You might want to consider a free consultation with a lawyer if you’ve been hurt in an accident, whether a car wreck, crash with a big truck, slip-and-fall, or another personal injury. The first step involves doing a little research about personal injury attorneys near you.
After you have narrowed down your list, you may want to schedule a free consultation to learn about the personal injury claims process and your specific case and get answers to other questions.
This article covers the following:
a) What to expect in a free consultation,
b) Tips on how to maximize your free consultation with a personal injury lawyer and
c) How to make the meeting as productive as possible.
The First Meeting With a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer
When you first talk to a personal injury lawyer in an initial consultation, they will want to hear clearly and concisely how the accident occurred. If you have lost a family member, you may not know how the accident occurred. In that case, the attorney will want as much information about what you know as possible.
Different law firms have different procedures for initial consultations. The consultation length can vary depending on the specific lawyer or law firm. As a general rule, the more serious the injury or damages, the longer the consultation will take.
The interview might be as brief as 15-30 minutes for some cases like an automobile accident. For more complex cases, the initial consultation can take longer.
At the Baumgartner Law Firm, we always conduct an initial consultation on the telephone and schedule an in-person meeting if the case is one we feel we can help you win.
Eight things to know about your personal injury consultation
Choosing an attorney for your free consultation should involve some basic research to help find the right attorney for your specific case.
Before you schedule a consultation, you will want to learn a little about the attorneys you are considering. Start by looking at some attorney directories such as Martindale.com, Texas Bar Association, AVVO, and others. Also, look at the Google reviews for the attorney you are considering.
Not every attorney is a perfect fit for every personal injury case. Some cases, such as a car accident resulting in a whiplash injury, probably do not require decades of experience to handle appropriately—the more experienced the automobile injury attorney, the more likely they focus on cases with extremely severe injuries and damages.
You will want to consider the attorney’s experience with the specific type of case you are inquiring about. Taking advantage of a free consultation can only benefit you regardless if you choose the attorney or not. Getting experienced lawyers’ feedback will provide helpful insight.
When you first speak with the attorney, your first impression is often the best. While the vast majority of personal injury cases end up settling before trial, if the case does not settle early, your interaction with the lawyer can be relatively lengthy.
The more comfortable you are talking with the attorney, the better. They probably are if you get the impression that the attorney is too busy. Can you speak directly with the lawyer, or do nonlawyers conduct your interview?
Does the attorney seem reputable and credible? Answering these questions can tell you if the law firm is the one for you.
What information should I bring with me?
We tell our prospective clients to bring everything. The more information you bring to the initial consultation, the better. If you bring something that you are uncertain is relevant to the case, it only takes a minute for the lawyer to determine its relevancy.
The discussion will center around two essential areas:
(1) How the accident occurred, and
(2) Your injuries and medical treatment.
The more information you bring relating to these two areas, the better.
Such information could include the following:
- Crash report
- Photographs and videos
- Information about any witnesses
- Notes you may have taken
- Information about the other driver
- Any contact information with an adverse insurance company
- A copy of your declaration page on your auto policy
- A copy of your health insurance card
- Any discharge records from the emergency room or other medical records
It is helpful to give the attorney everything and let them sort out what they need to understand the accident and your injuries fully. When in doubt, bring it!
The Statute of Limitations in Texas
Texas has a statute of limitations that requires that cases be brought within a certain amount of time after the occurrence. For instance, the general statute of limitations in Texas is two years from the date of the accident. There are other limiting considerations in Texas, depending on the type of claim.
The impact of the statute of limitations on your case will not be of great importance for those who have just been in an accident and are seeking counsel. However, it will greatly impact those who feel they want to pursue a case years after the occurrence.
Do not wait until the last minute to contact an attorney. The earlier you speak with a qualified personal injury attorney, the better for your case.
Exactly how the accident happened
Be prepared to talk about how the accident occurred. We often ask personal injury victims to draw a diagram of the accident scene to understand the crash scene better.
If you have been in an accident, here are six things to do after an accident. It is usually helpful to write down the information regarding witnesses, investigating officers, and other people at the scene.
Sometimes recording information on a cell phone can be a wealth of information. Snapping a few photographs of the other driver, their proof of insurance card, and the damage to the vehicles is an excellent way of documenting necessary information.
The personal injury attorney will usually get a thorough understanding of the cause of the accident before moving on to the medical issues in the case.
When you call to schedule a free initial consultation, think about the following question before you first speak with the attorney.
“What did the other person do wrong.”
Frequently, people are so overwhelmed by the situation that they find it difficult to discuss the most vital details. If you are in an automobile accident and are stopped at a red light and hit from the rear, a simple statement such as “I was stopped at a red light, and they hit me from the rear” is enough to give the attorney an understanding of the liability issues.
Most attorneys have been trained to process information logically. You can expect the attorney to ask you many questions designed to help them understand what happened and why.
