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Things you should know when meeting a personal injury lawyer

Guelph lawyer Catherine Shearer says the questions you ask a lawyer are just as important as the questions a lawyer asks you

If you’re injured in an auto accident or slip and fall, the first thing you should do is get medical attention, and then contact a personal injury lawyer.

Catherine Shearer, a personal injury lawyer and partner at McKenzie Lake Lawyers in Guelph stresses, “You should always contact a personal injury lawyer anytime you or a loved one has been injured in car accident, slip and fall, medical mistake or if you have been denied disability benefits. In some cases, you only have 10 days to put a potential defendant on notice, so you need to act quickly to preserve your rights."

What to expect during the initial contact

When you make the initial call to McKenzie Lake for example, you will be asked to provide some basic information about the incident, your injuries, and insurance details, if you have them.

Shearer says, “If it’s a matter that falls outside of our scope of practice or if there’s a conflict, you will be given the name of another lawyer who can help you. If it is a matter within our skillset, then the next step is scheduling an intake meeting.

What to expect at the intake meeting

The first meeting can be a bit long and overwhelming. Knowing what to expect is the first step in making it more manageable. You will be asked for a detailed account of what caused your injuries. If you’ve been denied disability benefits, you will be asked for a detailed history of your health, and what caused your disability.

Documents will be reviewed, the risks discussed, and you’ll be given a recommendation on whether it’s something you should pursue. Shearer says, “It’s a very in-depth meeting to gather a lot of information. I need to see the whole picture, so that I can form a preliminary opinion of your particular facts with your particular circumstances. If a lawyer tells you this is a ‘slam dunk’, that’s a red flag, because every case has issues.”

If it’s an injury caused by a car accident, complex legislation adds more risk and must be reviewed. There will be discussions about thresholds, deductibles, and the calculation of income losses. We will go through the steps of litigation and answer the questions what your lawyer will do for you immediately and what they will do for you on an ongoing basis.

If you need rehabilitation for a car accident, we can connect you to a knowledgeable rehab team that has experience in accident benefits. Shearer says, “In smaller communities around Guelph it can be challenging to find care providers that are registered to handle accident benefits. Quality and timely treatment is critical to your recovery.”

Catherine Shearer adds, “The first part of the meeting, I always like to say, the client is doing all the talking. And the second part of the meeting, I’m doing all the talking. We go over what the litigation looks like, including the risks, and I will offer an opinion. At that point, it’s up to the client to decide whether or not they want to move forward.”

Questions you should ask a personal injury lawyer

Because it takes more than a year, the relationship with your lawyer needs to be built on trust. The first meeting is a good way to get to know a potential lawyer. By asking some important questions you can determine if they are a good fit.

  • How long have you been practicing personal injury law?
    Shearer says, ”If they’ve only been practicing personal injury for a short period of time and the case is complicated, it may not be a good fit.”
  • Why did you decide to specialize in this area of law?
    People resonate with others whose lives were impacted by a personal injury in some way. Shearer says, “In my case, my grandmother who lived with my family suffered serious head injuries in a car accident that impacted her for the rest of her life. This is the reason I went into personal injury law. Having a purpose behind the passion of helping others is important.”
  • Is the law office local or will you be travelling out of town?
    Many people don’t realize that the lawyer they have contacted is not in their city. That’s difficult if you need to exchange documents or meet face-to face. In addition, you want to have a lawyer who is familiar with the court process in the jurisdiction where you are litigating.
  • How often will you meet with your lawyer?
    Some offices have clients who meet primarily with law clerks. If you want direct communication or contact with your lawyer, that’s something you should explore at the start. Shearer says, “With my clients, we do work on a team for some things, but any important meeting is going to be done with me directly.”

Don’t worry about up front fees

People often delay calling a lawyer because they’re concerned about how to pay for legal fees, something Catherine Shearer hears a lot. “They finally contact me and say they were afraid to call because they don’t have any money and they’re not working right now because of their accident.”

At McKenzie Lake all their personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. You will only be charged a percentage of the amount recovered on your behalf. You won’t be charged an hourly rate or upfront retainer in most cases. “There is nothing out-of-pocket for legal fees. It all comes from the settlement in the end. If there is no settlement, then the lawyer does not get paid legal fees.”

Many people fear that lawyers are intimidating and should only be contacted if it’s the last resort. Shearer wants to assure people, “Lawyers are human, they’re not scary, and it benefits you to get a consultation that is completely free of charge.”

A lawyer may advise you that you don’t have a case but at least you have peace of mind in having information, knowing what your rights are, and having the power to choose what to do next. Decisions made early on in an injury case can affect the injured person and their family for years to come.

Catherine Shearer would be happy to provide you with a free, no obligation consultation to offer you an opinion on your legal rights.

For more information contact Catherine Shearer at (226) 203-1243 Email: [email protected]