.
8) What are punitive damages, and when are such damages awarded?
In addition to compensating victims for injuries, lost wages and future considerations, punitive damages can be awarded to penalize a defendant whose conduct is deemed to be particularly outrageous. In cases of negligence, punitive damages are typically awarded only when the defendant's conduct is proved to be "reckless" or "willful and wanton".
9) I am not happy with the lawyer handling my case and want to replace him. Can I simply retain another lawyer?
Yes, you have a right to replace your lawyer at any time. As a client, you are entitled to be treated with courtesy and consideration at all times, to have your questions and concerns addressed in a prompt manner and to have telephone calls returned promptly. If you are dissatisfied with the legal representation you are currently receiving, you can withdraw from the attorney-client relationship at any time and notify to your lawyer about the same.