If you’re exploring whether you need to hire a Broward injury lawyer after a car accident or medical malpractice or slip-and-fall or some other injury caused by another, you may have seen the bookend on Florida injury lawyer advertisements offering “a free initial consultation.” But what does that mean, exactly? What should you bring? What sort of questions are they likely to ask? What should you be asking them? How much should you tell the attorney if you haven’t actually hired them?
As a longtime Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer, I take seriously the responsibility to advocate for my clients’ best interests. That begins even with prospective clients. I start with a brief overview of the facts of their case as presented. I look to identify any parties that may be held legally liable. I’ll want to assess the anticipated scope of damages and apply the knowledge and experience gained in decades of practice in Florida injury law to provide a frank assessment of the likely viability and value of their case – and how I may personally be able to assist. All of this can happen before a person has chosen to formally hire an injury lawyer.
Given that you may want to engage more than one Broward injury lawyer in a free initial consultation before deciding which to hire, it’s best to walk in with a good sense of what to have ready. The more a person understands going in what to expect – and what may be expected of them – the more they’ll get out of the process. Ultimately, the goal is to find an injury lawyer who is not only experienced, qualified, and with a proven track record of success, but someone with whom you feel you can be honest, trust, and have easy communication.
Here are some Frequently Asked (and Answered) Questions to get you started:
Why Do Florida Injury Lawyers Offer Free Initial Consultations in the First Place?
Many attorneys charge by-the-hour, and the value of that hour can vary, depending on their experience, the complexity of the case, etc. Attorney consultation fees can run anywhere from $0 to $400. There are a few reasons initial consultations with injury lawyers are free. One has to do with the type of case, and how it’s paid. Plaintiffs in injury lawsuits do not pay attorney’s fees unless or until they win their case. This is called a contingency fee arrangement. Claimants in these types of cases aren’t typically large companies (which can afford lawyers on retainer). They are vying for fair compensation from someone who has legally wronged them. The injury lawyer they hire is paid at the end of a successful case with a previously-agreed portion of the insurance money or damages awarded. Contingency fee arrangements allow people with meritorious cases – but not a lot of extra cash upfront – to access quality legal representation. Attorneys are compelled to be honest with prospective clients, and only help pursue injury cases that have a pretty decent shot at winning. Knowing that many injury case clients don’t have a lot of money upfront, free initial consultations are a low-risk way to help both sides glean the information they need to get a good sense of whether the case is worth pursuing, and if the attorney is a good fit for the client’s needs.
Can an Attorney Give Me Legal Advice Before I Hire Them?
Generally speaking, no, the attorney will not provide you with specific legal advice at an initial consultation. The purpose of this meeting is more focused on whether the prospective client wants to hire the lawyer and if the attorney believes they have the ability and capacity to take the case. Unless an official attorney-client relationship is created (via contract), you aren’t likely to get legal advice. That said, if you come prepared with lots of information, as well as questions about how the law applies to cases like yours, you may be able to get many of your questions answered.
Does Attorney-Client Privilege Apply in a Free Initial Consultation?
Again, generally speaking, when prospective clients are pursuing legal advice or representation and they reasonably believe the communication they’re engaged in to be confidential, information exchanged in the consultation is privileged. This applies even if you never hire or pay that attorney. There is an understanding that a certain amount of sensitive information must be exchanged in order for both sides to decide whether the attorney is a good fit for the case. If you aren’t sure whether certain information is confidential and you would prefer it to be, you can always ask for clarification.
What Should I Bring to the Meeting With a Broward Injury Lawyer I’m Considering Hiring?
The strength of a personal injury case is in the evidence. In the early stages of a case, you may not realize all information that may be pertinent, but you’ll want to gather as much as you can for the attorney to review. Although the specifics may vary from case-to-case, in general what we’re trying to establish is that the defendant owed a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused the resulting injuries – for which you should be financially compensated. Some of the evidence that helps us establish these facts:
- Photographs and video of the scene
- Accident reports
- Investigative notes (from police, store managers, witness statements, etc.)
- Detailed notes from the injured person, describing what happened (Day, time, exact location of incident, weather conditions, people who were with you, what you experienced during the incident, type/full extent of injuries, details of any medical treatment, impact on your work/school/social life/family commitments, etc., impacts on close relationships, etc.)
- Media reports of the incident
- Screen shots of any social media posts, photos, images, videos, etc. regarding the event by you or others involved
- Medical records
- Medical bills
- MRI and X-ray results
- Insurance information (health, auto, etc.)
- Name, address, contact information of others involved, their insurers, etc.
- Documentation of any lost income (include your regular pay stubs, W-2s, income verification, etc.)
- Information on recommended therapies, medications, future surgeries, transportation costs, etc.
- Any communication you or others on your behalf have already head with the insurer(s) involved
What Kinds of Information Can an Injury Lawyer Tell Me in an Initial Consultation?
A Broward personal injury lawyer cannot give you a guarantee on any outcome of your case. That said, they can rely on their own experience, knowledge of Florida law, and the information you’ve provided about what happened to off you some feedback on how things could go and what you’re options are. Some things on which an attorney may be able to shed light – either in the initial consultation or fairly early on in the case:
- Your legal rights based on the situation and facts provided.
- How long the claims process can take. (Claims may be resolved without litigation. If litigation is necessary, resolution will take longer.)
- Time limits you have to file your case (the statute of limitation).
- What sort of evidence will be essential to your claim.
- Who potential defendants are in the case.
- Whether legal representation is necessary for your type of claim.
- Actions you should avoid while your claim is pending.
- Details on how insurance companies are likely to approach your claims.
- Possible outcomes in the case – including how much it may cost you, and how much you may be owed based on the information you provided.
Leaving an initial consultation, you may not have all the answers, but you should feel better educated – and hopefully empowered. If you have additional questions, we’ll do our best to provide you with information so that you can make informed decisions about your next steps.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
How to Hire a Lawyer, Florida Bar Association
More Blog Entries:
4 Most Common Types of Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawsuits, Oct. 8, 2022, Broward Injury Lawyer Blog