Schedule your initial meeting with your admiralty law attorney, because being unprepared can end up costing you. This is because it will take more time for the lawyer you have hired to get up to speed on your maritime matter. So get your stuff together beforehand; it’s in your own best interests.
The first thing your lawyer will need to know is basic information about who you are and how they can get in touch with you. They will also want to know your personal background and may send over a questionnaire to fill out prior to your first meeting. If you can, send it and copies of all pertinent documents before your first appointment with your admiralty lawyer. Give him or her a chance to understand your case before you sit down together for the first time, and that time will be far more productive for the both of you.
One of your lawyer’s first questions will be about any potential conflicts of interest. Hence they need to know the names of not just the parties but the witnesses as well. Your lawyer’s firm might be representing someone on the other side, even if it’s for a matter wholly unrelated to your case and not even in the admiralty realm. If there is a conflict like that, your lawyer and his or her firm will not be able to take the case. In general, if this happens, your lawyer will refer you to another law firm. If you live in a large city or a port, there may be more choices than if you are in a small town or a landlocked area.
Let’s assume your law firm is good to go and there are no known conflicts of interest. They are going to want documentation from you, about what happened, your injuries, anything pertinent that happened afterward, and so forth. These documents will probably include (but this is by no means an exhaustive list):
- A calendar, with any and all important dates, such as the date you were injured, any surgery or other treatment dates, and the like
- Documentation about weather conditions (including Coast Guard warnings and similar) from when you were injured, if relevant
- If you are a commercial fisherman or high-seas worker, then a copy of your crew contract and the settlement sheets for the trip where you were injured
- Copies of any procedural manuals your employer has given you which have to do with the way you were hurt
- Copies of Coast Guard or accident reports detailing your injury, if they exist
- Copies of all hospital, doctor, and therapy records
- A list of all of your care providers. This is anyone who provided treatment to you or anyone who you consulted with regarding an injury (such as for a second opinion or a doctor you were required to see as a requirement from your employer
- Bills from any and all of your medical care providers
- All reports from doctors having to do with your diagnosis and prognosis
- Information about any anticipated future medical costs
- All information about any insurance coverage of your medical bills
- A description and notes from any interactions you may have had with insurance companies
- Copies of all correspondence with insurance companies
- Copies of any claims you have already filed with your employer or with an insurance company, including your own
- Documentation for any reimbursement your employer has given to you
- All information about work that you missed (and possibly continue to miss) as a result of your injury
- A list of all the ways in which your life has been affected by your injury, no matter how small or seemingly trivial or insignificant
Now that you and your admiralty law attorney are sitting across the table from each other, you undoubtedly have many questions. Here is a list so that you don’t forget anything:
- How many maritime injury trials has the lawyer handled? Of those, in how many did he or she get a favorable outcome?
- What fraction of your lawyer’s practice is in the maritime area of expertise which you need?
- How long has your attorney been practicing law? How long has he or she been practicing admiralty law specifically?
- Does he or she generally represent injured people or defendants?
- What problems does the lawyer anticipate with your case?
- What options do you have?
- How would the lawyer go about handling your situation? What is the actual process?
- How long should it take to bring this matter to its end?
- How does the lawyer charge for services? How does the firm? Is billing monthly? Quarterly? Is it hourly or flat rate? If it’s hourly, is it quarter of an hour increments or tenth of an hour?
- Is this a contingency fee situation? Is this an upfront retainer situation? If it’s a flat retainer, can you get a refund on any unused portion?
- Can you get a copy of the fee agreement to review?
- What sorts of experts will the lawyer call on to prove your case? How much will they cost?
- Will your lawyer be advancing the out of pocket costs, or will they expect you to take care of those?
- Is there a time limit by which you will have to file suit or settle your case? (this is the Statute of Limitations)
- Would the lawyer work on your case personally or would it go to another attorney or support staff in the firm? Would that be for appearances like conferences, or for trials? If other lawyers or the staff might be doing some of the work, could you meet with them?
No question is silly or too small. It is far better for you to know the answer for sure than to speculate about it.
The first meeting with any sort of lawyer can be a time of a lot of questions and concerns. Address some of those early, by being ready with documentation and questions, to help get the best possible outcome, even if you do not win your case. Contact the maritime attorneys at Moschetta Law Firm to discuss your admiralty or maritime case.