Meeting your personal injury attorney

What Attorneys Tell Their Clients at the First Meeting

 

Once an accident attorney has decided to meet with you, he or she will typically advise you as follows in preparation for your first meeting:

  • See a doctor if you have not yet seen one and you are in pain or having physical difficulties and if you have not yet seen one. It’s best that you see a doctor of your own choice and do not expect the attorney to refer you to one.
  • Ask your doctor about staying out of work temporarily if working at your job causes difficulties, substantial discomfort or pain. If you have been told by the doctor that the decision to work is up to you, you should not work if working causes pain or substantial discomfort.
  • Obtain pictures of the subject automobile, place of injury if it is a premises liability case, or item that caused the injury if it is a product liability case. You should have those pictures developed immediately.
  • If your automobile has been damaged, have the damage appraised as soon as possible after the photos have been taken.
  • When you come for your appointment, bring in the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the incident. This is very important.
  • Do not discuss the case with witnesses other than to obtain their names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
  • Do not discuss the case in detail with anyone and do not give statements to anyone from an insurance company.
  • If you have been contacted by an insurance company, obtain the name of the adjuster and the telephone number. Inform the adjuster you will be consulting with an attorney and that your attorney will be in touch with the insurance adjuster.
  • Bring in any documents relating to the case such as medical bills, doctor’s instructions, prescriptions, and accident reports filed with the Secretary of State.
  • Obtain the police report if possible and bring it to the first meeting.
  • Do not postpone your first appointment with the attorney unless circumstances absolutely require postponement. Time is of the essence.
  • If any questions arise before the first appointment, do not hesitate to call with them.
  • Your primary duty at this time is to make yourself comfortable and to pursue recovery of your injuries. The legal details are for the attorney, not you, to worry about. Your physical recovery is of the utmost importance.

What a Personal Injury Attorney Does

Here is a list of the principal tasks performed by a personal injury in preparing a case for trial.


Pre-suit legal matters

  • Keep track of when the statute of limitations expires to make sure you don’t miss the deadline for filing a lawsuit.
  • Obtain exact legal name and address for adverse parties.
  • Give all government, medical, other statutory required notices that are required before suit is filed.
  • Determine the correct jurisdiction and venue (county) in which to file your case.


Initial steps

  • Conduct an initial interview with the client.
  • Discuss whether the attorney will handle the client’s insurance claims for reimbursement of damages.
  • Send an initial letter to the client with the terms of engagement.
  • Tell the client what items of potential evidence must be preserved during the case.
  • Get copies of any statements given by the client.
  • Get official reports of the occurrence or inspections (e.g., police, state agency).
  • Get potentially relevant documents and evidence in the client’s possession.
  • Inspect the scene and the product/physical items involved.
  • Get any reports of prior hearings or official proceedings regarding the incident.
  • Get insurance coverage information from the client and the adverse party.
  • Prepare the summons and complaint and arrange to have them served on the defendants.


Client, expert, witness

  • Discuss with the client possible additional damages, e.g., consortium claims.
  • Give the client lists of items to accomplish or gather.
  • Instruct the client to seek medical care and mitigate damages.
  • Retain and consult experts, as appropriate, on liability, medical treatment, damages, and any other matters for which an expert opinion may be necessary.
  • Prepare a witness summary for each witness. (Ours, Theirs, Third Party’s)
  • Determine which witnesses need to be interviewed and interview them.


