If you’ve been injured in an accident, slip-and-fall, medical malpractice, or any other unfortunate event, you may be wondering about a free attorney consultation. Once you have conducted some research for a personal injury attorney in your area, you are ready to schedule an initial consultation where you can get some answers to the questions that have been building up in your mind. Most personal injury attorneys do not charge for an initial consultation, and the Law Office of Dimitrios Kourouklis, Ph.D. is no different. We offer a pressure-free and obligation-free consultation with any person who has been injured and needs answers. We listen to what each person has to say and we provide each person with detailed assessment of their personal injury claim based on the information that is conveyed during the initial consultation.
What Can You Expect At This Free Initial Consultation With An Attorney?
During your initial meeting with an injury attorney, your lawyer will first want to hear a detailed account of what happened. They will be collecting a series of information from you during this process. The key during this initial consultation is to provide the attorney with as much information as possible in order for the attorney to provide you with the best possible analysis of your situation. For the most part, you know all the answers to the questions that are going to be asked by the attorney. There are really no trick questions. Any difficult question asked during that initial consultation is designed to try and ascertain if there is any aspect of your potential claim that needs further investigation or could be the focal point of the defense side during litigation. This post is designed help you to be sure that you are prepared for this initial consultation, to let you know what to expect and to inform you of the necessary documents that should be brought to make your initial consultation as fruitful as possible. In some instances, time may be of the essence and your failure to seek timely legal advice may preclude you from asserting at claim against the at-fault party.
The length of the initial interview varies widely, depending on the type of negligence and the circumstances that led to your injuries. For cases that are more straightforward, like car accidents, the initial meeting most likely won’t take very long. In more complex cases, like medical malpractice or defective products or some premise liability actions, the initial consultation interview will usually last longer. No case, however, is simple or straightforward. Every case is different. The key is to be honest with the attorney during the initial meeting because if you do not provide the attorney with as much information about your potential claim, the attorney cannot properly assess your situation.
The Key Things You Need To Know/Expect About Your Initial Consultation:
1. Statute of Limitations
Before you give much thought to pursuing a personal injury lawsuit for your injury, you must first consider whether or not your case has expired. For most people, this doesn’t apply, since it is common to seek compensation right away after an injury. However, in some instances, for whatever reason, a client may be wanting to file a lawsuit several months or years after the accident.
In New York, you must file a personal injury claim within three years. If the injury claim is against a city, county, New York City Housing Authority or any other municipal agency, you have just 90 days to file a Notice of Claim against the city or municipal agency and one year and 90 days to commence the lawsuit. However, if you want to sue the State of New York or any State agency, you have 90 days to file a Notice of Claim with the State and you have two years to file a lawsuit against the state. Any lawsuit against the State of New York or a State agency can only be brought in the New York Court of Claims.
If you have been injured as a result of the malpractice of a doctor, hospital, physical therapists, radiologist, nurse or other medical professional, you must file a medical malpractice claim against the at-fault party within two and a half years (30 months). If the at-fault medical professional is employed at a City hospital the statute of limitations is shortened because a Notice of Claim has to be filed against the City hospital and its employees and agents.
If you speak with an attorney about your incident before the above deadlines have transpired, you are good to go.
2. Do Your Research On The Attorney That You Are Going To Be Meeting With
Before you select an attorney to consult with, you will want to do some basic internet research on them. Look at websites like Avvo.com, the New York State Bar Association, and of course, Google Reviews. These are great places to start.
Remember, the consultation is as much your time to get to know the attorney(s) you will be working with as it is their time to understand your case. Most people know right away if they like someone, trust someone, or think they will be a good match. Aside from general first impressions, consider if you feel like the attorney will do a good job handling your specific case. Do they seem comfortable with the material? Do they seem confident in their abilities? Do they seem believable? Ask them if they will be handling your case or if they are going to be having your case handled by a legal assistant, who is not an attorney.
3. What to Bring With You
Your personal injury attorney will want to review your case using as much information as possible. For this reason, it’s important to bring with you any and all documentation that you have regarding the injury and accident. This includes:
Photographs of the accident and injury(s)
Police investigation notes
Citations or tickets
Witness statements or contact information
Self-prepared notes or diary documenting your injury
Doctor’s notes and emergency room notes
A list of all medical providers treated related to your claim
X-Ray and MRI results
Automobile and health insurance cards/information
Other driver’s information or information about the property where your accident occurred.
Bringing all this information gives your attorney the biggest, most complete picture of your case possible so that you can receive the most accurate information/advice possible. The more thorough the information the attorney has to assess, the better. Again, the key at this initial consultation is to be open and honest with the attorney, in order for you to receive the most accurate analysis about your claim.
4. Notes about Injury and Claim
There are two critical questions that will arise over and over again during your personal injury claim:
These questions will be asked at every stage of the process. It is very important to have a clear record to refer back to so you don’t forget important points. In order to preserve this information, take detailed notes immediately after the incident and throughout the process, including what happened and how your injuries affect your daily life. This will almost surely help strengthen your legal claim. Also this will also help you remember critical details about your incident that you may forget as time goes by after your life-altering incident occurred.
