Free Consultation? Keep These Points In Mind When Meeting With A Lawyer On Your Injury Case

June 16, 2021 | 6:00 am


You always hear about “free consultations” by lawyers, but what does that really mean, and what should a great consultation look like for someone who needs legal help?

Accident and injury attorney Matt Clark of Chain | Cohn | Stiles answers this frequently asked legal question in a new video below, and we share everything you need to know below about consultations from an accident and injury lawyer.

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Accident and personal injury claims can be complicated, which is why it’s most important to hire an experienced and reputable attorney. There are three main points to keep in mind when beginning the hiring process and meeting with a lawyer for a free consultation:

1) Make sure it’s a reputable law firm or lawyer giving you a consultation. Do your research. Look at reviews and comments from past clients. Negative reviews and lack of client feedback is a big red flag. Remember, personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers should be helping clients move forward with their lives. Don’t hesitate to ask a potential lawyer for references.

2) Make sure you’re meeting with an actual attorney. You’d be surprised how often injured clients never get to meet with an attorney either before their case is signed up, or during a case. That is unacceptable. A lawyer should always be available to meet with you and answer any questions you may have about your case from the first meeting on.

3) A consultation should be free, confidential, and with no obligation to commit. Anything other than free, confidential, and no-pressure meetings is never OK.

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Once you decide which attorneys you’ll meet with about your case, you’ll want to be aware of several things in preparation for the initial consultation. Most injury lawyers offer an initial consultation at no charge. Here are 5 points to keep in mind before you sit down with an attorney to discuss your case:

1) You Can Ask Questions: You want to make sure you hire someone you feel comfortable with, who you can trust, and who has your best interest at heart. Here are a few questions you can ask:

  • What is your experience with my type of case?
  • What is your success record?
  • Who will actually be working on my case? Make sure your case isn’t handed off to a paralegal or legal assistant. You want to make sure an actual lawyer is taking care of your case.
  • Who can I talk to if I have questions during my case? An attorney should always be available to answer any of your questions.
  • How long does it take to resolve a case like mine? Potential lawyers should be able to give you a rough estimate.
  • What is my case worth? A good, experienced lawyer should also have a good idea of what your case is worth. Be wary of attorneys who make estimates that seem unrealistic.

2) Fees: A consultation should always be free and confidential, and the injury lawyers should always work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay nothing out of pocket until the legal team recovers money damages in your case through a settlement or verdict. At that point, the lawyer is given a percentage of that award, typically between 33% and 40% if the case is taken to trial. Review the contract and agree on the structure before signing it. In this format, the attorney is responsible for any legal costs if a case is unsuccessful, not the client.

3) Gather Evidence: The lawyer, too, can decide whether or not he or she wants to take your case. Be sure to come to your free consultation with any evidence of you incident and subsequent injuries. This could include photographs of the scene or injuries, a police report, and medical records. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of the records; if a lawyer is interested in your case, the legal team will be able to gather all of that information for you. The attorney will also have some questions, including detail about any accident.

4) Legal Team: You need to feel comfortable working with and trusting the attorney and legal team you ultimately choose. Some law firms send non-attorneys to sign up your case, or even pretend to be local when their offices are actually in another city. Still others shift work to non-lawyers. Many lawyers, also, will take on too many cases, causing unnecessary delays. Lawyers should also focus on taking each to a jury trial, even this likely won’t be necessary. This guarantees each case reaches its fullest value, and your case isn’t settled for less.

5) No Agreement: While you have a choice on who to hire, the attorney too might not accept your case due to a number of factors: conflict of interest, statute of limitations expired, minor injuries and small recovery, you caused the accident, or the attorney doesn’t have expertise in your case. If a lawyer can’t help you with your case, he or she should be able to refer you to someone who could help.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

What happens in a personal injury lawsuit?

January 30, 2019 | 10:42 am


At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we meet with clients every day who have never been involved in a lawsuit. Simply, they don’t know what to expect, or how the legal process works. The truth is, lawsuits are exceptionally complicated and involved processes.

The good news is that the attorneys and staff at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have decades and decades of legal experience.

“Our job is to take the burden of worrying about the lawsuit off your shoulders,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We want you and your family to focus on healing and leave the lawsuit to us. That being said, we want you to understand how the system works and how a lawsuit works through the legal system.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has compiled a thorough outline of a personal injury lawsuit, which we have reproduced below. For a more interactive learning experience, visit the website, chainlaw.com/steps-of-a-lawsuit.

