Can I See My Personal Injury File?

It's your personal injury case, and it's your right to see the case file. But what if your attorney is making file access difficult, or you're able to view the file but don't like what you see?

The short answer to this question is yes. Any client in any state in the country has the absolute right to see their case file in a personal injury claim (the same goes for any kind of civil case, including a divorce or any other kind of lawsuit). It's the client's case, so the client is entitled to access to the case file. But this question typically gives way to one or two follow-up questions— especially when it comes to the attorney-client relationship in a personal injury case—so let's look at those as well.

What If My Attorney Won't Let Me See My Case File?

If you have a personal injury case and your lawyer won’t let you see your file, that's almost certainly a bad sign. There really is no good reason for a lawyer to refuse a client's request to see the case file. On the other hand, there may be cause for concern when an attorney resorts to this kind of conduct. Mainly, it could mean that the lawyer is hiding something.

If you want to see your file and your lawyer can’t seem to get around to scheduling a time to make it available to you, then you need to get proactive. At the very least, schedule a face-to-face appointment with your lawyer as soon as possible, so it's clear that you're serious about seeing the file, and you have one last opportunity to get on the same page with your lawyer.

And if you meet with your lawyer and he or she is still arguing that you don’t need to see the case file, it's probably time for you to get another lawyer. Learn more about finding the right personal injury lawyer for you and your case.

What If My File Seems Incomplete or Disorganized?

Let's say you do actually see the file, and it seems that important documents are missing. The types of documents that are often found in a client's personal injury file include:

  • correspondence
  • your medical records
  • police reports and other accident reports
  • photographs and other investigation results
  • your fee agreement with the lawyer
  • witness statements
  • the lawyer’s notes (however, be aware that most lawyers keep their notes on their computer or other device; so there may be few, if any, handwritten notes in the file)
  • reports from any experts that the lawyer might have hired, and
  • if a personal injury lawsuit has been filed, all of the pleadings and discovery.

Your file could be in impeccable order, or it could be very disorganized. This is largely irrelevant. A disorganized file is in no way a sign of trouble in your case. Many lawyers' files look like they're in complete shambles, yet the attorney still manages to keep track of everything and represent clients effectively.

Maybe It's a Matter of Trust

The issue of access at your file may be, like most aspects of the attorney client relationship, a matter of trust. Do you trust your lawyer? Do you get a good feeling about him or her?

It boils down to trust because, even looking at the case file, most clients have no way of knowing whether everything is there. You simply can’t know if the lawyer has removed a letter or two so you won't see it. In other words, you’re probably not going to learn anything useful from seeing your file. But if you trust that your lawyer is doing a good job for you, then you might not really have any need to see your file. Get more personal injury client tips.

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