Injury Claims

What Should I Expect When Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Justin Macfayden, JD
Law and Claims Analyst

1. How do you find a personal injury lawyer?

Generally, after you’ve been injured during some event (generally, referred to as an “Incident”), someone will contact a lawyer if their case is particularly complex, or negotiations with the responsible party or their insurance company have broken down, resulting in a dispute about what you are owed.  

People can find their personal injury lawyer from any number of referral sources like word-of-mouth, referral from another attorney, or a casual Google search. After reaching out to a lawyer regarding your case, the lawyer’s paralegal or legal assistant will ‘screen’ you, asking some high level details about your case. If necessary, you may be asked to provide those details in writing.

The lawyer will then assess your potential liability (personal injury lawyer’s usually take fully/partly innocent parties), the size/ value of your claim and whether it’s the right time to begin your case. It can take a long time for injuries to reveal themselves and for the costs of damages to be determined, so lawyers want you to be medically stable before beginning your case.

2. First Meeting/Interview

If the lawyer is interesting in meeting to learn more about your case, they will setup a meeting either in person, over the phone, or over a video call. This initial meeting may take 1-2 hours, and you will be asked to provide the lawyer with certain general info about your case. Painworth can help make this process simple for you – simply fill out the information in app and share with a lawyer. You should be prepared to share the following details with your attorney:

Particulars of Incident

  • Date
  • Time
  • Location
  • Parties involved
  • If an ambulance was required [with an ambulance report if you have one]  
  • If anyone required emergency services [emergency visit report/ billing]  
  • If police were called? [with a police report]

Vehicle collision particulars

  • Location of vehicles
  • Direction of travel
  • Speed of plaintiff’s vehicle
  • Speed of defendant(s)’ vehicles
  • Type of vehicles
  • If the airbags went off  
  • If seatbelt was on
  • What part of vehicles collided

Learn more about what you should do at the scene of an accident.  

Medical practitioners

  • Who are you currently seeing
  • Who have you previously seen for pre-existing conditions within the last three years
  • Are there additional medical practitioners/specialists that you will continue to see
  • Keep all medical reports, notes, and billing documents

Pre vs. Post-Incident state of affairs

  • Prepare a breakdown of your pre-Incident lifestyle, such as hobbies, activities, work, quality of life, relationship with spouse, time spent with children, responsibility for chores before, etc.
  • Note how each aspect of your pre-accident lifestyle has been affected by the accident
  • You may be asked to have your spouse, children, etc. prepare “Victim Impact Statement” to address how your injuries have affected them


  • List prior employers during Incident and post-Incident recovery
  • List annual/hourly income during recover, list estimated time missed from work

3. What are retainer letters and contingency fees?

After exploring the details of your accident, you may be asked to sign a retainer letter. This retainer letter means that the lawyer is taking your case to the next step. The retainer letter will outline the terms of your legal relationship to your lawyer. It will outline what they will need to deliver you as part of their legal representation and what you need to do in order to keep your case moving forward. Be sure to read this document carefully.  

The payment terms of the retainer agreement (how much the lawyer will cost you) will likely be expressed in terms of a percentage, likely somewhere between 30% and 45%. This kind of arrangement is called a contingency fee and it is very common for personal injury lawyers. A contingency fee is an arrangement where the lawyer will be paid from a percentage of what you are awarded in your case (either by an insurance company or a court), meaning that you do not have to pay the lawyer for their work unless they succeed with your case.  

This fee arrangement is important to remember when considering hiring a lawyer for your case. If you don’t think you will be able to get more than 30% more by hiring a lawyer, you may save time and money by settling without one.  

4. Letters for specialists/other parties to provide medical or private info

Depending on the severity of your injuries, your lawyer may ask your to sign some non-dated, unspecified letters to authorize the lawyer to request certain information from medical providers, or other third parties.  

