How much does it cost to hire an attorney?
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.
What is the difference between costs and fees?
As Abraham Lincoln said, "A lawyer's time and advice are his stock in trade," so a fee is compensation for the attorney's time and efforts. However, in preparing and presenting the client's case in the most favorable position, the attorney will incur "costs", or expenses. Typically, costs are for such things as obtaining medical records, hiring of experts and investigators, court fees, and paying for court reporters at depositions. It's important to remember that these costs are separate and in addition to a lawyer's fee. In personal injury cases, some lawyers will advance the money for costs, making repayment "contingent" upon a successful recovery, while some lawyers will not advance costs. It is important when hiring an injury lawyer that you fully understand what is covered and what is not and what expected costs will be covered by you, the client (if any).
Do I have to pay for the initial consultation?
At the Phillips Law Offices, we do not charge for the initial consultation and there is no obligation to retain the firm. We gladly will meet with you in person at our office or, if you prefer, at your location. We also can answer initial questions by telephone or through video conference such as Skype or FaceTime. We also can schedule appointments in the evenings and weekends.
When is it best to hire a personal injury attorney?
If your injuries are minor and you quickly recover, or there is only property damage, there probably is no need to hire an attorney. There are good guides on the internet or resources at the county law library on how to present a small claim to an insurance company. However, if you have serious injuries or you feel you're not being treated fairly by the insurance adjuster, then it is a good idea to have a consultation with an attorney to discuss in detail the situation and learn what your options and rights are. The sooner you meet with an attorney, the sooner he or she will be able to protect your rights. In some cases, especially "trip and falls", critical evidence can be lost very quickly. Meeting with an attorney as soon as possible can prevent this from happening. It is rarely a good idea to conduct your own investigation or attempt to preserve important evidence. A good personal injury lawyer will use professional investigators and accident re-constructionists to protect your rights.
How do consultations work at the Phillips Law Office?
At the Phillips Law Offices we like to say, "Big city experience, small town service" by striving to provide personalized client service. We can schedule appointments on evenings and weekends; can meet in person in our office; or if you prefer, we will travel to your location. We also can schedule "video meetings" through Skype and FaceTime if that is more convenient. During the first meeting, we can answer any questions you may have and fully explain your legal rights and options. We also discuss how to move forward and what the next steps should be toward a successful outcome. Our goal is to make our clients feel comfortable and supported by using a collaborative, client-focused approach.
When will my case settle?
That is a very fair question and is asked by almost everyone. Unfortunately, it is somewhat difficult to answer. Each case is unique and presents special circumstances or issues. The biggest factor in determining when a case will settle is when you are finished treating. You do not want to settle a case if you're still treating, because you do not know the full extent of your injuries and there will be additional medical bills. Once a person has fully recovered and has completed all medical treatment, negotiations can begin with the insurance company to settle the claim. Generally, this can take several months but varies greatly from case to case.
How much is my case worth?
While out-of-pocket damages, medical expenses, and 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-an- 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.
I am confused if I should hire a lawyer or just let the insurance company handle things?
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.