The initial consultation is the first meeting between the attorney and the prospective client. This meeting allows the attorney to better understand the case and potential claims the injured party may have. When it comes to personal injury law, the initial consultation is and should always be absolutely free of charge. If any attorney wants to charge you for an initial meeting to discuss your accident or injury case, you are headed in the wrong direction. If an attorney in a personal injury case asks for a retainer, you are headed in the wrong direction.
In a personal injury case, there should be a contingent fee agreement. A contingent fee agreement can be described simply: I don’t get paid for my service unless and until I get a recovery for you. It is a results-based business. I tell my clients all the time, “If I take your case and do years of work on it and we lose, then you will be in no worse financial shape than you are as you sit here today.” There is and should be no risk to an injured party to explore their options in pursuing a case. The contract you sign with your attorney should be explicit on what the fee arrangement is and you should understand it before you sign it. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS!!!! We encourage all of our clients to ask questions, any and all, about the contract and our fee agreement. We want to ensure that you understand what it is you are signing up for. Communication between attorney and client is crucial for a successful relationship.
Now, there are certainly instances where we don’t know enough about your case to fully get behind it. Some cases are very complex and we just don’t know if there is a claim there or who it should be against. Every once in a while, in very complex medical malpractice cases, some attorneys may ask you to pay the initial cost to have an expert review the file. The reason behind this is simple: attorneys cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars on each medical malpractice case they see. Many medical malpractice cases do not pan out and can cause a firm to lose a significant amount of money. Law firms are like any other business, if you lose money you won’t be in business very long. Therefore, when it comes to complex medical malpractice where the negligence is difficult to spot, an attorney may ask you to pay for the expert review. However, this request is AFTER the initial consultations and does not compensate the attorney in any way. The money goes to the expert, not the attorney.
Meeting with a personal injury attorney can be a very trying experience. It forces clients to relive a traumatic experience and can be very emotional. Paying for a consultation is not something a potential client should have to worry about. It is and should always be free of charge.