THE INITIAL CONSULTATION
The initial consultation is similar to meeting for the first time with a doctor. The doctor takes your medical history; the lawyer reviews your legal history. The two-way communication between lawyer and client is the crucial first step in achieving a successful outcome.
Before the appointment, try to write down the details of the accident. Your notes and Checklists 1 or 2 and 3 from this book will help you to provide your lawyer with complete and thorough information. Bring your notes, all of your insurance papers, your doctor’s name and address, as well as any discharge forms you received from the hospital. If you have photographs of your car, the accident scene, and/or your injuries, bring them as well. Your attorney will very much appreciate your interest in the case. If the photographs are of good quality, it may not be necessary for your lawyer to go to the expense of having professional photos taken. This will save you a significant amount of money, since litigation costs are ultimately the client’s responsibility.
The attorney will ask you to sign medical authorizations and a fee agreement if he wants to pursue the case. The medical authorization allows the lawyer to collect your medical records. Form 8 in Appendix A of my book is a sample medical authorization. See form 8, p.240. The fee agreement is the contract for the attorney’s fees. Immediately after the initial meeting, an attorney will often send a new client letter. A new client letter may resemble the one on p. 50.
Personal injury lawyers almost never charge for the initial consultation. You can interview as many as you like before you sign a fee agreement. However, it is a bad idea to wait too long before selecting one. A prompt investigation by your lawyer may be crucial to your case. So if you are comfortable with the first lawyer you meet, you can sign a fee agreement and let him or her begin the investigation. If you sign a fee agreement, but then change your mind, you can still fire the first lawyer and hire a new one. The first lawyer is required to turn your file over to the new lawyer. The lawyers will divide one attorney’s fee. You should not have to pay extra for changing lawyers.
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