Generally speaking, it is ok to sign these types of documents. Your lawyer is an advocate for you and your case. Even so, you should review these carefully and ask your lawyer any questions you have before signing them.

General follow-up

After you hire a lawyer in your personal injury case, it could take months to years before your case is settled. Depending on the severity of your case, your lawyer will likely ask you to continue receiving treatment until you are stable and there is a determination by a doctor regarding if and when your injuries will improve.  

You will likely have regular follow-ups with your attorney either in person or via Telelphone or email. While you are receiving treatment and communicating with your lawyer, your lawyer will be negotiating your claim with the responsible insurer and exploring ways to settle your case quickly and fairly.  

It will be important to keep a journal about anything that has been made difficult for you as a result of your injuries, because your doctors notes and billing documents likely won’t fully explain the many ways that the injury has affected your life. The more detailed your updates for your lawyer are, the better. Some examples of information you may need to continually provide your attorney includes:  

Info for general/non-pecuniary damages

  • Updates on doctor visits. Your lawyer may request medical charts and billing records once your injuries are stable. Be sure to keep a journal to explain anything related to your injuries and their effect on your life that may not be explained by medical records.  

Info for pecuniary damages

  • Updates on pecuniary (monetary) losses related to the accident. This means providing evidence for any losses related to you injury including paperwork supporting:
  • Any missed days of work
  • Out-of-pocket receipts
  • Kilometers travelled to various appointments

Be sure to include any future pecuniary damages you expect as a result of the accident.  

Info for loss of housekeeping capacity

  • Updates confirming any loss of housekeeping abilities/responsibilities. This is where you will want to keep a journal about your chores and how the injuries affect your ability to do those chores whether you required professional help or increased assistance from a loved ones.  

Info for future cost of care

  • Depending on the severity of your injury, you may want to be compensated for injuries that will affect you far in to the future. In these cases, specialists/health care providers may provide estimates for the cost of your future medical care, due to accident related injuries.  

While your lawyer and you work together to compile this information, your lawyer will likely draft and send a demand letter. A demand letter is your lawyer's way of beginning negotiations with the responsible party and their insurer, and it will include a breakdown of what you are owed. Generally, the demand letter is not an official offer.  

You can easily keep track of and update these damages your claim value using Painworth. Continually updating your Painworth assessment will allow you incorporate every damage you may be owed using industry leading and court accepted calculation methods.  

5. Prepare settlement proposal & settlement agreement

When your lawyer can determine how the injuries you have sustained as a result of the accident have affected your life, and how they will continue to affect your life, your lawyer will begin to prepare a settlement proposal based on all the information you have provided to them. The settlement proposal is an official offer.  

Remember that your lawyer will need to recover their fee from the amount the parties settle on. This means that if you agreed to a contingency fee of 30%, and your settlement proposal is $100,000, you will receive less than $70,000 (net of legal fees, taxes, disbursements) if the defending insurer agrees to the proposal.

If the both sides agrees that the settlement offer is fair, your lawyer should explain to you what your settlement agreement will mean in terms of your financial recovery and when you should expect to receive payment. Most settlement agreements will include a release of liability, which prohibits you from bringing additional claims for medical expenses or automobile coverage for the same accident. The release will likely include the settlement amount, the parties being released and the legal claims that are being released.

6. Claim escalation

If the parties cannot come to an agreement, your lawyer may need to escalate your claim and pursue alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and arbitration. If the parties are still unable to resolve their dispute and settle on a fair number, your lawyer may decide to take your case to court by filing a statement of claim, and moving your case towards a traditional trial with a provincial court. That said, a majority of personal injury claims never make it to this point, and are settled long before mediation, arbitration, or litigation (court).  

Even if you choose not to use a lawyer, you still have the option to explore alternate dispute resolution, or to pursue litigation. In this case, even when you prefer not to go to court, you may still need to file a statement of claim with your local court to preserve your rights and ensure that the claim will continue to be taken seriously by the defending insurer.  

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