Need to meet with a personal injury lawyer? Here’s what you can expect from the initial process – and it’s easier than you think
Personal injury lawyers are often portrayed as aggressive and intimidating fast talkers. This reputation isn’t helped by the hundreds of radio & TV ads we experience on behalf of the big downtown firms.
So I understand that it can be an exercise in patience to contact a personal injury lawyer to find out if you have a case.
I wanted to walk you through the steps that are involved so that you know exactly what to expect, and I also have a few pointers on what to watch for when you meet with a personal injury lawyer whether it be here in Hamilton or downtown Toronto.
The Intake Call
I am considered a small firm. Basically, there’s me and a few clerks who help me. When you call (or email) me, you are connected to a clerk.
It’s the clerk’s job to get the details of your case over the phone. If you call, they will start asking questions right away (they are actually filling out a form that they will give to me after.) If you email, they will call you back to gather this info. Either way, the initial conversation is always over the phone.
You can always expect this person to ask you a lot of question and, please, be up front when answering. We’re asking you to see if we can help you, so the more info you can provide, the better.
For example, we’ll ask things like your name, address, age, the kind of case, who is at fault, how the accident happened, if the police came, if you’ve seen a doctor, etc. We’ll want to know how your injury has impacted your life e.g. can you work, can you look after you family, etc. Finally, we’ll want to know a bit about your insurance and whether or not you’ve applied for benefits.
You can expect this initial conversation to take 30-45 minutes at least. The better the firm, the more thorough these questions will be.
This intake call is always free for me. I can’t speak for other personal injury lawyers, but I’d be surprised if they charged you for it.
Next Step: The Consultation
Following the intake call, I will personally read through the report and determine if I can help you. If I’m fairly confident that I can, I will set up an in-person consultation.
An in-person consultation is a good thing. It means that, at least on the surface, I think you *may* have a strong case and I want to explore it with you.
During the free consultation, I will gather missing pieces of information so that I can gauge the strength of your case.
Be prepared for questions about your injuries, your psychological state, your job, your medical coverage, etc. These consultations are usually longer- at least an hour – and they should be treated like a conversation with your favourite confident over coffee or tea.
There is no judgment or commentary – believe me: I’ve been in this industry a long time and I’ve seen lots of good people get into tough situations. Whatever situation you’re facing, I promise you: You are not the first, and you are not alone.
It’s important for clients’ to understand that the consultation is as much for them as for the lawyers. You need to feel 100% comfortable with whomever you retain.
No matter which lawyer you see or the size of the firm, they are going to ask questions. You should ask questions too! This is YOUR life, and you have a say, so make sure you feel good about the person you meet with. If you don’t, move on. Don’t question your instinct: Trust it.
Is Your Free Consultation Really Free?
I have a small warning about those firms who advertise a free 30 or 60 minute consultation. It’s very important that, if you meet with a lawyer for a 30 or 60 minute free consult, you ask if they charge you for going over that time.
Here’s the thing: 30 Minutes isn’t a long time for a consultation. In fact, my consultations are only 30 minutes if I know I can’t help – and usually because new info has surfaced since your intake call.
So make sure that, if the lawyer spends 90 minutes with you, you’re not on the hook for that time. This is not a common practice, but I have seen it on occasion, and enough to mention it.
For me, I never charge regardless of how long we consult.
What Happens if the Consult Goes Downhill?
Most personal injury lawyers only get paid when a case goes through, so if they don’t feel they can help you early on, they usually won’t take your case.
But there is a reason why there’re so many lawyer jokes out there: Because we’re not perfect!
Always seek second and third opinions. If you’ve been turned down by a big firm, try a small firm, and vice versa. I promise you: It won’t hurt my feelings and it’s always a good idea.
Some Final Points To Consider:
- If I say I can help you, it means I truly believe I can help you. I get paid when you get paid so we are partners in your case.
- You’ll always meet with a team member in the intake process. My law clerks are the very best, and this process is the norm. The clerk you deal with should be kind and patient, regardless of your situation.
- Having said that, I am the only actual lawyer on your team you will work with. I don’t delegate to the juniors with no experience. You hire me, you work with me.
- Only work with a lawyer you’re comfortable with. If a firm wants to take your case, yet the ‘official’ lawyer only pops his or her head in to say hello, that’s a red flag. Your lawyer should care enough to make time for you.
- Be prepared to be forthcoming at every stage in the process. We win together, we lose together. Honesty is everything.
- If a firm turns down your case, get a second and third opinion. If one lawyer turns down your case, you may still have a case. If three lawyers turn it down, you probably don’t have a case. Be sure before you give in.
- If you meet with a lawyer for a free 30 minute consult, ask what happens if you go over time before you begin.
If you’re a bit nervous about starting the process, you’re not alone. Have questions? The comment section below is a great place to start!