After being in an accident, you have the option of hiring a personal injury lawyer to help you with your claim or going it alone. What you may not know is that most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation. A free consult gives you the opportunity to have a lawyer review the facts in your case and provide you with the information you need to decide whether it would be advisable to have a lawyer deal with ICBC on your behalf.
A second benefit of a free initial consultation is that it gives you an opportunity to learn more about the lawyer so you can decide if they have the necessary knowledge, experience, and skill to advocate for you and your case. After your initial consultation, you should have a good idea about the viability of your claim, and whether the lawyer is the right person for the job.
To make the most of your first meeting with a lawyer, here are a few suggestions:
What Should I Bring?
Before your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer, gather all existing documents that relate to the accident. Having these documents on-hand will help the lawyer assess your case. Depending on the nature of your injuries this may include estimating the potential monetary value of your claim. You should be aware that in many cases the full extent of your injuries and the impact they have on your life will not be known. This is because your injury may not have fully resolved by the time you have your consultation. More about this in a moment.
Your lawyer will need very detailed facts about your accident. Ideally, they should have access to the documents listed below. However, don’t worry if you don’t have all the documents. Part of a lawyer’s job is to gather all the available evidence in a case to help them confirm liability and assess damages.
Documents for Your First Meeting
ICBC Adjuster Report / ICBC Statement – If you have already reported your accident to ICBC, and provided them with a statement, it’s helpful for your lawyer to review the content. That said, if you don’t have the statement on hand, your lawyer can access this later.
Personal Statement – Memories fade quickly. Therefore, it’s useful to write down all the accident details as soon as possible after the accident. It can help if you draw a diagram of the accident scene including the direction you were traveling, where the other vehicle or object was, positioning of any traffic controls (lights or signs), and any obstructions that might have obscured your line of sight in the accident. Bring the statement and your diagram with you when you go to see your lawyer. If possible, your statement should include the date and time the accident happened, the weather, traffic conditions, the name and contact details of witnesses, anything the other party said to you after the accident, and any physical or mental injuries you sustained from the accident.
Police Accident Report – If an officer was called to the scene of your accident, they will likely have filed an accident report. This isn’t provided at the scene, but you can request a copy of the accident report (from?). This report has important information including information about the people involved in the accident and any witnesses. However, don’t rely solely on the police to collect all of this information. Frequently, witnesses leave the scene before the police arrive. Often the report also provides details about the accident circumstances, and if any statements were made to the officer admitting fault.
Ambulance Report / Hospital Admittance Report – If your injuries were serious enough to require an ambulance to attend there should be an ambulance report and a corresponding hospital report that provides evidence of the injuries you sustained. Your lawyer may ask you to sign a medical release to allow them to obtain the reports if you don’t have copies yourself. [How to get these reports for yourself?]
Photographs and/or Videos – Having photos of the accident scene, your vehicle, and your injuries, are all helpful pieces of evidence that may support your claim. Bringing those to your first meeting with a personal injury lawyer will give them a more accurate picture of your case.
Medical Reports and Bills – If you’ve seen a doctor or specialist for treatment relevant to your injuries, it can also be helpful to provide your lawyer copies of their medical records and any reports they might have produced. Reports can include information like diagnosis, treatment, and your potential for recovery. Your lawyer will also factor the information in these reports to build an assessment of the amount of damages required to compensate you for your injuries.
Insurance Policies – The details on both your health and automobile insurance policies are important. Your lawyer will want to determine if you have any additional health care or disability coverage through your employer and will want to see the terms of your car insurance.
Vehicle Damage Costs – Have you taken your vehicle to an auto repair shop to be fixed? If so, bring the receipts that list both the amount of damage to the vehicle and the cost to fix the damages. If you’ve just received an estimate from an auto repair shop, then bring the estimate for the lawyer to review.
What Questions Should I Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer?
When you discuss your claim with a personal injury lawyer, there are several questions BTM Lawyers recommends that you ask. These questions can help you gauge the knowledge and experience of the lawyer, but they will also help you understand your case and what you can expect if you take your claim further with ICBC.
- Do I have a claim worth taking legal action on?
- What evidence do I need to support my case?
- What should I be doing while awaiting my settlement?
- What are my options for settling this claim outside of court?
- If my claim goes to litigation, what steps must be taken?
- How long will it take for my case to go to court?
- If I’m successful, how do I get my compensation?
- How much will this cost in legal fees?
- What can I do to save money?
- What is your fee and billing structure?
- How often can I expect communication from you, and when am I able to contact you?
- Do you have references from past clients I can talk to?
While the personal injury lawyer may not have a quick answer for all the above questions, they should be able to provide insight based on their previous experience tackling ICBC. They should also be able to clearly explain how they plan to bill you, what they expect from you, and how they plan to communicate the steps of the legal process to you. You should feel comfortable asking a personal injury lawyer questions, and they should be able to clearly communicate their answers, from the initial consult all the way to settlement or judgment.
What Questions Will I Be Asked?
One purpose of an initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer is to give them an idea of the big picture so that you can get the best idea of your legal options. This means you should disclose as much information as possible to a lawyer, whether you think what you’re providing is good or bad for your case. Your lawyer will decide the strength of your claim based on the documentation we listed above, but also by analyzing your answers to their questions and the facts you disclose. We have listed questions below that you might be asked:
- Can you describe the accident that took place?
- When and where was it?
- What was the time of day and what was the weather like?
- How was traffic?
- What vehicle were you driving?
- How were you sitting in the vehicle?
- How old was the vehicle and when was it last serviced?
- What injuries did you receive from the accident?
- Have you been experiencing aches and pains?
- Have your friends or family noticed a change in your personality since the accidents?
- What injuries have you had before the accident?
- Have you missed time from work or had to leave work early?
- Have you had trouble focusing at work?
- Has a doctor suggested missing work as part of treatment?
- What other treatments has your doctor suggested?
Meeting a lawyer for the first time is an opportunity for you to speak with someone who has the knowledge and experience to analyze the validity of your claim, but also gives you the option to decide if this particular lawyer is the best person for your case. Hiring a personal injury lawyer with experience working against ICBC has many benefits, and we invite you to speak with a member of our team if you decide to pursue a claim with ICBC.
At BTM Lawyers, we offer free initial consultations for personal injury cases. This allows you to talk to us without obligation so you can find out where you stand.