Hopefully, you won’t often need to meet with an attorney to discuss how someone else’s negligence caused you serious injury. However, should you face the prospect of meeting with a lawyer to discuss whether and how you need to make a claim for your injuries, you should prepare yourself so that the meeting is as efficient and effective as possible.
For a plaintiff’s attorney, the initial client interview is the first opportunity to learn the facts necessary to properly advise a person of his or her options in obtaining fair compensation for serious injuries. You should be prepared to discuss as many details regarding the incident leading up to your injury as you can, but you should also admit when you do not know, or do not remember, specific parts of the event. If there were witnesses, you should create a list, with contact information, and bring that with you to your consultation. You should also be able to provide a clear chronological description of any and all medical treatment you received as a result of your injuries.
The most important document to provide an attorney at the initial interview, if it exists, is “the report.” In the case of an auto accident, “the report” is the Illinois Motorist Report—the document provided to all parties involved in an auto accident, which must be completed and mailed to the Illinois Secretary of State. You should always keep a copy of the Illinois Motorist Report and bring that copy with you to your initial client interview; it includes identifying information for all involved parties, as well as insurance information for the drivers involved in the accident. Incidents other than auto accidents will not always result in an official “report.” However, many commercial businesses and property owners, (such as grocery stores or parking structures), will generate an Accident Report in some form or another. You should always ask if a report was (or will be) generated, and if so, for a copy of that report. Bring that copy with you to your initial interview.
You should also provide relevant insurance documents at the initial meeting. In the case of an auto accident, this would include your own auto insurance policy and declarations page. If the triggering incident was not an auto accident, you should obtain a copy of your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy and declarations page. These documents will help your attorney identify possible sources of recovery, particularly if the party at fault does not have sufficient coverage to compensate you properly.
If you are in a position to take photos at the scene of the accident, you should do so. Photos of the scene, as well as photos of your injuries or other people’s injuries, should be taken, if possible. Periodic photos of your injuries as they heal over time, including cuts, bruises, scrapes and scars, should also be taken. Be prepared to deliver these photos to your attorney for his initial review of your case.
Although medical records can be helpful for the reviewing attorney, it is generally not necessary to bring your discharge paperwork, medical bills or insurance explanation of benefits forms to your initial consultation. Once an attorney is retained and medical treatment is completed, the attorney will request a complete copy of all records and billing information directly from each of your medical providers, including emergency medical providers such as ambulance companies.
Finally, be prepared to discuss your prior health history as it relates to any injuries you suffered in this accident. This includes any past lawsuits, workers’ compensation claims, or significant medical treatment involving the parts of your body affected by this accident.
All of this information has a bearing on your claims and will assist an attorney in evaluating your case to determine whether he can assist you in obtaining fair compensation for your injuries. The more prepared you are when you walk into your attorney’s office, the more efficient his evaluation of your claims will be, and the sooner you can obtain justice.
Thomas Polacek practices in the area of personal injury for McNamara Phelan McSteen, LLC. He has tried both civil and criminal cases in Illinois and Missouri, as well as in Federal District Court. He has been a successful trial attorney for over 20 years, and he prides himself on keeping his clients well-informed throughout the litigation process.
MPM encourages anyone who has been injured through another’s negligence to contact Tom for a free consultation as soon as possible so that he may review your case and provide you with the proper direction to proceed with your claims.