9 Things You Should Know About a Free Lawyer Consultation
Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes | Personal Injury
Most personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation. You can accomplish a lot during this consultation if you come prepared.
At the same time, you should not feel pressured into making a final decision during your initial meeting. Lawyers provide these consultations without obligation; you’ll likely have plenty of time to decide whether to hire them unless your case has an impending deadline.
Here are nine things you should know about a free lawyer consultation and how to prepare beforehand.
- Use Your Time Effectively
Take full advantage of your free lawyer consultation. This is your chance to speak to someone who has experience in cases like yours. This means that the lawyer should have the answers to most of your questions.
Your consultation may be free, but your time is limited. You should arrive prepared so you can use your time effectively.
- Write Down Your Questions
Many lawyers book appointments at least a week out. While you wait for your appointment, you should write down all of the questions that pop into your mind. This will ensure that you do not forget any of your concerns before your consultation.
- Bring Documents
Many lawyers will be reluctant to give advice without reviewing the evidence of your case. This means that you will need to bring documents with you.
Some of the documents that will help an injury lawyer assess your case include:
- Medical records and bills
- Police reports for car accident cases
- Timesheets showing missed work
- Insurance information for you and others involved in the accident
- Photos of the accident and your injuries
- A list of witnesses
These records can help a lawyer to assess your case quickly. If you hire a lawyer, these documents will also help them to begin assembling your case.
- Interview Your Lawyer
Approach the free consultation like a job interview. The lawyer you hire will work for you, providing legal services and advice. Ask the lawyer the same questions that you would ask before hiring any new employee.
You should specifically ask them about:
Many disputes between lawyers and their clients center around fees. Talk about the firm’s fee structure during the free consultation. Ask every question you have about your fees, no matter how basic those questions might seem. Discussing fees early on can help you to avoid a dispute or a surprise later.
Most injury lawyers charge a contingent fee. This means that your legal fee will depend on the outcome obtained by the lawyer. If you win or settle your case, you will pay a share of your award to the lawyer. If you lose your case, you owe nothing.
- The Lawyer’s Experience
Ask lawyers about their experience with cases that are similar to yours. This discussion will help you determine whether the lawyer has handled cases involving the same legal issues you may face. It also tells you what kinds of outcomes the lawyer has obtained in the past.
A lawyer’s past successes will not necessarily tell you what will happen in your case. But it can set your expectations for your case if you decide to hire that individual.
- Communication with the Lawyer
Many disputes between clients and lawyers arise from a lack of communication. Specifically, clients expect lawyers to keep them in the loop and return phone calls within a reasonable time. Lawyers have busy schedules and often rely on staff members to send letters and return phone calls.
You should discuss communication with the lawyer at your initial consultation to determine the most effective way to communicate when you have questions. You should also discuss which staff members in the law firm will know about your case. That way, you can reach out to the lawyer’s team.
- Wrapping Up Your Consultation
When you make the appointment, ask how long you will have with the lawyer. Most initial consultations last 30 to 60 minutes. Be respectful of the attorney’s time and try to wrap up on time.
At the end of your consultation, you should review any next steps, including:
- The Merits of Your Case
Depending on the documents you brought with you, the lawyer might not want to address the merits of your case. But if you come prepared, you can reasonably ask the lawyer about the range of options that you should expect and their strategy for handling your case.
- Ask About Deadlines
Florida’s statute of limitations defines the deadlines for filing lawsuits. The law requires you to file negligence lawsuits within four years of the injury. You must file a medical malpractice lawsuit within two years of the injury.
If you miss the deadline, a judge will dismiss your lawsuit. You should make sure you and your lawyer know the deadline for your case and have a plan to meet it.
- Understand the Next Steps
For an injury case, you will probably sign a HIPAA Authorization to Disclose. This will allow the lawyer to request medical records directly from your doctors and therapists.
You will also sign a fee agreement. Under Florida’s Rules of Professional Conduct, the lawyer must provide a written fee agreement. You must sign the fee agreement, as will each lawyer involved in the case.
- Do Not Feel Pressured
Lawyers provide initial consultations without any obligation to hire them. A lawyer should not pressure you to hire them unless you face a statutory deadline.
You need to feel comfortable with the lawyer you choose. You will likely work with your lawyer for months or even years to recover compensation for your injury. If you have any hesitation about hiring a specific lawyer, you should consider getting a second opinion from another attorney.
Hiring a Lawyer
Choosing a lawyer for your case is a consequential decision. Experience, knowledge, and skill can affect the outcome of your case.
During your free consultation, learn as much as you can about the lawyer. Make sure the lawyer is interested in your case and that you can work with the lawyer closely for a successful outcome.