In this podcast, Senior Associate Jessica Prasser discusses how to get the most out of your first consultation with a compensation lawyer.
Intro: You’re listening to a Bourke Legal podcast.
Dan Toombs: If you have suffered an injury at work in New South Wales, you undoubtedly will have lots of questions. In today’s podcast, I’m talking with Senior Associate Jessica Prasser from Bourke Legal about how to get the most out of your first consultation with a compensation lawyer. Jess, how quickly should someone book in to see a lawyer after their injury?
Jessica Prasser: Dan, I always say that it’s really important for someone to book in as soon as possible. The reason is the injury will be fresh in their mind, the circumstances around it, what exactly happened, and that way, the lawyer can get the information down straight away, so they both have a really good understanding about exactly what occurred.
The other thing is it allows the person to really understand the process of the workers’ compensation scheme from the get-go, which I think is really important because there are often clients that come to see me who have had a WorkCover claim going for some years and they still don’t really understand the process, which I think is really scary for people. So I think it’s really important that they know their rights from as early on as possible.
DT: I suppose some people can freak out about, “Look, what do I actually bring? Do I need to sort of wait until I compile all these documents or photographs or whatever the case might be?” What’s your suggestion in that regard?
JP: Yeah, look, it is really important for people to be prepared, but it’s totally understandable that people don’t actually know what to bring. So some of the things that I find really helpful for my clients to bring are some personal documents, including a driver’s licence, Medicare card, their ATO number and Centrelink reference number, because they are information and documents that we will need to have on file. The other thing that I find is really important and helpful for people to bring is any recent correspondence from their workers’ compensation insurer. This gives me important details, including the insurer, who the insurer is, what the claim number is, and it also gives me an understanding of where the claim is up to. So the most recent correspondence from the insurer will usually set out what the next step is in relation to the claim.
Now, other documents that are helpful include any medical documents that the person may have, so any operation reports, scans, radiology. This helps me understand what the diagnosis of the injury is and what treatment has occurred so far and any recommended treatment for the future.
Also, some financial documents are always really helpful, so the last few pay slips before a person goes off work. That allows me to get an understanding of what the person was earning at the time of the injury and then I can do an analysis pretty early on about whether they’ve returned to part time work or gone off work completely, what their income loss has been. The other important documents that are assigned, just lastly, are any photographs that they may have of the incident, the scene where it occurred, any photographs of the injury. So some people suffer a traumatic injury sometimes they have photographs of bruising, et cetera, which I think is really important fastest lawyers to see, as well as any CCTV footage that may have been taken.
DT: Just what happens if what should people do if they actually haven’t got all that sort of documentation or photos? I’m assuming that they shouldn’t delay seeing somebody.
JP: Definitely not. Look, Dan, there are plenty of people that come to see me, they have very minimal information and documents and that’s not their fault. It’s just there it hasn’t much occurred yet or the employer hasn’t handed over a lot of the documents. A lot of people ask for CCTV or witness documents, etc. but the employer refuses to hand them over, so it’s not a deal breaker. Please still come and see a lawyer because it’s our job to then tell that person, okay, well, what we’re going to need to go out and get, and I can help them with that.
DT: Are there other ways a person can better prepare for their first consultation?
JP: Yeah, look, I think the first consult with a lawyer is really daunting for people, so a lot of people don’t know what to expect and it’s quite a stressful time for these people. So I often find that if someone writes out a bit of an outline of their injury and a bit of a timeline of events, it helps them come into the appointment being able to get their head around exactly what’s happened when, and it’s really helpful for the lawyer to have that timeline as well.
So the other thing I think is bring a notebook to take some important notes. There’s a lot of information discussed at a first consult so they may want to take some notes to help them turn back on after the appointment to remind themselves about what was discussed.
The other important thing is just to come ready to give full disclosure to your lawyer. The most important thing is to be upfront and honest because lawyers like myself can do our job best, is when we know all the facts, so that’s really important. And also if you’re going to bring documents, come organise and have them in some sort of order so that you don’t spend the whole concept trying to find the document that you don’t want to talk to the lawyer about.
The other thing I think is a really good thing is bring a support person that you trust. We always recommend someone, bring along someone that they feel comfortable with because two ears are better than one and it helps them feel more comfortable in the process.
DT: It’s a really pivotal meeting, isn’t it, that first consultation?
JP: It’s very important. Yes, I think the first consult for me is really important with my client because it allows lawyers to provide as much initial advice as possible, which benefits the client as they walk out with a much better understanding about where to go from here. And that’s the goal. The first consult is really important and trust is key. So my job is to allow that person to form the trust with me in that first consult and build that rapport and connection.
DT: I was going to say yes, that particularly in the case of compensation law where the journey between lawyer and client can be fairly lengthy, it’s so important to have that rapport and trust with your lawyer.
JP: Exactly. And that’s my main goal out of my first consult, is to make sure that the person is leaving my office feeling more comfortable than they did walking in. They have a better understanding of what their rights are, what may happen in the future, because it’s important for people to realise that these claims can sometimes take quite some time. So it’s important for me to explain that to them so that they’re prepared and that they know what’s coming.
And I think having that open communication, putting a face to the name, sitting down with the person, making them feel comfortable, really does help set the scene for the rest of the time that you’re going to be acting for them. Because if you just speak to them over the phone or by email, they don’t have that personal connection, and especially in personal injury law, I think that’s really important.
DT: So prior to that first consultation, if somebody has got some questions for you before in terms of, “Look, I haven’t got this document, but I’ve got that one.” Can they call you?
JP: Definitely. So they can definitely call us and I can go through what they’ve got, what they don’t have and then I can tell them a little bit about what may be helpful to bring and just kind of prepare them for that first consult. So it’s really important that they come in here feeling comfortable and it’s okay if they don’t have everything that we’ve discussed. The most important thing is they get through the door and they speak to someone about what they’ve been through.
DT: Jess, thanks for joining me.
JP: Thank you so much.
Outro: Thanks for listening. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Burkelegal on 1300 26875.