 

Step 1: Contact a Personal Injury Attorney from Chain | Cohn | Stiles

Before anything, contact our team of Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury attorneys. Make sure you contact your attorney before you contact insurance companies or do any kind of negotiating with the Defendant. Once you have made contact with our law firm, your attorney will guide you on all the necessary information we need for successfully litigating a case against the defendant. During this initial gathering of information, your attorney will ask you to provide:

  • Medical records and bills
  • Records of loss of earnings and future loss of earnings
  • Police report (if there is one)
  • Insurance policy information and proof of coverage (if applicable)

In addition, your legal team, including a professional investigator employed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, will gather more important pieces of information including:

  • Taking witness statements
  • Scene and other photographs
  • Gather data from the vehicles in auto accident cases
  • Obtain expert witnesses as necessary

 

Step 2: Pre-Lawsuit and Settlement Negotiations

After your attorney gathers all of the possible and necessary information so that we can fully evaluate your case, including all of your medical and billing records.  At this stage, you have either completed your medical care and treatment, or you’ve reached a point in your care and treatment where we can reasonably anticipate what your future medical needs may be. Once we have all of this information, we will schedule a meeting with you.  The purpose of the meeting is to formulate a settlement demand, or depending on your case, we may recommend filing a lawsuit before submitting a formal settlement demand.

A Settlement is an agreement that can sometimes be made between the Plaintiff and the Defendant without having to go to Trial, or before a lawsuit is filed. Once the settlement demand is drafted, it will be delivered, in the form of a letter from Chain | Cohn | Stiles, to the Defendant’s insurance company. A settlement can be negotiated and accepted by both parties or refused by one party or the other. If a settlement cannot be reached, your attorney will begin to draft a formal Complaint and submit it to the appropriate court.

 

Step 3: Complaints and Answers

Once the formal Complaint has been submitted to, and reviewed by, the appropriate court, the document will be Served to the Defendant. This formal service of papers will inform the Defendant that they are being Sued and of the reasons why. After the Defendant has been Served, they will have several weeks from the date the documents were officially given to them to Answer the Complaint, or file another responsive pleading, such as a Demurrer or Motion to Strike.

 

Step 4: Discovery

After the Defendant answers the complaint, the discovery process begins. During Discovery, information will be gathered and presented in a legal setting to both parties of the suit. Information gathered will include:

  • Interrogatories
  • A Request to Produce Documents
  • Deposition
  • A Request for Admission
  • A Defense Medical Examination

It is important to understand that the discovery process can last many months.  After a party makes a request for information, it generally takes 30 days or more before they will receive a response.  These timelines are dictated by the California Code of Civil Procedure, and every case must proceed in accordance with the code.

 

Step 5: Case Management Conference

An in-between step to your lawsuit is the Case Management Conference. The purpose of this conference is primarily to set a trial date.  Your attorney will attend this conference for you – you do not need to attend.  After a trial date is assigned by the judge, your attorney will send you a letter confirming the trial date. In Kern County, it is common for the Court to assign a trial date to occur approximately 18 months after the filing of the lawsuit.  This time period can vary though. In other counties, such as Los Angeles, it is not uncommon for a Court to assign a trial date 2 years or later from the date the lawsuit was filed.

 

Step 6: Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures

Once Discovery and the Case Management Conference are complete, the court and parties to the lawsuit will likely engage in some form of Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures. Different jurisdictions handle ADR differently. In Kern County, you are almost always ordered to attend a Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC).  These are typically scheduled 30-days before the trial date. You are required to attend the MSC with your attorney.  At the MSC a Superior Court Judge will meet with your attorney and the defense attorney, and make an effort to settle your case (although the Judge does not have the power to make either side settle).

  • Arbitration
  • Mediation

Often times, cases will go to both mediation, and if the mediation is unsuccessful, the parties will still attend an MSC with the Court.

 

Step 7: Trial

If the Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures fail to produce a settled case, then the lawsuit will go to Trial. During a trial you can expect a Jury to decide the case.  Once the jury is selected through Voir Dire, the parties have the opportunity to give Opening Statements, present their evidence in turn, and then give their Closing Arguments. Following the Closing Arguments, the Jury will Deliberates and returns to the courtroom to announce the Verdict.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.