Whether by phone, in person, or online, preparing for your initial consultation is important.
Prior to discussing your potential claim with a personal injury attorney, it is valuable to put together a timeline of key events. Your attorney will almost certainly ask you the following questions:
When did the injury occur?
On what date did you first receive medical attention for your injury?
Medical appointments are important. You should do your best to include in your timeline the dates of any surgeries, physical therapy, or appointments with specialists. If you were hospitalized for your injuries, your admission and discharge dates should be provided, too.
While a timeline of events is crucial, sometimes exact dates are difficult to recall, especially if the injury happened awhile ago. Look back through your calendar or smart phone to try to determine when specific events took place. Did the injury occur around a holiday or another meaningful date? If so, use that as a point of reference to help you narrow it down. Maybe you texted a friend about your injury or posted about your hospitalization online. If you can’t remember a specific date, consider whether you may have written something down.
In most cases, in Illinois, an injured person has two years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. This time limit, known as the statute of limitations, may prevent you from filing if you wait too long. There are, however, exceptions to this rule, so you should always consult an attorney about a potential personal injury claim.
During your initial consultation, the attorney will ask you to describe what happened. Though the length of your narrative will vary depending on the details of your case, try to keep your facts to a single paragraph or page. Remember the “Five Ws”: Who? What? Where? When? and Why?
You should be able to answer the following questions:
Who was involved in the accident? (Include both the injured party or parties and anyone who may have caused the accident.)
Who was present? (Did anyone witness the injury other than the parties involved? Did you speak with anyone immediately after the injury, including police officers, doctors, store managers, etc.?)
What injury or injuries did you suffer? (You may also want to discuss with your attorney the possibility of claiming financial injuries such as lost income due to time off of work.)
What medical treatment did you undergo as a result of your injury? (Include past and any known future treatments.)
Where did the injury take place? (Were you injured at someone’s home or a place of business? Did the accident take place at an intersection?)
When did the injury take place? (Try to include both the date and time of day.)
Why did the injury occur? (What do you think caused the injury?)
Your attorney will likely be able to acquire most of the necessary documents for your case. However, some documents are critical to an initial consultation so the attorney can begin to evaluate your potential claim. Try your best to provide the following to your attorney as early as possible:
Witness contact information
Photographs (of your injuries and the location where the injury took place)
Names and locations of any medical providers who treated you following the injury
Set Goals and Prepare Questions
People contact an attorney for many reasons. It is important to think about why you are contacting an attorney and what you want your attorney to do for you. Consider what you would like to accomplish by hiring an attorney and your specific goals. Your attorney can discuss your options with you, but it is wise to ask yourself what it is you would like to achieve.
Finally, prepare questions for the attorney, and write out these questions in advance. The attorney may not be able to answer all of your questions during an initial consultation. Often, the attorney will need to review the details of your case, medical records, or other facts or factors that are unavailable to the attorney during an initial consultation prior to providing an exact answer to some of the questions your questions, but it does not hurt to ask.
Questions regarding the attorney’s experience, next steps, and things that you can do to help ensure a favorable and expeditious resolution are great questions to ask.
Preparation for your first consultation meeting is important. It can help save you time, money, and ensure you find the right attorney-client relationship for you.