WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT AT MY FIRST APPOINTMENT WITH A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY FOLLOWING A CAR ACCIDENT?
If you’re like most people, you’ve never been in a situation where you needed to hire a personal injury attorney. In fact, you probably hesitated seeking one out in the first place. Relax. When your car is broke, you see a mechanic to get it fixed. This is no different. You’ve been in a car accident, you’re hurt, and the uncertainty is piling up. This is exactly why personal injury attorneys exist.
Of all the things going on in your life right now, what to expect at your first meeting with your personal injury attorney should be the least of your concerns. Below is a list of items you’ll need to bring with you to your first meeting (often referred to as an “intake”) with your attorney.
- The Driver Exchange of Information OR Accident Report, IF you have it. In a motor vehicle accident, the reporting officer should at least provide you with a one-page document entitled “Driver Exchange of Information.” This is a short and sweet report of the parties involved in the accident, their insurance companies, date of the accident, and location of the accident. To obtain a copy of the Accident Report, you will be told to visit a website (www.buycrash.com) where you can get an instant copy after paying a fee. If you don’t have this yet, don’t worry. We can get it later after our meeting. Depending on various factors, the actual accident report will be ready in either a few days or a few weeks. In unfortunate cases where someone is killed in a motor vehicle accident, it will likely be at least ninety (90) days before the accident report is ready. Florida Highway Patrol, the reporting agency in these types of cases, will take that long to do a detailed homicide investigation before writing a report, issuing citations, etc.
- Your Driver’s License. We will need a front/back copy of your driver’s license for our file. This will be used as proper I.D. to notarize documents signed at the intake. It also tells us if there are any restrictions on your license.
- Your automobile insurance card AND communications from any automobile insurance company related to your accident. We need to know the name of the insurance company for the person who caused your accident so we can send them a letter to get a copy of their insurance policy. This tells us what kind of coverage the at-fault driver has under his/her insurance policy. We also need to know the name of your automobile insurance company and the types of coverages you have under your policy.
- Your health insurance card. If you have health insurance, then at some point it will likely start paying your accident related medical bills as you treat for your injuries. Your health insurance company has a right of subrogation for whatever it pays for your accident related treatment if you get a recovery. Subrogation means that your health insurance company gets stand in your shoes and say, “Hey…if wasn’t for you, at-fault driver, I would not have to pay this money.” Put another way, your health insurance company gets paid back for accident payments if there is a settlement. By law, we must give your health insurance notice of representation of you so that they have an opportunity to exercise their right to subrogation.
- Property damage photographs. Depending on a variety of factors, such as the severity of impact, the severity of your injuries, or who was present at the scene, you may or may not have pictures of your vehicle. No matter how big or small the impact, photographic evidence of the property damage to your vehicle AND the party who caused the accident is very, very, very, very important.
If you have these pictures, bring them with you to the intake. Even better, email them to us ahead of time. If you do not have any pictures with you, let us know where your vehicle is located so we can arrange to have pictures taken before any repairs are made or, in the case where your vehicle is totaled, before it is scrapped.
- Photographs of your injuries. Like property damage photos, getting pictures of your accident related injuries is not exactly on the top of your to-do list. Nonetheless, getting these pictures is no less vital to the proper evaluation of your case. Big, scary, painful, nasty wounds can heal well enough that they look like “no big deal” later. When you have pictures showing how bad your injuries really were before they healed, it has a significant impact on your case.
- All accident related medical records and bills in your possession. At a minimum, you should have discharge instructions from the Emergency Room. Whatever accident related medical records and bills you have in your possession, make sure to bring them with you to the intake. It is important for us to get an idea of your initial accident related diagnosis, recommended follow-up treatment, and the cost of treatment to date.
On that note, don’t worry if you have not received any accident related bills yet. They usually take a month or so to get to you in the mail. If you don’t have them with you at your first appointment, we will get them later.
- A list of questions for your attorney. This is optional, but wise. At Hancock Law, your first meeting will actually be with an attorney, not some “runner” who gets paid only if you sign the contract.
Why does this matter? Because only attorneys can give you legal advice. Non-lawyers are not permitted to answer many of the questions you need answered. Not all law firms make provision for you to meet with an attorney at the first visit, especially not the mega-advertising personal injury firms. Take advantage of the opportunity of getting to meet with your lawyer from the very beginning: make a list of questions to ask and ask away.