What Should I Bring to My Consultation with a Car Accident Attorney?
The smartest step you can take to protect your rights after a car accident is to speak with an attorney. A well-credentialed personal injury attorney can help you avoid mistakes and make sure the claims adjuster treats you fairly. Your lawyer can also approximate a fair settlement amount so you don’t end up accepting a low payout.
Once you’ve scheduled your free consultation—which you should do immediately after leaving the accident scene—it’s a good idea to compile relevant documents and evidence so your first meeting with the attorney is as productive as possible. However, you should not put off the consultation just so you can gather evidence. The sooner your lawyer can perform the initial investigation, the better the chance that time-sensitive evidence will still be available. Also, the insurance adjuster may want a statement within a few days of the crash, and it’s important that you let your attorney handle this dialogue so you don’t say something that leads to a dispute.
Read on to learn a few kinds of documents and evidence to bring to the consultation:
1. A Detailed Description of the Crash
Your recollection of the accident might seem clear in the immediate aftermath, but overlooking just one important detail could inhibit your lawyer’s investigation. By writing down everything you remember, you will be less likely to leave an essential fact or observation out of the discussion.
Having a written description on-hand can help yourlawyer determine the kinds of disputes that are most likely to arise. For instance, if you were texting just before the crash or admitted fault at the scene, a dispute might arise over liability. Your attorney can then focus on gathering evidence to counter such a dispute.
This description can also provide insight into the kinds of evidence that will be needed to strengthen your claim. For example, if the crash happened on a busy street with plenty of commercial buildings nearby, it is likely that it was captured by a surveillance camera or dash cam. Such footage may only be available for a few days, and it might be necessary to file a subpoena to obtain it.
The written description may also help your lawyer identify all liable parties. You might be certain that another driver involved in the accident was solely responsible; however, it may be the case that another party was partially at fault. For example, if the road where the accident happened was negligently designed or maintained, a government entity might be partially liable for your damages. Other potentially liable parties include a mechanic, the other driver’s employer, or the manufacturer of a defective auto part.
A written account of events can also provide insight into whether punitive damages might be available. If the at-fault motorist was under the influence of alcohol or fled the scene, such behavior may constitute gross negligence and warrant an award of punitive damages.
2. Photos of the Scene
Bring any pictures you have of the crash scene and injuries. To simplify the transfer of those photos, consider emailing them to the law firm before you go to the consultation. That way, your attorney might have a chance to evaluate them before your meeting and prepare questions based on those photos.
Pictures of the scene can play an integral role in determining how your car accident lawyer approaches the investigation. For instance, if photos of skid marks and property damage indicate that the at-fault driver was traveling well over the speed limit, your might search for other evidence of speeding in order to justify an award of punitive damages. If the photos indicate that you might have been partially liable and the opposing party has blamed you for the crash, your attorney might bring in an accident reconstruction expert to assist with the investigation.
3. Video Recordings
If you have a dash cam or if you were able to get a copy of surveillance footage from a nearby property, bring those recordings to the consultation. Video footage can serve as valuable evidence of negligence and liability.
4. Contact Info of Relevant Parties
There are many parties your personal injury lawyer may want to contact over the course of the investigation. For example, your attorney might reach out to eyewitnesses to find out what they saw and to determine if their deposition might contribute to your case should it proceed to discovery.
Your attorney may also want to interview your healthcare providers to learn about your diagnosis, prognosis, and the prescribed treatments. That way, your lawyer can provide guidance regarding what you need to do to mitigate the damages. In other words, your attorney can explain the steps you should take to facilitate your recovery, which could prevent the opposing party from arguing that your own negligence has caused your injuries to worsen and increased your medical costs and other damages. Such a dispute could greatly reduce your financial recovery.
Your attorney may also want to contact the other drivers involved in the accident. The sooner your attorney can contact the at-fault driver, the better—because once they hire an attorney, it may be difficult to obtain a detailed statement.
5. Insurance Details of the Other Drivers Involved
In the state of Florida, a person who is injured in an auto accident must typically bring their claim against their own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage unless they meet the serious injury threshold. If you meet this threshold, your attorney will need the insurance information of the at-fault driver in order to bring a third-party claim.
6. Medical Documentation
Your attorney will want to assess any documents you’ve received from your medical providers since the crash. These may include lab test results, diagnostic images, medical bills, and prescription records. Such documents will help your attorney understand your diagnosis, prognosis, and the prescribed treatment.
If you had a preexisting injury that was worsened by the collision, bring along your medical records from before the accident, as well. While you can pursue compensation for the aggravation of a preexisting condition, your attorney will need strong evidence to support the damages calculations. The insurance company may assert that you are trying to claim damages you would have incurred even if the accident had not happened. Your attorney will need strong evidence to counter such a dispute, which would likely include your medical records from before and after the wreck as well as the deposition of your treating physician and other medical experts.
7. Financial Documentation
Victims of personal injury have the right to pursue compensation for any lost income and lost of future earnings caused by the tort. If you have had to miss work due to the accident, your lawyer can help you seek compensation for lost wages, but like any other kind of damages, you will need strong evidence to support the calculations. Such evidence may include paystubs, tax documents, and work contracts.
8. Relevant Correspondence
If the insurance adjuster or at-fault party has reached out to you since the wreck, your attorney will want to know about all such correspondence. It’s not uncommon for accident victims to provide statements that are later used to dispute their claim. Bring along any emails or texts you have shared with the opposing party, as well as a written description of any phone calls or in-person meetings. Such information can help your attorney determine whether your correspondence is likely to lead to a dispute, in which case your legal team can prepare accordingly. Moving forward, it is critically important that you do not provide any statements to the opposing party but, rather, direct all such correspondence to your attorney.
What Questions Will I Be Asked During the Initial Consultation?
Another way to prepare for the initial consultation is to write out the answers to the questions that your attorney will likely ask. Such questions may include:
- How did the collision happen?
- Did you somehow contribute to the accident?
- Have you visited a doctor yet for a medical evaluation?
- What are your diagnosis and prognosis?
- What kinds of treatment has your doctor prescribed?
- Did you have a preexisting injury that was aggravated in the crash?
- Were any arrests made at the scene?
- Have you mentioned the crash on social media?
- Has the insurance company contacted you yet?
- Have you started a personal injury journal?
Call 772-266-5555 to Speak with a Car Accident attorney in Stuart
If you need legal advice after a serious auto accident in Stuart, contact Donaldson & Weston. Our attorneys have represented hundreds of clients in personal injury and wrongful death cases. We will get to work right away to compile all available evidence so your claim is as strong as possible when settlement negotiations begin. If the opposing party refuses to cooperate, we will relish the opportunity to file a lawsuit and proceed to litigation. To set up a free, no-obligation case assessment, send us a message or call 772-266-5555.