As you are taking notes about your incident, you should consider the following points which should be recorded:
What exactly happened before, during, and after your incident?
Where did your incident occur?
What time did your incident occur?
If your accident occurred outside or while you were in an automobile, what was the weather like?
What direction were you looking when your incident occurred?
Were there any witnesses to your incident? What did they see? What is their contact information?
What you experienced and felt at the time of your incident and after your incident?
What type of injuries did you sustain? What was the extent of the injuries that your sustained (both physical and mental)
Any medical treatment you receive. Where did you receive medical treatment? What did you tell the treating medical provider?
How did your injuries affect your work life?
How did your injuries affect your personal life?
How did your injuries affect your social life?
How much time did you miss from work?
Have your injuries had an impact on any close family relationships?
This information, both at the consultation and later during the term of your personal injury claim, can help your attorney to have a greater understanding of what happened and how it has affected you. This way, they can be sure that you are compensated appropriately. If you do not tell them about something, or forget to mention something, the attorney couldn’t possibly include it in a demand or claim.
If you are unable to collect or record some of this information because of the seriousness of your injury, be sure to have a trusted friend or family member help you.
5. Give a Detailed Account
The majority of your time at your initial consultation will consist of you giving your account of what happened during your accident, injury, or illness. During or after you give your description, the attorney will ask you detailed questions to provoke more information and to gain a greater understanding of what happened. It is in everybody’s best interest if the attorney has all the facts.
The attorney will also use this time to assess the client and their credibility. Although this may not sound “nice,” it’s a fact of life. The attorney can use this initial consultation to gauge how the client may come across during a deposition or to a jury at trial and possibly find weaknesses in the body language of the client. A jury of your peers will believe some people and not others, for whatever reason. Of course, an attorney will not turn down a viable case because of this, but they may use this information to help coach you for future scenarios, like a deposition or for trial prep.
6. Come Prepared With Questions
Before your initial consultation with your attorney, be sure to write down all the questions that have been gathering in your head. The initial consultations cannot last forever, so it is best for both of you if you have your questions already prepared. A good attorney will also provide you with their email address so that you can contact them with additional questions or to request an update on your case. Make sure you cover anything that you have been wondering about. This is half the reason for a consultation in the first place.
Be prepared to ask questions about how the lawsuit process, how long the process will take before a settlement is reached or your case goes to trial, how much insurance money may be available to you (this may not always be known at the time of the initial consultation), and any other questions you may have.
7. Viability and Laws of Your Case
Once you have given your detailed account of what happened and told the attorney about your injuries, they will present you with information about the viability of your case. If the attorney is provided with sufficient details during this consultation, the attorney will be able to give you the strengths and weaknesses of your claim as well as advise you of potential issues that may arise during the course of your claim if that attorney’s services are retained. Not all cases need lawsuits, nor are all cases capable of receiving money from an insurance company. This is a fact of life. It is better to know now if your case is not worth pursuing than to waste your own time. If this is the case, the attorney should be able to provide you with a specific reason why. At this point, if this happens, and you feel that you want to continue on, seek a second opinion. The lawyer is also likely to advise you to seek a second opinion.
The attorney may also refer you to another attorney at this point. This is not a common occurrence, but it does happen. Perhaps your case does not fall within the area of expertise of that particular attorney, or maybe there is a class action lawsuit you can be a part of. A good attorney will always know their limitations and not just take on any case as a way to make more money. If an attorney refers you to someone else, they probably have a decent understanding about why that attorney is qualified and what they can do differently to help you out.
If you, and your attorney, are ready to proceed with your case, they will present to you the laws that cover your situation, what they feel are your best possible options, and the strategy they will employ to get you compensation. Obviously, they will not have a detailed plan of action ready to go in 30 minutes, but they can give you some ideas about how to proceed to handle your legal matter. This is often an exciting part of the consultation for clients as they feel relief that they’re on the track to compensation.
8. Discuss Fees and Sign The Requisite Documents
Once you and your attorney have discussed possible options, strategies, and a general plan of action, it is time to handle the logistics. Personal injury attorneys handle cases on a contingency fee basis meaning that they will only be paid for their work if they recover compensation for your injuries. This is the best plan for both parties. Often, injured victims cannot afford to pay out pocket for an attorney. This allows people to obtain representation who otherwise couldn’t. The personal injury attorney will provide you with a retainer agreement setting forth the fee arrangement for your personal injury case.
At this point you will sign a HIPAA release forms so that your attorney can request your medical information and records. The personal injury attorney will have a sign a lot of HIPAA release forms so that in addition to obtaining your records on your behalf, the attorney will have enough forms to provide the defendant’s attorney(s) if and when a lawsuit is started.
9. What Is The Next Step After Your Initial Consultation?
After you have covered all the information above, and the contract and documents are signed, the attorney will begin handling your case. At this point, they will start notifying the insurance company(s) of their demands, and negotiations may begin. If things cannot be worked out directly with the insurance company, then mediation, arbitration, and eventually a lawsuit will ensue.
Law Office of Dimitrios Kourouklis, Ph.D.