In this twelve-part blog series, personal injury lawyers Bree Hankins and Adrienne Staley discuss important steps to follow after a motor vehicle accident and what you need to know about making a personal injury claim. Part 6 focuses on what to expect when meeting with a lawyer for the first time.
Part 6: What to expect at your first appointment with a lawyer
For many people who have not had to deal with a lawyer or who have had a previous bad experience with the legal system, meeting with a lawyer for the first time can be intimidating and stressful. However, you shouldn’t worry because contrary to popular belief (even amongst some lawyers themselves) lawyers are human beings, just like you. In order to ensure you have a productive first meeting with a lawyer, it is important to be prepared and to know what to expect.
We provide a free initial consultation for motor vehicle and personal injury maters.
One of the first things to note is that, when you contact our office to make an appointment regarding a motor vehicle accident, you will first speak with one of our paralegals. The reason for this is twofold. First so that a conflict search can be conducted within the firm to ensure the lawyer does not have any conflicts which would prevent us from representing you or acting against the other driver involved in the accident. Second, to get some back ground information about your accident and your case so that when you meet with a lawyer they will have a better understanding of some of the issues in your case. Our paralegals will ask you some questions such as:
- When you accident occurred?
- Where the accident happened?
- How did the accident happen?
- Who else was involved in the accident?
- What injuries did you suffer?
- What treatment you are receiving or did receive?
- Whether or not you missed any work as a result of the accident and your injuries?
Once you have scheduled your first appointment, you will need to make sure that you bring important documents with you, such as an accident report from the police (if you have one), any letters you have received from ICBC, any photographs you may have of the accident scene or your injuries after the accident and any referrals or documentation you have received from any treatment providers.
The first time you come to our office for a meeting with one of our lawyers, you will be greeted by our receptionist, who will ask you for two pieces of ID and to fill out our new client form. The Law Society of BC, our governing body, requires that we check ID and verify a client’s identity. We also ask you to fill out a new client form so that we have all your correct contact information.
You will then meet with one of our lawyers. We will ask you questions about the accident and your injuries to gather information so that we can assess your claim and give you some advice. Once we gather information with you we will advise you as to whether or not we think it is worthwhile for you to hire a lawyer to assist you with your claim. Sometimes if your injuries are minor or resolved we may advise you that you would be better off settling you claim directly with ICBC. We will only advise you to hire a lawyer if we feel that our services will add value to your claim. We may also advise you to contact us again after another six months if your symptoms have not improved. We don’t want you to hire us just for the sake of hiring us, we want you to get value out of our service and if we feel you will get better value without our services we will be honest.
If after our initial assessment we feel that our case would benefit from our assistance, then we will discuss our fee structure and retainer with you. For personal injury cases, we work on what is called a contingency fee basis. What that means is that we make a percentage of the total award you receive for your claim and that we do not get paid if you do not get paid. Our fees range from 25% to 33 1/3% depending when your file settles or is concluded. The maximum amount a lawyer may charge in a claim for personal injury or wrongful death arising out of a motor vehicle accident is 33 1/3%. Once we have discussed everything we will let you decide if you feel our firm is the right fit for you and if you want to hire us to represent you for your accident claim.
While it is important to know what will happen at your first meeting with one of our personal injury lawyers, it is also important to know what won’t happen as well. We will not tell you how much your case if worth or how big of a settlement you will get. At this stage we do not have enough information to fully assess your claim and we cannot give you a dollar figure. We will not tell you how long it will take to settle or conclude your claim. We may give you an estimate at the beginning stage; however we do not know how your injuries will progress or how your case will progress to give you a guaranteed time estimate for concluding your case. We also will not insist that you sign our retainer and hire us on the spot. It is important to have a good relationship with your lawyer and we want you to be comfortable hiring us to work with you and help you through a very difficult time in your life. Therefore we do not require you to make a decision right away.