Tell Me: How Can I Afford an Injury Attorney, What is a Contingent Fee, What will My Injury Attorney do first and What Is My Case Worth?
This is part two of our three part article, My Injury Case: What To Do and What To Expect-Practical Tips and Answers to the Most Common Questions.
In part one we addressed the initial phone consultation and office meeting and gave you inside tips as to what questions you should ask to improve your outcome.
In this, part two of our discussion, we answer some of the most common questions clients have: How Can I Afford to Hire an Injury Attorney, What is a Contingent Fee and What is My Case Worth? We also address what happens after you hire an attorney.
In Part three, we will explain what is means to "settle" your case and discuss the considerations that go into deciding whether your case will settle or go to trial and what you can do to help your case along.
QUESTION #1: How does the Attorney get paid? I don't have enough money to pay for all this!
In almost all strong personal injury cases Attorneys will offer their clients a contingent fee agreement. We do this at Rice Law Office in most personal injury case and also in worker's compensation, Social Security and some employment cases. This means your attorney will be paid by keeping a percentage or portion of the final settlement or court award resulting from your injury. In a contingent fee arrangement, you are not expected to pay your attorney and hourly rate for his or her services. Essentially, the attorney gets paid only if and when you get paid and that fee comes out of your award. This contingent fee arrangement should be described in writing so there will be no misunderstanding about the fees your attorney will charge or how much your case will cost.
QUESTION #2: If I hire an attorney to represent me in a personal injury claim caused by the negligence of another, what will my attorney do first?
Once you hire an attorney, they should handle all the phone calls, leg work and paperwork for you. After the initial office meeting (addressed in our first article) our office usually takes the following steps to begin:
1)We will begin by gathering all the relevant evidence about your claim, including witness statements, police reports photographs, insurance records and medical reports.
2)We will also take care of contacting the other party and/or the insurance companies involved to let them know that all communication should go through our office.
3) We will determine what insurances you have to help pay your medical bills. Often times there is something called med pay insurance available which your attorney can help you obtain quickly. If available, this can help pay for initial medical treatment while your legal case is pending. Your attorney can determine if med pay is available in your case and help you to submit bills for reimbursement.
Your attorney should also discuss any other insurance which may be available to cover things like your lost wages, mortgage, car payments. These types of insurance may be available through your work or as part of your loan agreements. You wont want to overlook these supplements to the basic injury claim as they often come much faster and can help you as you recover and before you are ready to settle or bring a law suit.
4) Eventually, once we have gathered all the facts, learned who is responsible and we are sure you have recovered, we will put together a demand for the insurance company that tells your story, details your injuries, bills, lost wages and the pain and suffering you and your family have endured as a result of this injury.
QUESTION #3: How much is my case worth?
ANSWER:This is one of most frequently asked questions and also probably one of the most difficult to answer in the early days of your representation. It's nearly impossible to predict the value of a case until all of the information has been collected and you have recovered or almost recovered from your injuries and yet, it is one of the first things clients will ask. The key is to be patient as quick settlements are rarely good for the injured person.
You might have heard insurance companies brag about the quick settlements they offer, but quick settlements can come with high price to the injured person. Often times, serious injuries don't completely reveal themselves or they are not fully diagnosed until months after the initial trauma. Even then, it's hard to know how much medical bills might pile up or whether you will suffer permanent injury until you have undergone your doctors' recommended treatment. An insurance company which offers quick settlement days or weeks after your injury may seem like a savior as you face rising medical bills and lost time from work, but acceptance of a settlement before you fully understand the nature of your injuries could be disastrous in the long run.
TIP #1: The factors that determine the value of your case include:
1)The actual mount of your medical bills
2)How much income and other employment benefits you lost as a result of your injury
3)Whether or not any aspect of your injuries are permanent. This would include scarring and disfigurement but also permanent limitations on your physical capacity as a result of your injury.
4)Other expenses you were your family may have incurred as a result of your injury and incapacitation. For example if you had to hire help around the house, pay for prescriptions or travel to medical treatment.
This last category may seem rather insignificant, but when you are without income and facing mounting medical bills every dollar you have to spend as a result of your injury makes it more difficult for you and your family. Your attorney should understand this and fight to make sure the insurance company does too.
In the last installment of this three part series we will address the end of your injury case. We will tell you what it means to "settle" your case and discuss the considerations you and your attorney will make in deciding whether to settle your case or go to trial.