9 Things You Should Know About a Free Lawyer Consultation
If you have suffered a physical injury that you believe was someone else’s fault, you might have a viable personal injury claim. You don’t need to worry that you don’t have enough money to talk to a lawyer about representing you. Almost any Jacksonville personal injury attorney will offer you a free lawyer consultation. It is best that you come prepared, knowing what to expect.
Your personal injury consultation will probably last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. It might take place at the lawyer’s office. If your injuries are severe, the lawyer might even come to your home or the hospital. Alternatively, your consultation might take place over Skype, Zoom, or the telephone. Following are some tips to help you prepare for a consultation.
1. You Can Research Your Lawyer’s Reputation in Advance
You don’t need to settle for “my cousin Vinny.” Check the Martindale-Hubbell directory, Avvo, and other online sources that can provide you with a list of local lawyers and information about their reputation. Use these resources to create a short list of candidates. You might want to schedule free consultations with all of them. You don’t have to tell any of them that you are speaking with other lawyers—that’s your business.
2. You Should Check the Statute of Limitations Deadline Before You Schedule an Appointment
The state statute of limitations sets the ultimate deadline by which you must file a lawsuit, sign a settlement agreement, or forever abandon your claim. If you miss the applicable deadline, there will be no point in talking to a lawyer. In Florida, fortunately, the statute of limitations deadline doesn’t usually expire until four years after the accident. Don’t wait until the last minute!
3. The Lawyer Will Ask You Many Questions
Expect the lawyer to ask you a lot of questions. From the lawyer’s perspective, the purpose of the consultation is to determine whether it would be worth it to represent you. To prepare, take detailed notes as soon as possible after the accident, so that you will remember everything. Deal with the following issues:
- What happened before, during, and after the accident?
- The time and place of the accident.
- The weather conditions, if they were relevant.
- The type and extent of your injuries.
- Any intangible psychological disturbances you may be experiencing.
- The details of any medical treatment you received.
- The effect of your injuries on your daily life (keep a journal).
- How much time you missed from work, and the details of any limitations on your ability to perform your work duties.
- The effect of your injuries on your family relationships.
Organize these notes in a manner that the lawyer will understand them. Even if the lawyer doesn’t ask for it, give it to them if you decide to hire them and they take your case.
4. The Lawyer Might Ask You for Documentation
Bring as much relevant documentation as you can. The lawyer might not ask you for all of the below items, but you do need to make sure you have immediate access to whatever they do ask you for.
- Your own notes (see above);
- The accident report;
- Your medical records;
- Evidence: photographs of the accident and injury(s);
- Citations or traffic tickets;
- Witness statements or contact information;
- X-Ray and MRI results; and
- Insurance information.
Bring anything else that seems relevant.
5. You Need To Confirm Confidentiality With the Lawyer
Florida, as well as other states, applies a principle known as lawyer-client confidentiality that prevents your lawyer from sharing information about your case without your permission. In a free initial consultation, however, you haven’t hired the lawyer yet. This leaves you in a legal gray area as to whether confidentiality applies. Confirm this with the lawyer before you reveal any secrets.
6. You Can Ask the Lawyer Questions
Ask the lawyer relevant questions, such as:
- How will I pay for medical treatment? Can you arrange a medical lien for me?
- How long will my case take to resolve?
- Is there any important evidence that I need to collect?
- Do I even need a lawyer?
- What kinds of damages can you pursue? How much is my claim worth?
- What happens next?
Ironically, you should doubt the lawyer’s competence if they answer all of the foregoing questions without qualification. Likewise, you should doubt their competence if they can’t answer any of them after you have provided them with information about your case.
7. Make Sure You Understand the Lawyer’s Fee Structure Before Hiring Them
Most lawyers work on a contingency fee structure, where your legal fees amount to 30% to 40% of the total (Florida law imposes limits in some cases). Your lawyer will also probably agree to pay case expenses out of their own pocket.
In most cases, the lawyer will demand that you repay these case expenses if and only if you win the case. They can add up. Confirm the exact details of your lawyer’s fee arrangements before you hire the lawyer.
8. You Are Under No Obligation To Hire the Lawyer
You don’t have to hire a lawyer just because you participated in a free consultation. A free consultation works more like a job interview. You don’t have to hire a lawyer if you don’t want to. Don’t let the lawyer put you on a “guilt trip” just because they took the time to consult with you.
9. The Lawyer Might Not Take Your Case
Just as you don’t have to hire a lawyer, they don’t have to “hire” you. There is no guarantee that the lawyer will agree to represent you. The reasons why a lawyer might decide not to take your case include:
- There is a conflict of interest. Perhaps your lawyer is representing the defendant on another matter, for example.
- The lawyer doesn’t believe they can win your case.
- Your claim isn’t worth enough money to motivate the lawyer to represent you.
- Case expenses are too high. This is especially likely to be the case in medical malpractice or product liability claims, where the use of expensive expert witnesses is routine.
If you cannot find a lawyer to represent you after repeated attempts, you might not have a viable claim.
Choosing the Right Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Case Is Critical
Take seriously the process of finding just the right lawyer. Don’t rush the process unless the statute of limitations deadline is looming. After all, your choice of lawyer might turn out to be the most important decision you make in your case. Contact a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation at your earliest convenience.
Contact the Jacksonville Personal Injury Law Firm of Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers Today For Help
Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers – Jacksonville
9471 Baymeadows Rd #105,
Jacksonville, FL 32256
Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers – Downtown Jacksonville
121 W. Forsyth St. #170,
Jacksonville, FL 32202