Following a serious injury in South Florida, you may recognize the value of talking to a personal injury lawyer about a potential case. But how will a West Palm Beach injury lawyer evaluate your claim? More often than not, folks have no idea what to expect.
Here, we offer a bit of insight into how injury lawyers will review your case, what points will be most relevant, and what information/documentation you can have on hand to get the most out of your first meeting.
What is an Initial Consultation?
First thing’s first: Explaining the initial consult. This can happen in-office. In some cases, we come to you. More typically, we begin our discussions over the phone or in a video conference, for everyone’s convenience.
Most personal injury lawyers offer free initial consultations. It’s a risk-free opportunity for you to ask questions, get a sense of whether you have a case (and what it might be worth), and obtain an outline of possible challenges you may encounter. It’s also a chance for the attorney to determine whether they have the skills and the resources to take on your case. In a sense, you’re both interviewing each other.
Personal injury cases in Florida are accepted by lawyers on a contingency fee basis. That means you do not pay attorney’s fees unless and until you win. If you win (usually in settlement negotiations, but sometimes at trial), the attorney will be paid a pre-agreed-upon percentage of what you won (somewhere between 25-40 percent, depending on case complexity, attorney experience, etc.). If you do not win, the attorney does not collect payment. For this reason, injury lawyers must be careful about which cases they accept.
The good news for prospective clients is that your lack of upfront payment will not deter you from pursuing a strong claim. You also get the benefit of a straightforward answer about the viability and value of your claim from the beginning.
One of the most fundamental elements of any tort claim rooted in negligence is that of fault. When we get the rundown of events, we’re looking for evidence of which parties may be at fault, and to what extent.
That might sound fairly simple. But looking at your case through the lens of a personal injury lawyer means we’re considering how it looks to the insurers, as well as a potential judge/jury.
For example, if you were hit by a vehicle whose driver was drunk, you’re going to presume the driver is at-fault. And that could be. However, an injury lawyer will want to know more. Was the driver underage or known to be an alcoholic? If so, the bar that served him/her could be held legally liable under the state’s dram shop laws. If the driver was operating a vehicle that was owned by someone else, the vehicle owner could be held vicariously liable because Florida considers motor vehicles to be dangerous instrumentalities, per a 1920’s-era Florida Supreme Court case.
If you’re pursuing a medical malpractice claim, you might think clearly the doctor is at-fault. But we’ll be looking at who actually employed the doctor (and it isn’t always the hospital), as they may be vicariously liable under the legal doctrine respondeat superior, which is Latin for, “let the master answer.” Traveling nurse agencies may have some degree of liability. And facilities may have some responsibility if their processes and protocols fell short of the applicable standard of care.
It’s important to properly determine fault at the outset so that we can identify those responsible in the claim.
Examining the Evidence
In a personal injury case, it’s not just about what we believe happened, but what we can prove happened. Examples of evidence we routinely seek in personal injury claims:
- Medical records of injuries.
- Police reports of accidents.
- Witness statements.
- Photos or videos of the accident/aftermath.
Examining the Damages
Curiosity about the value of the case is a primary question our West Palm Beach injury lawyers get early on. The more information we have, the better estimate we can give you.
The monetary value placed on your South Florida personal injury case is known as “damages.” There are many different types of damages, but essentially, we want to know the ways in which this impacted your life. What bills have you accrued? Were you able to keep your job? How has this impacted your personal relationships and social life?
Damages can be broken down into two primary categories: Economic and non-economic.
Economic damages, sometimes referred to as special damages, are those with a clear impact on your finances. These are things like the medical bills that have been piling up, the anticipated medical bills you’re going to pay for future surgeries, therapies, and medication, the income you’ve lost while recovering, the long-term income you’ve lost by not being able to return to work in the same capacity, the property damage you sustained as a result of the incident, etc.
Non-economic damages, sometimes referred to as general damages, or those intangible things. These are tougher to put a price tag on, but they include things like emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment, trauma from scarring, loss of consortium, mental anguish, etc. Of course, there are some things no amount of money can replace or make right, but we can still fight to hold the at-fault parties accountable.
Examining the Challenges
Part of our job as an injury lawyer during the initial consultation is to give it you straight: What are going to be the uphill battles you face? What are the practical and legal impediments to winning your claim? How can we help you overcome them? What is it likely to take? How long will it take? These are all things that we can give a rough estimate of, but only a case-by-case basis after careful consideration of the facts.
What to Bring
In addition to any questions you might have, some notes/documents you may consider bringing to this initial consultation may include:
- Any notes/timelines/records you have of what exactly took place, from your own recollection. Sometimes it truly helps to write or type it all out in advance before saying it out loud. You aren’t necessarily committing those words to stone, but when you can provide us all the details – to the best of your recollection – it can help us better piece together the puzzle.
- Any photographs, videos, posts, or news articles of the incident or scene and/or your subsequent injuries.
- The names and contact information of any potential witnesses and any/all potential defendants you can think of.
- Any/all medical records detailing your injuries.
- Any/all medical bills – including those for follow-up treatments, specialist referrals, therapies, medication, travel expenses, etc.
- Any/all records that show, illustrate, or detail the property damage you sustained.
- Pay stubs/records of your employment, and any records indicating how this accident may have affected it. (Were you forced to go on leave? Did you have to take another position? Did you lose your job altogether?)
- Any information that might help us illustrate how this has impacted your mental health/personal life.
If you have any questions about whether you should bring specific documentation to the initial consultation, ask and our West Palm Beach injury lawyers can let you know.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
F.S. 16.0155, Contingency Fee Arrangements
More Blog Entries:
Types of Damages in a Palm Beach Car Accident Lawsuit, March 18, 2022, West Palm Beach Personal Injury Lawyer Blog