Your injuries and treatment
Another area of importance for your initial consultation is the injuries you suffered in an accident. A lawyer for a truck accident in Houston will want to know the following:
- When were you first treated, and where?
- Were you admitted to the hospital?
- Any follow-up treatment you have received since the accident?
- Any prescriptions for medication that you have been given because of the accident.
- Any scheduled follow-up treatment.
- Whether or not you have health insurance.
- If any testing has been done.
- Approximate cost of your medical care to date, if you know.
- If you have missed work because of the accident.
Information about your injuries and who was at fault will make it easier for the lawyer to understand how the accident happened, who may have been at fault, and what your injuries and damages are so far. Answer all questions as fully and truthfully as you can.
A mistake many personal injury victims make is failing to be completely candid with the attorney. Usually, this is because a person thinks the information they withhold may hurt their case.
You must tell any attorney you hire everything that might adversely affect your case. Failure to do so can and will hurt your case. However, if your attorney knows about the adverse information, they can take steps to minimize it or eliminate it at trial.
If they don’t know about the information that can hurt the case, it can devastate your case. Three things you must tell your injury lawyer would be a prior claim, a criminal conviction, or a prior injury to the same part of the body.
Have questions ready
When you first talk with the attorney, it is their chance to understand what happened and its impact on you. It is your chance to learn about the attorney and his abilities. Undoubtedly you will have many questions, and it can be helpful to write down your questions before the interview.
Do not be concerned about any questions you may ask.
Here are some frequently asked questions you may consider in an initial interview:
- Do I need a lawyer for this case?
- How long will this case take?
- What if the adjuster calls?
- How will my medical expenses get paid?
- Is there anything I need to do right now?
- Is there anything I should avoid doing?
- If I hire you, who will I be talking with when I have questions or concerns?
- If you accept the case, what percentage do you charge?
- What expenses come out of the settlement?
- What can I expect if I hire you to take my injury case?
Do I have a Case?
It does not take a personal injury attorney long to judge whether they think they can make a case for damages. Not every case requires an attorney.
Not every injury is appropriate for compensation. There are three essential factors every personal injury attorney considers when accepting or declining a case:
(2) Damages, and
(3) The ability to collect.
Issues lawyers consider in declining a case
- No injury or minor injury
Generally, all three of these factors must be considered when an attorney decides to accept or decline the case. An example would be if you are in a bad accident, and your car is totaled, but you suffered no injuries.
- No insurance coverage
In such a case, you might have a tough time finding an attorney to take the case because there are no injuries. Another example would be if you were in a terrible accident and suffered severe injuries and hospitalization. Still, no insurance coverage can be found – it will be challenging to find an attorney for help.
- You are at fault
A further example would be if the accident were partly your fault. In Texas, you can be partially at fault for the accident and still collect damages if you were less than 51% at fault. If a jury finds you 51% at fault, you cannot collect damages in Texas.
Because attorneys handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, the best attorneys are usually very picky in the cases they accept. If the attorney believes you have a case, but it is not a case that they would take, ask the attorney for a referral.
Often, the attorney will have a few names of other attorneys that they feel would be a perfect fit for your case.
Where Do We Go From Here?
If you retain an attorney after the initial consultation, the law firm will need you to fill out paperwork and sign a representation agreement. A written fee agreement is required in Texas for a contingent fee personal injury case.
Always read the fee agreement and ask any questions you may have BEFORE you sign.
Lawyer fees in Houston for a personal injury claim
Most Houston personal injury attorneys have similar fees starting at 33.33%. However, firms vary in charges.
Our policy at Baumgartner Law Firm is that we generally do not charge more than the client will receive at settlement (except only if the client declines our advice).
Settlement is rare while the client is still treating
The timeline for a personal injury case varies depending on the case type and injuries suffered. Unless there is a statute of limitations issue, many attorneys choose not to attempt to settle or litigate cases while the client is still treated medically for his injuries.
The reason for delaying the settlement discussions on the case is that the damage model is not developed, and the settlement would be premature.
Generally, obtaining your medical records in a form admissible at trial takes several months. This delay is not because the attorneys are dallying in obtaining the information, but rather that the hospitals and doctors do not make money by providing the documents. Therefore, getting them to move forward and release the necessary medical information takes much effort.
Get a Free Consultation from a Top-rated Houston Personal Injury Attorney at Baumgartner Law Firm
We offer free telephone consultations on any injury case that occurs in the state of Texas. If we believe that we might be of assistance to you, and this is a case that we may accept, we will do an in-person consultation at your convenience.
The Baumgartner Law Firm limits the number of new cases we take to provide our clients the best possible legal representation.
We have been in the same area of Houston for over 35 years and are proud to support and give back to our community whenever possible.
If you have questions about an injury or an accident in Houston, Harris County, Texas, call us at 281-587-1111 or fill out our convenient contact form. See some of our 5-star reviews or read about recent results!