Photographs; documents; physical exhibits

  • Get photos of the vehicles or products involved; the scene; the client’s injuries or damages.
  • Secure all physical evidence for exhibits.
  • Collect all relevant documents, photos, and data in client’s possession.
  • In a vehicle case, get data from car’s electronic data recorder, if one exists.
  • ASAP, without damaging metadata, get the client’s basic relevant e-mails and basic electronic documents.
  • Send an evidence preservation letter to the adversary.
  • Meet and confer with the adversary attorney to exchange information and to agree on preservation of electronically stored data and exchanges.
  • Sign a non-waiver of privilege agreement on unintentional production of privileged materials.
  • When the opponent’s ESI (electronically stored evidence) preservation demand arrives, respond to it in writing.
  • Phone the client, then send, by next day delivery, a letter to the client, specifically listing items that the opponent has requested be preserved.
  • Five days after phoning the client, personally check with the client to monitor compliance.
  • Collect, organize, and review the client’s ESI for discovery and trial.
  • Produce ESI requested by adversary.
  • Collect, review, and organize the ESI provided by the opponent.
  • Determine which of adversary’s ESI will be objected to and prepare brief to hand to court.


Damages

  • Prepare a list of the client’s medical expenses.
  • Obtain the client’s medical records.
  • Obtain the client’s hospital records.
  • Secure all bills.
  • List all special damages.
  • Obtain all property damage documentation.
  • Obtain loss of time and income from the client, the client’s employer, or accountant.
  • Obtain the client’s pertinent income tax returns.
  • Obtain all loss of income documentation.
  • Obtain all loss of business and loss of profits documentation.
  • Determine if subrogation interests or liens exist.
  • Send the opposing party request for admissions of our client’s damages.
  • Determine what is needed to prove damages at trial.
  • Get those documents.
  • Subpoena those witnesses for trial.


Settlement and mediation

  • Set a target date for submitting initial demand/offer to the other side.
  • Decide whether to set up mediation.
  • Select mediator and make arrangements.


Witness designation dates; damages records; exhibits

  • Decide whom to call as lay witnesses.
  • Designate expert witnesses and give their reports to other side.
  • Check with trial court about the permissible methods for showing exhibits and evidence to the jury.
  • Prepare exhibits for trial.
  • Complete video depositions that will be presented at trial of doctors and other witnesses who will not testify in person.
  • Prepare and file a list of exhibits with the court.


Written discovery

  • Conduct initial exchange of information prior to formal discovery
  • Draft and serve requests for production of documents and/or inspection of things on all adverse parties.
  • Draft and serve interrogatories on all adverse parties.
  • Draft and serve requests for admissions on all adverse parties.
  • Conduct on site inspections, as necessary of the scene; things; and documents.
  • Obtain and review reports from adverse experts.
  • Disclose to opposing attorney our expert’s names and their opinions:
  • Respond to written discovery (interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admission) from adverse parties.
  • Review discovery responses from adverse parties.


Depositions

  • Decide which of opposing party’s witnesses to depose.
  • Schedule depositions.
  • Prepare for and take depositions.
  • Prepare client, experts, and other plaintiff’s witnesses for their depositions.
  • Attend and defend depositions.
  • Summarize all depositions and edit them for trial.


Motions

  • Research legal issues including admissibility of evidence at trial.
  • Prepare and serve on opposing party all appropriate motions including:
    • Motion for partial or full summary judgment.
    • Motion for exclusion of expert testimony of adverse expert witness.
    • Motions in limine for exclusion of evidence.


Final preparations for trial

  • Prepare certificate of readiness, note of issue, or other court requirements to get a trial date set by court.
  • Amend pleadings as if necessary.
  • Alert all witness (doctors, experts, client, others) of when to be at trial:
  • Prepare questions for each witness.
  • Send all witnesses outlines, hints on testifying, or other pretrial materials.
  • Make arrangements for witnesses’ appearances.
  • Prepare subpoenas for witnesses where needed and arrange to serve them.
  • Meet with client and witnesses to prepare them for trial.
  • Prepare jury instructions and send to judge and adverse counsel.
  • Prepare all materials required by judge’s pretrial orders.
  • Become familiar with electronic presentation devices to be used in the courtroom (e.g., projector, input connections for our materials).
  • Obtain and review jury list.
  • Prepare questions for jury selection.
  • Prepare opening statement.
  • Prepare draft of closing argument.