What to Expect When Meeting With a Car Accident Attorney

Make the most out of your first meeting with a car accident attorney, and make sure this person is the best fit for you and your case.

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  • After a car accident, once you've made the decision to hire an attorney, you're probably wondering what the first visit will entail. There are two main reasons for this meeting. The first is for the attorney to assess your case. The second is for you to make sure you're comfortable having this person represent you.

    Case Assessment

    Even if an initial consultation has taken place online or over the telephone, the attorney will not have a full picture of the facts and circumstances surrounding your car accident case until the two of you can sit down and talk.

    The first step will involve you explaining the facts of the accident, and the damages you've sustained. This conversation will probably be with the attorney, and/or one of the attorney's representatives, such as a legal secretary or paralegal.

    After you've provided your story, you'll answer follow-up questions, such as:

    • Have you spoken to any insurance company representatives about the accident? If so, which representatives, and what did you tell them?
    • Have you spoken to anyone else about the accident? This can include friends, family members, first responders, and anyone else involved in the accident.
    • What car insurance coverage and/or health insurance coverage do you have?
    • Were there any witnesses to the car accident, and if so, do you have their contact information?

    You'll also need to provide any documents you have relating to the accident, such as medical bills, car repair estimates/invoices, photographs, police reports, e-mails and letters from insurance companies (and copies of any insurance claims you've filed related to the accident).

    Share Everything

    Don't hold back any relevant information about the accident, even if you're worried that it's embarrassing or will hurt your case. Even if you haven't hired the attorney, your first meeting is protected by attorney client privilege. Not to mention that if you withhold information that hurts your case, it will come back to haunt you.

    For instance, your attorney may agree to represent you based on the information you've provided, but if that information is incomplete, sooner or later the truth will come out, possibly after you and your attorney have spent hundreds of hours preparing the case (and thousands of dollars on expert witnesses and court costs).

    If the Attorney Doesn't Take Your Case

    If the attorney declines to take your case, that doesn't mean it's a weak one. Attorneys turn down cases for a variety of reasons, including:

    • the attorney's workload
    • potential conflicts of interest
    • the scope of the lawsuit goes beyond the attorney's skills and experience, and
    • the attorney's firm may not have the financial resources to try your case, even though it has potential.

    If the Attorney Offers to Take Your Case

    If the attorney agrees to represent you, ask about potential outcomes. But keep in mind that the attorney won't be able to accurately predict your chances of success and what type of damages award you can expect. There are so many variables and unknowns, including the overall unpredictability of personal injury lawsuits in general.

    Deciding to Hire the Attorney

    Whether the attorney represents you is your decision as much as it is the attorney's. You need to find an attorney you feel comfortable with, and who you can trust. You also want to ensure your attorney will effectively and capably represent your legal interests.

    Here are a few questions to consider:

    • Does this attorney have experience handling car accident cases like yours?
    • How much trial experience does this attorney have? Most car accident cases settle. But in order to obtain the best outcome possible, your attorney must have the ability to take your case to trial and win.
    • Who will actually handle the case? Some attorneys may give the impression that they'll handle every aspect of your case, but many have inexperienced associates handle most of the work surrounding the case, with your attorney stepping in only when there's a trial or during settlement negotiations.
    • What is the attorney's legal fee and who pays for litigation costs? Most car accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. (Learn more about how much a car accident lawyer costs.)

    If you decide to hire an attorney, you will need to sign a fee agreement, representation agreement, or some other document formally establishing the attorney as your legal representative. You may also need to sign other documents, such as medical releases, which will allow your attorney to access your treatment records on your behalf.

    Learn more about how an attorney can help with a car accident case.

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