Attorney’s checklist for evaluating cases
Here are some of the factors personal injury attorneys consider when evaluating whether to accept a case.
Date of incident.
The sooner you consult an accident attorney after the incident, the better. An accident attorney can make sure the case is handled properly from the start. If you wait too long, the statute of limitations may run and you will lose the right to sue. Also, if you attempt to handle the case yourself, you may make mistakes that are difficult or impossible to correct.
How did the incident happen?
This is extremely important in determining the liability question. If you are the only person at fault for your injuries, an attorney will not be very interested in your case. If you are vague or evasive as to how the incident happened, an attorney will be hesitant about taking the case because he or she will expect that working with you will be difficult.
Place of occurrence.
This question is important to determine the appropriate venue if the case has to proceed to suit. If the incident happened in the county or locality where the attorney’s office is located or in a nearby county, then the convenience of trying the case will make a difference.
If you have sustained injuries, but have not yet seen a physician or medical facility, an accident attorney (and an insurance adjuster and jury) will suspect that your injuries are not serious (unless the accident just happened). An accident attorney will also be interested in how adept you are in explaining the nature of your injuries.
Potential client’s present physical complaints.
An accident attorney will want to know your current physical condition to assess your damages. Has your condition stabilized or is it expected to continue to improve? Will you have permanent disabilities and a need for ongoing treatment?
If the incident is serious and there are witnesses to the incident, an accident attorney will want to interview them or have them interviewed by an investigator as soon as possible.
Medical facilities or physicians consulted.
The names of the facilities and physicians you have consulted will also assist in the initial determination of damages. Have you seen an orthopedic surgeon or a chiropractor? Did you go to a walk-in medical clinic or a hospital? Were x-rays taken or did the doctor make a diagnosis based upon just history and examination?
If you have no insurance, clear liability of another person with insurance or assets is a necessity for a good case.
Contact with any insurance companies.
If the incident happened quite some time ago and you have not contacted your own insurance carrier, an accident attorney will want to know why. You may have problems recovering from your own insurer if you have not given prompt notice of a potential claim.
Location of item that caused the injuries.
If your injury was caused by using a product (e.g., a power tool), you will need to preserved the item.
If an automobile, product, or faulty stair has caused the injuries, pictures should be taken as soon as possible before repair. If you have pictures, bring them to the initial interview for assessment. The extent of damage to the vehicle, if it is an automobile case, will give excellent insight into the liability and damage criteria.
Contact with other attorneys.
An accident attorney will want to know if other attorneys have declined your case or if you have seen a number of other attorneys without hiring any of them. If you are shopping around, an attorney may be cautious about taking your case.
Source of referral.
If you have been referred to an accident attorney by one of the attorney’s respected clients, the attorney will be inclined to believe you are sincere in seeking representation.
Client contact with insurance adjuster.
If you have already been contacted by an insurance adjuster, a substantial amount of time and effort can be saved. Bring the name and phone number of the adjuster to your initial conference with the accident attorney.