While every personal injury case is different, every case begins in the same place: a case evaluation.
If you’ve been involved in an accident and started researching personal injury lawyers, you’ve probably noticed that most of them offer free case evaluations as a first step. While your case is a frightening time in your life and the legal process that moves your case forward can be confusing, a case evaluation is a great opportunity to understand what lies ahead.
What is a case evaluation, and what does it entail? Here’s a closer look at what you need to know before booking and showing up to your evaluation.
What is a Case Evaluation?
A case evaluation (not to be confused with an early neutral evaluation) is a non-binding assessment in which parties to a dispute present the details of their case to a neutral case evaluator. This evaluator will advise on the strengths and weaknesses of their position and how a judge or jury would likely decide the outcome.
In plain English, this means that you meet with an attorney before hiring them, usually for 30 to 60 minutes. You explain your situation to the attorney, essentially laying out why you’re seeking legal counsel. Based on the available information, the attorney will let you know if they believe you have a potential claim and, if so, what your options may be with that claim.
Why Do Lawyers Conduct Evaluations?
Most attorneys conduct a case evaluation for two reasons. First, they want to help injured persons seek compensation for harm committed to them, and second, they want to assess what they can do to help someone.
For lawyers, a case evaluation is an opportunity to get to know your case before they take it on and before a client agrees to hire them. This gives the attorney a clearer sense of what they can do to help you before they let you know your options.
In addition, a case evaluation is an opportunity for lawyers to advise potential clients of their legal rights. You may have a vague idea of your rights after an accident, but a lawyer can lay out your rights in detail. More importantly, they can help you understand how your rights apply to your case. That way, you can make educated decisions about how to proceed with your case.
What Do Lawyers Look for During a Personal Injury Case Evaluation?
Civil law in general (including personal injury law) is not like criminal law, in that you do not need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, personal injury is based on the notion that when someone harms someone else, the harmed party should have recourse, and the party who committed harm should be dissuaded from doing so again.
In plain English, that means personal injury cases are built on two things: liability and damages.
Legal liability is a person’s responsibilities under law. In personal injury, it generally refers to the concept of fault. If someone is held liable for an accident, they are said to be at fault for the accident and must compensate the other party. Liability is determined by four things:
- Duty of care (such as obeying traffic laws and driving safely)
- Breach of that duty of care (such as driving while intoxicated)
- Damages to one party (such as severe injuries)
- A causal link between damages and breach of care
This calculation is unique to each case, which is why it’s essential to speak with a personal injury lawyer. They can break this down for you in your case evaluation and explain how a judge or jury would assess liability in your case.
However, liability rests heavily on damages, which can be economic or non-economic. Economic damages are easily quantified in monetary terms, such as medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages are harder to quantify but nonetheless have a significant impact on your quality of life–for example, how do you quantify being able to pick up your child? Or getting in your car and driving without feeling fear every moment you’re on the road?
What Happens During a Case Evaluation?
So, what happens during a case evaluation?
It’s best to think of it as a conversation between you and your potential personal injury lawyer. You can also think of it as a two-way interview–your potential lawyer is interviewing you to find out about your case and you’re interviewing your potential lawyer to see if they’re the right choice to represent you.
It starts with you laying out the details of your case. From there, the attorney will start asking questions to uncover relevant details. This is also your opportunity to ask questions. For example, when you talk about your potential case outcomes, timelines and cost will be part of the discussion, so you should ask about your attorney’s fee schedule.
You should also take the opportunity to assess your attorney’s expertise. For example, ask about cases they’ve taken that are similar to yours and what the outcomes were. While every case is different, this will give you an idea of how an individual attorney handles cases.
What to Bring to Your Case Evaluation
Because a case evaluation is a lawyer’s opportunity to get to know your case, you should come prepared to your case evaluation with key documents and essential information that will tell your potential attorney what they need to know.
Important documents include things like:
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Insurance information
- Accident photos
A good rule of thumb is to think about any pieces of evidence your attorney might need in order to present a strong case. Then, take care to collect documents that will concretely represent that evidence.
Do You Need a Free Case Evaluation?
We understand that our clients come to us during the most difficult moments in their lives. We also know that they need peace of mind and expertise to take charge of the situation.
Our office is built on the core principles of integrity, respect, hard work, community service, and involvement. To us, it’s just the right way to practice law, because we know that if it were our own families in a difficult situation, we wouldn’t want anything less.
If you need to speak with us about your options, get in touch today to schedule your free case evaluation.