There are many things you need to do to prepare to meet with your lawyer. In a personal injury case, it is important to gather all of the written documentation supporting your claim. Without the proper documentation, it will be difficult for your attorney to evaluate the merits and value of your case. Moreover, during your first meeting, your lawyer will likely ask many questions which can be answered by existing documentation.
Ultimately, as the person bringing a claim for personal injury, you have the burden of proving each element of your case. This includes both the liability and damage aspects of the case. Most cases are proven with a combination of testimony and written evidence. Thus, it is important to gather all of the available written evidence as early in the case as possible. This will help avoid the loss or destruction of valuable evidence which supports your case.
Automobile Accident Cases
If the case involves an automobile accident, there are several pieces of written evidence which your attorney will need to prove the case. First, if you have obtained a copy of the police report, you should bring it to your first meeting. Although the police report itself may not ultimately be admissible as evidence (hearsay), it contains valuable information for preparing the claim, including the names and addresses of all persons involved in the accident, the date, time and location of the accident, and the identity of the parties' insurance companies and policy numbers. It also contains a description of how the accident occurred and the investigating police officer's allocation of fault for the accident.
If you do not have a copy of the police report, it will usually suffice to bring the item number. The item number is a number given by the investigating police officer to the parties involved in the accident. It is a number which references the police report when it is completed.
In addition to the accident report or item number you should also locate and bring a copy of your own insurance policy. This will help your lawyer determine what coverages you have which may be applicable to your claim. If you were injured in the automobile accident and got medical help, you should also bring any medical records or bills to your first meeting. If you do not have such records you should at least obtain the names of the treating healthcare providers along with the dates of treatment.
Bring your driver's license number and social security number. These are important references which your lawyer will need in your case. If you lost any wages or time from work, you should also bring all documentation supporting a potential wage loss claim, including, without limitation, your tax returns for the past three years, W-2 forms, pay check stubs or other earnings records.
Finally, you should bring a list of all witnesses' names, addresses, and phone numbers who can help you prove your claim. This includes not only witnesses who may have seen the accident, but also witnesses who can document your wage losses and pain and suffering.
Medical Malpractice Claims
In medical malpractice claims, the most important records to bring to your meeting with your lawyer are the medical records involving the treatment you are claiming was negligent. Your attorney simply cannot properly evaluate a medical malpractice claim without the medical records. Of course, you will also need to bring any wage loss records or other written documentation supporting your claim. Other documentation may include a journal or diary which contemporaneously documented the treatment as it occurred. If your claim involved imaging studies like x-rays or MRI's, you should also bring the films to the meeting. Most lawyers also like a written summary or chronology outlining the claim you wish to make against the healthcare provider. Include the names and addresses of all healthcare providers you claim were negligent.
Like automobile and medical malpractice claims, documents like accident reports, wage loss information and medical records are important to bring to the meeting with your lawyer. However, it is also important to bring pictures of the particular property you allege was defective and caused your injury. This will assist your lawyer in evaluating the defective nature of the property hazard.
Products Liability Cases
In addition to the items listed above under the other categories, you may also want to consider bringing the defective product to the meeting with your lawyer if you have it. A picture will suffice if you do not have custody of the defective product. Product information including brochures, warnings or user guidebooks are also important items to give to your lawyer.
In sum, regardless of the type of case involved, you should bring every piece of written documentation which could possibly prove relevant to your case. It is always better to have more information than is needed than to be lacking in vital information. Before you meet with your lawyer, try to organize the information in some fashion that is easy to present. It will help the lawyer more quickly evaluate the information and may prevent it from getting buried in a mass of other documentation.