You’ve likely seen the call to action “Come In For A Free Consultation!” on many California personal injury attorney advertisements. Whether on TV, radio, billboard, or even the side of a bus. If you see this right after experiencing a personal injury, it may seem to be kismet.
However, there are some things you should know going into such a consultation. Approaching it the right way can save time, money, and possibly even your case. Here are some things to help you get the most out of your free consultation with a California personal injury law firm.
Before going into your first consultation, remember to do your homework on your attorney, their law firm, and your case. Not only can it help you make the right decision on which lawyer to partner with, but also help you avoid unnecessary questions during the initial consultation so you can use that time more productively.
Your Personal Injury Attorney
Every personal injury attorney has their own unique experiences and skill set. It’s your job to parse through and find the right one, but it doesn’t stop once you’ve narrowed it down.
Once you’ve decided on an attorney to attend an initial consultation with, go deeper. Look at dedicated lawyer review sites such as Avvo and the State Bar of California to look into their professional details and others’ opinions. Apart from the attorney themselves, conduct similar research on the law firm they operate out of, as their firm may dictate much of how your case is handled.
All this digging isn’t only for you to know as much about them as possible before meeting them. This research also serves to give you context for asking better questions during your initial consultation.
Outline the details of your case and any evidence you might have. For example, how long ago was your injury, and when was it documented? This information is vital because California law requires potential plaintiffs to take swift action in filing a claim following an accident, as any delay could result in losing their right to file a claim. California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1. strictly limits this window for action. Claims must be filed within two years from the date of the injury. However, California Government Code § 911.2, states that plaintiffs can only file a claim against the relevant government agency within 6 months. It also supersedes the previous civil procedure, so if your injury was due to government negligence, you only have 6 months to take legal action.
If you’ve checked your timeline, and your case is within the statute of limitations, gather all documents that may be relevant, applicable, and available. This includes:
- Text messages
- Photos (of the incident and injury)
- Audio recordings
- Police reports
- Health and auto insurance info
- Security footage
- Video recordings
- Medical records
Make copies of the documents and evidence you plan to bring to your initial consultation. Give them to the personal injury attorney you’re meeting with at the beginning of your meeting
Additionally, write down any questions and information in the weeks leading up to your consultation. You don’t want to be kicking yourself on the way home realizing you forgot to ask some crucial questions.
Notes can include the effect your injuries have had on your personal, social, and professional life; your relationships, and details of the incident, such as time and place, weather, and what you, the defendant, and witnesses, may have said.
Get To Know Your Personal Injury Attorney
This first consult is just as much about you as it is about your case. The personal injury lawyer will be taking this time to understand your case. However, you should take the same time to get a feel for them.
Questions To Ask Your Personal Injury Attorney During The Free Consultation
Ask the lawyer these questions as you go through your first meeting:
“How long have you been practicing law? How long have you practiced in California particularly?”
The answer to this may not exactly seem like it should make or break your decision. And in some cases, it shouldn’t.
A lawyer’s years of experience matter. Their time in a particular location may be even more important, as laws vary by state and even municipality.
However, a personal injury lawyer specializing in California law will have more knowledge of the small details of the state’s legal nuances. Small details which can make or break your case down the line.
“What types of cases do you work with? Have you handled cases similar to mine and what was the outcome?”
Just because they’re a well-known personal injury law firm or a great lawyer, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily perfect for your case. Questions like these may help determine if they have the experience and specialization for your case.
“Can I have an estimate of my case’s total cost? What’s your fee structure? Could there be additional costs?”
The majority of personal injury attorneys charge on a contingency model, meaning you and your personal injury attorney agree that you are not required to pay your attorney unless they win your case. If this law firm charges based on contingency, also make sure to ask if there are any miscellaneous costs to you, even if you lose the case. There are many other types of fee structures, so be careful to not assume contingency-based pricing.
Questions To Ask Yourself During The Free Consultation
Ask yourself these questions as you go through the motions of your first meeting:
“Do we click? Will we work together? Do I feel heard?”
Thinking along these lines will help you observe if the personal injury attorney in this case is truly listening, or if you get a more impersonal feel as if you were just a number.
“Do they seem confident in their abilities and with my case in particular?”
Sure, they’re the expert and you’re not. How would you know? You may not have the full legal picture or all the knowledge, but most of us do have a decent radar for how people feel about a topic. Be on the lookout for their attitude on topics you bring up and if they seem to skirt around certain questions.
From Consultation To Compensation
This all may seem like overkill, and some of the questions may be even difficult to ask. Remember though, you have a lot riding on this case, so picking the right lawyer might be the difference between ending this case with crushing debt or much-needed compensation.Do you need a law firm that partners you with an experienced California personal injury attorney ready to fight for your well-deserved compensation right from the initial free consultation? Kuvara Law Firm specializes in personal injury cases and has been serving California since 1971. Whether you are near our headquarters in San Rafael or not, we have offices all over California. So if you or a loved one has suffered an injury and are ready to take action, contact us to make sure you’re backed by the best.