Most people that have been injured by another party and consequently decided to pursue a personal injury claim have little or no experience with the legal system, and possibly have never even consulted with an attorney before.
Commencing a lawsuit is a stressful experience filled with a great deal of uncertainty, but the following information will provide guidance to injury victims who need to learn about what to expect as their case progresses.
No Recovery? No Fee
Personal injury clients can’t usually afford to pay attorney fees and costs associated with their injury case upfront, but most personal injury cases are taken on a contingency fee basis, meaning your attorney will receive a percentage of any damages you recover upon the conclusion of your case.
Most attorneys also offer potential clients a free initial consultation, and advance costs for things like medical records, depositions, and medical experts. While it may seem like your attorney is spending a lot of money on your case, rest assured that these expenses are necessary to build a solid case (and remember, the defendant’s insurance company is not likely to spare any expense in preparing their case against you).
Be Completely Honest
Your lawyer is the one person you need to be able to talk to about all aspects of your case, and attorney-client privilege will protect your confidential communications. Some critical areas that require complete disclosure include:
- Your injuries. Never maximize them — this strategy would likely weaken your case. While it might seem strange to take steps to minimize the effects related to their injury, your attorney will explain that every plaintiff who suffers personal injury has an obligation to take reasonable steps to avoid further loss and to minimize the consequences of the injury. This is called mitigation.
- Your medical history. In order to assess your damages, your attorney will need to review your medical records. An insurance adjuster may request your entire medical record, including not only accident-related treatment records but also your prior medical history. You should never agree to release your medical record to anyone without first consulting with your attorney, since he will typically put limits on how much medical information must be disclosed.
- Your version of the accident. It is important that you tell your attorney exactly what happened, as you remember it, whether or not you bear any fault for your injuries. Only when your attorney has an accurate picture of how your accident happened will he be able to formulate effective arguments and potential defenses on your behalf.
Personal injury cases can take as long as three years or more to resolve, so it will be in your best interest to remain patient. Be compliant with the treatment your medical providers recommend, don’t try to hurry your recovery, and try to just sit back and allow your lawyer to handle your case. Getting impatient won’t make things go any faster, but it could adversely affect your physical recovery and put additional pressure on your strongest advocate — your attorney.