I was just injured in an accident, and now the insurance adjusters are calling me. Should I talk to them?
When an accident occurs, it is routine for the insurance adjuster to contact you in an attempt to get a recorded statement. It is never a good idea to do this until you have spoken to an attorney. Although perhaps some insurance companies don't do this, the vast majority attempt to obtain statements to minimize or deny the claim altogether. Oftentimes immediately after an accident, the person has not even had time to be treated or fully evaluated by their healthcare professional. It is not uncommon for serious injuries to manifest themselves weeks or even months after an accident. Tape-recorded statements will be used against you and it is difficult (if not impossible) to explain your earlier answers to questions that usually are one-sided. The adjusters will also ask you to sign a medical waiver so they can obtain your entire medical records. This is never a good idea. Your medical history is extremely private and contains information that has nothing to do with your injury. An injury attorney will work with the insurance company to provide only medical records that are relevant to the accident.
Can I handle the claim on my own, or do I need an attorney?
After an accident, it is understandable that most people want to resolve the claim as soon as possible. Certainly if there was only property damage or the injuries are very minor, you do not need an injury attorney to settle the claim. However, it is almost always a good idea to consult with an attorney as soon as possible and certainly before any settlement. We are more than happy to discuss with you your legal rights and options and what course of action makes the most sense.
How much does it cost to hire a lawyer ?
The Rules of Professional Conduct require that an attorney's fee be "reasonable" and in most cases a written contract is required. As a result, attorney's fees and approaches vary almost as much as the number of lawyers. In some situations, it makes sense to hire a lawyer on an hourly basis (and hourly rates vary). However, this requires paying attorney's fees upfront as the case progresses. In personal injury cases, lawyers almost always work on these cases on what is called a "contingency fee." This means that unless the lawyer is successful and obtains a recovery, the client does not have to pay for the lawyer's services. Because of the risk involved, the percentage that injury lawyers charge on contingency cases can vary - generally between 25% to 40%, depending upon when the case settles. However, the benefit of hiring a lawyer on a "contingency", is that there is no upfront charge to the client. Many clients who otherwise could not afford to hire an attorney (unlike an insurance corporation!) can obtain legal representation. Sometimes because of the uncertainty involved, lawyers are careful in accepting cases on a contingency. But a skillful lawyer should discuss with you in advance pros and cons and risks involved any particular case.
Do I even have a legal claim?
This is a great question and it is asked every time. Unfortunately, there usually is no easy answer. It usually requires a complete understanding of the facts and a thorough investigation which may take some time. However, sometimes it is clear right in the beginning that there is no claim possible. (There are some situations in which the law specifically disallows liability.) But also, there are situations in which liability is very obvious! Generally, civil law holds that a person who is injured has a legal claim against the party that "intentionally or negligently" causes the injury. Intentional misconduct is obvious: the other party causes harm on purpose (like hitting someone and breaking their nose). Negligent misconduct is much more nuanced, but in general it refers to situations where someone acts "unreasonably". That is why we do not charge for the initial consultation, so we can sit down with you and learn your side of the story, and give you a fair appraisal of your situation and what options you may have.
Should I accept the insurance company settlement offer?
It is important to remember that insurance adjusters will contact the injured party as soon as possible after an accident. They will present themselves as a friend of the injured person or family of the loved one who was killed. However, their ultimate goal is to settle the case for the least amount possible, before the injured party or family learns of their rights by speaking to an attorney. Their practice is to always tape record these phone calls and to ask questions that might seem innocuous, but are usually one-sided to the benefit of the insurance company. Unfortunately, for some insurance companies their approach is "Delay, Deny and Defend" legitimate claims to maximize their profits. Hence, it is almost always a good idea to speak with an attorney before agreeing to be interviewed or providing any medical and private information.
What is my case worth?
While out-of-pocket damages, past, and future medical expenses and past and future lost wages are fairly simple to calculate, it is difficult to put a dollar amount on the "pain and suffering" experienced during the injury. So there are no hard and fast rules. Injuries are valued upon their seriousness, the individual circumstances of the accident, and the impact on the person's daily life. It is also important if the person has an ongoing injury for a permanent disability. It is also important to remember that the ultimate value of the case is negotiated with the insurance company. We discuss with you in detail and at length what we feel is a fair settlement, the factors that support the claim, and the best strategy to achieve a complete recovery.