Your First Meeting with a Lawyer

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If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident it is important that you obtain legal help to ensure that your rights are protected and that you are able to recover all damages that you are entitled to. If you have never seen a lawyer before, the process can be intimidating.  The purpose of this page is to provide you with information about what to expect in that first meeting with a lawyer, how to prepare for the meeting and things to make sure that you ask.

In personal injury matters the first meeting with a lawyer will be free. Lawyers in personal injury cases work on what is called a contingency fee basis, which means that their legal fee is a percentage of what you settle your case for.  In British Columbia the Law Society has regulated that lawyers can charge no more than 33 1/3% as a fee in motor vehicle accident cases.  The fees charged by lawyers vary, but generally you should expect somewhere in the range of 25 – 33 1/3%.  Do NOT hire a lawyer based only on the fee that they are charging, rather hire a lawyer because you are comfortable with them and feel confident that they can represent your interests.

During the first meeting the lawyer will get a lot of information from you.   The information they will get includes general background information, details about how the accident happened and the names and contact information of any witnesses, and details about your injuries and how they are affecting you, including what your health was like prior to the injury, your work history and how the injuries are impacting your ability to work and the care that you have received since the accident.  During this meeting the lawyer will explain to you how the ICBC system works, including how you get payment for benefits and how a settlement is ultimately reached.  The lawyer will also explain to you how he or she handles files and provide some guidelines on what you can expect from them.

With respect to preparing for the first meeting with a lawyer, the best thing that you can do is gather any of the information that you have available. The Law Society requires lawyers to verify and document the identity of any potential client so please remember to bring photo ID with you.  A photocopy of the ID will be made and kept on file as required by the Law Society. If you have the below information, bring it to the meeting:

  • Location of accident
  • Names and contact information of other involved parties
  • Names and contact information of all witnesses
  • Police file number or report if available
  • Name of the hospital
  • Names and contact information of all treating medical practitioners including doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, acupuncturists and chiropractors
  • Names and contact information of your employer.

In the meeting you will be asked to sign a variety of documents including a fee agreement and authorizations for release of information. Only sign the fee agreement if you intend to hire the lawyer.  If you need time to think about whether you want to hire that particular lawyer, or if you have other lawyers that you want to consider prior to hiring anyone, simply take the paperwork home with you.

The first meeting for the lawyer is all about getting information. The first meeting for you is all about determining whether this is the right lawyer for you or not.  Below are some suggestions to help you make this very important decision.

  1. Does the lawyer represent only injured motorists, or do they also represent ICBC at times? If they represent ICBC this can impact the way that they can pursue your case on your behalf;
  2. Does the lawyer have experience representing individuals injured in accidents?
  3. Does the lawyer have trial experience?
  4. What things does the lawyer do to ensure that your case will move forward in a timely way?
  5. Who will be working on your case? In some law firms, although you may meet with a senior, experienced lawyer, they will then have a junior lawyer handle the case once the firm is retained;
  6. What involvement does the lawyer have in the legal profession? Involvement in the legal profession is a sign that the lawyer is a respected member of the legal profession;
  7. What does the lawyer do to keep their skills and knowledge current and developing? Lawyers are required to take only 12 hours per year of continuing legal education. Some lawyers struggle to fulfill that requirement while others exceed it.

The first meeting really is a time for you to assess the lawyer and make a determination of whether they will be able to represent you in a way that will get you the best possible result. If there is anything else that is important to you then the first meeting is the time to discuss it.