How do I know how to choose an attorney for my personal injury case?
Fees of your personal injury attorney are every bit as important as the quality of representation. In fact, the fee structure may educate you quite a bit as to the quality of representation. Too many personal injury attorneys will charge you 33.33% or 40% of any recovery by way of a contingency fee contract. This contract may be shoved in your face by staff at the attorney’s office long before you ever meet the attorney. This contingency fee contract may attach to money an insurance company has already offered you, which we feel is unethical because a fee is to be earned by the attorney. It is hard to earn a percentage of money that has already been offered before you hire the attorney!
If an attorney only needed to make three phone calls before obtaining an acceptable settlement for you, such a large percentage fee of either 33% or 40% may be excessive. Also, watch out for two-tiered contingency fee contracts. We have seen contracts that charge 33% of any recovery if a lawsuit does not have to be filed and 40% if settlement is unsuccessful requiring filing of a lawsuit. This can be a reasonable tier agreement, but more often than not, you will be told that settlement attempts were unsuccessful thus requiring a lawsuit to be filed, even when this is not true. Attorneys can use this tactic to get an additional 6+ percent in additional fees in a large number of their cases. All they have to do is file the lawsuit and wait days or even months and then finally inform you that X dollars was now offered, when that money was actually offered months ago.
If you are not present for telephone negotiations by your attorney, you would have no idea what was actually offered prior to filing of a lawsuit.
How long will it take for my case to be settled or taken to trial?
If you go to a typical personal injury attorney, there is incredible pressure to tell you anything you need to hear in order for you to sign that all important fee contract. You may be told that it will only take a few months. You may be additionally told that your case is worth a lot more than it really is.
These tactics must be used by typical personal injury attorneys in order to keep their volume up. As a matter of harsh reality, your case is probably not worth as much as you believe it to be. Litigation to an actual trial can take more than a year, especially if your case is filed in a rural venue. Even obtaining a settlement can take more than a year. It all depends on the facts of your case and the injuries you present.
When should I retain an attorney?
A specific answer to this question can be tricky. Generally speaking, if you have minor injuries from a motor vehicle accident, you can take your time and obtain medical treatment yourself and negotiate with any insurance company of the individual or company driver who you believe caused the accident. You have two years from the date of any auto accident to file a lawsuit. If you miss this deadline, you are forever prevented from seeking damages in a lawsuit. If you or a family member has suffered major injuries in a significant accident, it may be best to consult an attorney right away.
An accident reconstruction may be necessary to preserve evidence, and this cannot be done effectively 1.5 years later. Also, in major injury cases, the insurance company may start making offers fairly quickly. An attorney should be willing to consult with you for no fee or a very limited fee to better inform you of what is going on after a major accident. Any attorney who tries to cold call you to be hired after a major, or even a minor, accident should be avoided.