Your first meeting with your car accident injury lawyer is an important one, as it can set the tone for the rest of your case. Though it is the job of the attorney you hire to prove your claim and protect your rights to maximum compensation, it is up to you to convince prospective lawyers that your case is worth taking on. To do this, you must show up to your initial consultation prepared with convincing evidence and documentation.
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Documentation, Information and Evidence To Bring to Your First Meeting With a Personal Injury Lawyer
The initial consultation, while free, is an exercise in fact finding for the law firm you plan to hire. During this meeting, an attorney will review the evidence to determine the validity of your claim and advise you on what, if any, legal options you have for recovery. Having said that, “What information does my car accident attorney need from me?” is one of the first questions you should ask post-crash. Below is a list of documentation and information that most personal injury attorneys prefer to receive at the first meeting.
A Copy of Your Insurance Policy
New York is a no-fault accident state. What this means is that, when it comes to recovering compensation for injuries you sustain in a motor vehicle accident, you have limited options. Except in cases of “serious injuries,” your only real option for recovery is through your own insurance company.
The purpose of a no-fault car insurance system is to ensure that accident victims can receive prompt payment for their medical expenses, lost wages and other damages, regardless of who was at fault. The state also wishes to relieve the court system’s burden by keeping the number of personal injury claims to a minimum.
Given this information, the courts will likely require you to exhaust all possible insurance options. The good news is that, if both you and the other party maintained the minimum coverage limits, you can likely pursue several avenues of recovery. Those include the following:
- Personal injury protection benefits (no-fault insurance)
- Uninsured motorist benefits
- Liability insurance (through the at-fault party)
To help you determine what options you do have, you should bring a copy of your insurance policy to your first meeting with your lawyer. If you had the foresight to collect it after the accident, you should also bring the other party’s insurance information along as well.
Evidence of Up-To-Date Payments
Not only will you need proof of insurance but also, you will need proof that your premiums are up-to-date. Even if you have never lapsed on your coverage, your insurer may try to say that you have, especially if you file a sizeable claim. If possible, bring along statements that prove that your policy is active and current.
A Detailed Description of the Accident
Either arrive to your initial consultation with a written detailed description of the accident or prepared to explain, in detail, how the accident happened. If you are wondering what details to include, just assume that your attorney will want all of them. Those include the following:
- The Date and Time of the Accident: Your attorney will want the most basic facts first, such as on what date the accident occurred and at what time. The date is very important, as if it has been more than three years since the incident, you may no longer have the right to file a claim.
- The Number of Vehicles Involved: Your attorney may want to know how many other cars were involved, as, if it was more than one, you may be able to pursue compensation against multiple parties’ liability policies.
- How the Accident Happened: Of all the information you can present to your attorney, a detailed description of how the accident happened is probably the most helpful. Unless you have eyewitness reports, video footage and/or police reports corroborating your statements, much of a car accident claim is a he-said-she-said game. You can help to significantly bolster your case if you can tell your attorney exactly where you were when the accident happened, what you were doing at the time of impact, and what you noticed about your surroundings.
Photographs of the Scene and Your Injuries
Photographs can go a long way toward corroborating your story. If you have the forethought to take pictures, bring them along for your attorney to review. Helpful snapshots include those of the damaged vehicles, any and all nearby roadways signs, and skid marks along the road. Photos of your own injuries taken immediately after the accident, along with photos of injuries sustained by your passengers, may also prove helpful.
Police Report and Traffic Citations
A police report can prove hugely beneficial in your car accident claim. If the police were called to the scene of your accident, a report should exist in the department’s database. Request a copy to give to your attorney, as accident reports often include diagrams of where various cars, pedestrians and landmarks were at the time of the accident. The report should also include the responding officer’s first impressions of the accident, his or her opinions on how it happened, and statements from involved parties and witnesses. The information contained in a police report can help your lawyer develop a more solid understanding of your case.
In addition to police reports, provide your attorney with traffic citations that either you or the other party received following the accident. Traffic citations can contribute to your attorney’s understanding of how the incident happened.
Statements to the Insurance Company
Following car accidents, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to reach out to policyholders to request more information. Because New York is a no-fault state, there is little you can say to your insurer that will hurt your chances of recovering compensation. However, if you did speak with your provider prior to consulting with an attorney, request copies of all statements that you made. If you can file an injury claim against the at-fault party, your statements may hurt your case. It is important that your attorney knows what you said ahead of time so that he or she can work on ways to explain away a potentially harmful statement.
Both PIP and UM coverage provide benefits for two main types of losses: Medical expenses and lost wages. To properly calculate how much in medical expenses — both past and future — to which the law entitles you, your attorney will need copies of your medical records. Your medical records should include information regarding your diagnosis, prognosis, and outlook. If the accident has had an emotional or psychological impact on you, provide your attorney with your mental health records as well.
If your injuries prevent you from working, or if they caused you to miss out on work for any period of time, present your employer with paystubs. Your employer can calculate how much money you have lost thus far, and how much more you stand to lose, so that you can recover a full and fair amount.
Schedule Your Initial Consultation Today
Gathering evidence to support your claim is a crucial first step in a series of several others. Armed with the right information, a New York car accident attorney can give you an idea of the validity of your case, its value and whether you have options for recovery outside of filing a claim against your own insurer. He or she can also use the information to push for the maximum amount of compensation on your behalf. To get started on the claims process, schedule your free initial consultation with Cellino Law today.
New York State Bar Association:https://nysba.org/NYSBA/Sections/Torts%20Insurance%20Compensation/TICL%20PDFs/Serious_Injury_Threshold_in_New_York-5_Things_you_need_to_know.pdf
New York State Department of Financial Services: https://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumers/auto_insurance/minimum_auto_insurance_requirements