If you’ve never needed a personal injury lawyer before, congratulations. If you now find yourself preparing for your initial meeting with your personal injury lawyer, I’m sorry. The lawyer is probably a nice person and will try to make you feel comfortable, but the fact of the matter is, when you need a personal injury lawyer, life is not comfortable. You’re dealing with an injury and perhaps a difficult insurance company. Your life has changed. You need someone to help you take action because you can’t get it done on your own, as much as you’d like to.
The good news is, the right lawyer can help you sort the issues out and secure compensation for you so you’re not left holding the bag for someone else’s mistake. But in order to help, he needs information. ALL the information.
Of course, you’ll want to tell your lawyer all the details of the accident, the injury, your treatment, etc. But you’ll also want to tell your attorney about your past, not because he can absolve you of wrongdoing (for that, you’ll want to speak to a member of the clergy), but so he can prepare against the shots the insurance company or defense attorney will take at you. So, treat your meeting with your attorney as a confession. Tell him all about:
Criminal History: One of the tactics from the other side might be to attack your character. If they can get the jury to dislike you, there’s a better chance the jury will not award you what you deserve for your injuries. Jurors want to believe the money they award is going to a good person or purpose. Thus, it’s important to tell your lawyer about anything in your past that might not reflect well on your character. A good lawyer can dance with these perceived negative facts to give you the best chance at success. But in order to dance, he needs to know his partner. Be up front. Be honest. Don’t hide anything. As thorough as you might be, the other side will uncover everything.
Traffic Citations: While not in the same category as past crimes or wrongdoing, traffic citations can have a big impact on a case, particularly a car accident case. Let your attorney know about past traffic citations so he can address them and dance with them.
History of Drugs or Alcohol: Same reasoning as above applies to drug and alcohol history. While more difficult to obtain by the other side, you’d be surprised at their resourcefulness. Also, drug and alcohol use or abuse might be more relevant to your claims than criminal history. If you’ve been injured, your general health and well being is on trial. So it’s important for your lawyer to know the habits you have that might compromise your health. As an aside, because you’re now involved in a personal injury lawsuit and your health is on trial, QUIT drinking, doping, and smoking!
Prior Injuries: Of course, no one is going to fault you or think less of you because you’ve had prior injuries or illnesses. But the other side will argue that your current knee problem wasn’t caused by their client. It was caused by your skiing accident three years ago. You’ll want to tell your attorney about all prior injuries or illnesses so he can adequately prepare for these types of arguments.
Confessing to a lawyer you’ve never met can be intimidating, uncomfortable, and embarrassing, depending on how imperfect you are, but understand that nobody is perfect, and attorneys have heard it all. Also, understand that what you say to your attorney is just as confidential as what you say to your clergyman. Unless you inform your attorney of your plot to commit a crime or defraud someone, everything you say is confidential. And everything you say will help your attorney craft your case.