When you're choosing a personal injury lawyer, you want to make sure you end up with a good one. And that expectation -- maybe it's more of a "hope" from the lawyer's perspective -- works both ways. Every lawyer wants a "good client" if at all possible. But what is a "good client," and how much of being a good client is within your control?
In a nutshell, a good client does what their personal injury lawyer asks, in order to make the claim go as smoothly as possible. These things include:
Responding to the lawyer’s telephone calls, emails, or letters. Clients get pretty upset when their lawyer doesn’t return phone calls. And lawyers feel the same way. If you don’t return your lawyer’s phone calls, emails, or letters promptly, you are wasting your lawyer’s time and hurting your case.
Attending all of your appointments with your health care providers. Your health care provider will note any appointment that you miss, and, if you miss too many, the insurer and the jury are going to assume that you must not have been hurt as badly as you claim. This will cost you and your lawyer money. Make sure to go to all of your appointments.
Cooperate in the pretrial investigation (i.e., the “discovery”) after the case is in suit. The defendant will send your lawyer written questions called interrogatories, as well as document requests. Your lawyer will send them to you. You will need to promptly answer the interrogatories and provide your lawyer with the requested documents, or your case could be dismissed. Your lawyer can’t answer the interrogatories. He/she wasn’t there and doesn’t know about your past medical history. He/she can’t produce the documents. Only you know whether you have those documents, and where they're located. Help your lawyer, and help yourself. Respond to all discovery as quickly as you can.
Practice for your deposition. Your personal injury deposition is a very important event. You will cost yourself money if you do a bad job. But your lawyer is there to help you prepare. Listen to his/her advice and take recommendations. Experienced lawyers know how to best prepare clients for a deposition.
Don’t berate your lawyer, and don’t accuse him/her of taking money from the insurance company. Personal injury clients who are annoyed that their case isn’t going well will often turn on their lawyer and say that it must be the lawyer’s fault. Some things are indeed a lawyer’s fault, and any client needs to be attuned to that. But some problems that arise in personal injury cases are the client’s fault, and other obstacles are no one’s fault. Some personal injury cases just aren’t that strong (meaning there's little or no chance of reaching a favorable outcome). Don’t blame the messenger when your lawyer brings bad news. It's not going to help your case.
Get more Personal Injury Claim Do's and Don'ts.
For many lawyers, whether they'll admit it or not, the perfect client is one who does what he or she is told and doesn't hound the lawyer for updates at every turn. But it's not in most clients' best interests to try to live up to that model. There are times that you have to speak up.
If you sincerely believe that there are problems in your case, you can’t always be the “good client.” You have to ask questions. Remember that it is your case, not your lawyer’s case. You are the one who was hurt. You have an absolute right to be kept informed about what is going on in your case. It may seem like you are being pesky by asking pointed, probing questions about your case, but it is your case, and you need to protect your interests by making sure that you understand what is going on. Learn more about Working With a Personal Injury Lawyer.