By now, you’ve probably done some background research and are ready to meet with a lawyer about your workers’ compensation case. The purpose of the meeting is twofold: it’s an opportunity for the lawyer to assess your case and decide whether to take it on, and it’s an opportunity for you to decide whether the lawyer is the best fit for your case.
What to Expect
Before you arrive for your first meeting with a workers’ compensation attorney, give some thought to how the meeting will go. You should approach it as you would any other business and professional meeting. Above all, be prepared, on time, and polite. Expect the same from the lawyer. Your meeting will probably start out with the lawyer asking some background information or making casual conversation. This should put you at ease, and allows both of you to get acquainted. However, most consultations are around 30 minutes, so expect the lawyer to get into the details about your case fairly quickly.
Allow the lawyer to set the tone and course for the meeting. While you probably have a lot of information to share, the lawyer will want to get the information from you in a particular order. Instead of trying to tell the whole story at once, let the lawyer guide the conversation with questions.
During the meeting, it can be tempting to leave out or downplay negative facts that might hurt your case. But you won’t be doing yourself any favors by not being truthful. It’s important for both you and the lawyer to get an accurate assessment of your case, your likelihood of success, and how much you might recover. It’s much better for the lawyer to find out about negative facts beforehand, rather than to be surprised later on.
Not all negative facts will be fatal to your case. For example, you may be worried that a lawyer won’t take your case if you were having a couple of beers at the time of your workplace accident. In most states though, including California, intoxication is a bar to receiving benefits only if it contributed to or caused your injuries. So if you would have been injured even if you were sober, you can likely still recover benefits.
If you’re worried about certain information getting out, don’t be. The lawyer is bound by the attorney-client privilege, which means that the lawyer can’t tell anyone about the content of your private discussions. This is true even if you don’t end up hiring the lawyer to represent you.
Evaluate the Lawyer
The interview process goes both ways. You should come to the meeting prepared with questions about the lawyer’s experience, how often you can expect to receive communications, the lawyer’s overall style and approach, and anything else that you are looking for in a lawyer. (For a list of specific questions, see Preparing to Meet With a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer.)
Pay attention to the lawyer’s demeanor and personality during your meeting. Does the lawyer put you at ease? Or does the lawyer rub you the wrong way? Do you think you can work well together? How does the lawyer treat his or her staff? Does the lawyer listen to you and take the time to explain things? Or does the lawyer cut you off and push you out the door? While you don’t need to be best friends, you should feel comfortable and confident leaving your case in the lawyer’s hands.
After the Meeting
If the lawyer agrees to take your case, you should have a discussion about attorneys’ fees and costs. The lawyer will probably present you with a contract to sign, describing the lawyer’s services and the fee arrangement. (For more information, see What Does It Cost to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?) If you don’t feel comfortable signing on the spot, ask the lawyer if you can take some time to review the contract before signing. Once you hire the lawyer, ask what the next steps are and what you can do to move your case along.