Personal Injury

What If My Personal Injury Lawyer Hasn't Been to the Accident Scene?

By David Berg, Attorney
Whether (and when) it's appropriate -- or a good strategy -- for your personal injury lawyer to visit the scene of your accident depends on what happened, and on the nature and complexity of your case.

You're talking with your personal injury lawyer about some important detail related to your accident, and it comes out that the lawyer hasn't actually been to the scene of the accident. Maybe you just assumed your lawyer had been out to investigate the scene, and now you're wondering whether this is a bad sign. (More: Is Your Personal Injury Lawyer Doing a Bad Job?)

Not necessarily. In general, a personal injury lawyer should visit the scene of a car accident or a slip and fall sooner rather than later, but every case is different, and it might not be a terrible thing if a lawyer doesn’t get around to visiting the accident scene for quite a while (if at all). Let's look at a few examples.

Car Accidents Where Liability is Clear

Let’s look at a very straightforward personal injury case: a rear-end collision claim. Almost every rear-end collision is deemed to be the tailing driver's fault, and so there is almost no need for the lawyer to ever visit the scene of a rear-end accident, since there is probably nothing to be gained. Even if a rear-end accident case goes to trial (which is extremely rare), some lawyers might not bother visiting the scene (although they probably should, just to cover all bases). They might just rely on the pictures of the accident scene.

Car Accidents Where the Scene May Have Played a Part in Liability

In more complex car accident cases, the lawyer should always get out to see the accident scene as soon as possible. In a T-bone accident, left turn accident, or any type of accident where visibility was an issue, a good lawyer will want to see with his or her own eyes what the plaintiff and defendant were seeing.

A good lawyer will also want to make sure that his or her client was telling the truth, while also gathering information and details that might help to defeat the defendant’s argument. A picture may tell a thousand words, but pictures and videos don’t always tell the whole story. There is simply no substitute for seeing the scene with your own eyes.

So, if you were in a serious car accident and liability seems to a big issue, and your lawyer hasn’t been out to see the accident scene, you might have some legitimate concerns. If your lawyer is getting ready to file the lawsuit in a serious car accident case and still hasn’t seen the scene personally, there's nothing wrong with asking the lawyer why. It's your case, after all. And if you don’t like the answer, you might want to look around for a different lawyer. (When Is It Time to Change Lawyers?)

With Slip and Fall Cases, It Depends on the Facts

Slip and fall cases should be treated a little differently. Most slip and fall cases are difficult liability cases; so, in theory, the lawyer should always get out to the scene. Even if you slipped or tripped over a defect in a sidewalk that was repaired after your injury, a good lawyer would still want to go out to the scene with the client for a complete understanding of precisely how the accident happened.

On the other hand, if the accident was a slip and fall on snow or ice, and the lawyer wasn’t retained until after the ice or snow melted, then there really isn’t a good reason for the lawyer to see the scene personally.

Many slip and fall accidents happen on private property, so you might have to wait until you file suit for your lawyer to visit the scene. This is a big reason why, after a slip and fall on private property, you should always take pictures of the accident scene yourself before you leave.

Bottom line: If you have questions about a visit to the accident scene or any other part of your lawyer's strategy for your case, just ask. Get more tips on Being a Good Client in a Personal Injury Case.

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