Here is a sampling of some of the questions we have received over the years on our Hotline, with corresponding answers. Remember, you can always get a FREE CONSULTATION on your particular question simply by calling 800 2345-LAW or emailing us!
Please click the plus sign to the left of each question to display the answer.
Most personal injury lawyers work on a “contingent fee basis.” What that means is the lawyer only gets paid his or her fee once the case has been won. So if you switch lawyers, you only pay one fee to the lawyer who concludes your case. However, the outgoing attorney is entitled to recover the costs he or she has invested in your case (such as filing fees, deposition costs, and expert witness fees) plus the reasonable value of the work performed. This is usually worked out between the two lawyers. So even though you might be against it, your fired lawyer will get a reasonable value for the work performed, up until the time of substitution, by sharing the fee with your second lawyer. This does not affect you monetarily in any way.
If you don’t start your lawsuit before the statute’s deadline, you will lose your right to sue and recover money damages for your injuries. Some statutes are measured in years and others in only months!
If you’ve been injured in any type of accident, or are the victim of medical malpractice, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. If you wait, evidence that might help you prove your case could be lost or even destroyed. As most personal injury lawyers provide a free consultation and only get paid if they win your case, there is no reason not to contact a lawyer to find out if you have a good case.
Think of this way, if it helps … you are not suing your friend but making a claim against her insurance company. After years of paying premiums to her insurance company, the company will finally be making a payout on her behalf!
receive around $300 for his efforts. That’s not enough to induce most lawyers to accept such a case. Now, for your friend admitted to the hospital, it’s a different story!
And while not having to pay an attorney’s fee (typically 1/3 of the settlement amount) sounds tempting, here is a real life example of why going it alone is a bad idea.
I once had a woman call me who had been negotiating her claim with the insurance company. They offered her $15,000 to settle, which she thought was fair and was ready to accept. They sent her a release for her to sign. She was confused about the language in the release. She called me on our Hotline to ask if I could explain a certain clause to her. I started asking her questions about her accident and injury. It turned out she suffered a serious injury with lasting effects. She was scheduled for a second surgery in a few months. I told her once she signed the release she could not go back to the insurance company to try and get more money if the second surgery did not improve her condition.
I told her not to be in a rush to settle her claim. She asked me if I thought the settlement was fair. I replied it was hard to answer that question but I believed, in view of her injury and the complete negligence against the other party … and the many years I’ve had handling similar cases … her claim was most likely worth more to settle.
To make a long story short, she decided to retain me to represent her and the case was eventually settled for $75,000. She recovered $35,000 more than she had been ready to accept! And the case settled in a short time as the insurance company had no defense.
The moral of the story here is always seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer if you’ve been injured in any accident. The consultation costs you nothing.
The only time I recommend an accident victim “go it alone” is when no lawyer will take the case and there is no other choice.
Just like you wouldn’t go to a general practice doctor for open heart surgery, you should not go to a general practice lawyer for a case that requires specialized knowledge.
While a general practice lawyer, or one not specializing in personal injury cases, could handle your claim, there is some risk involved. He or she mostly likely wouldn’t be equiped to take on highly complicated cases requiring in-depth knowledge or experience in personal injury law. He or she would be learning as they went along if they took your case. More likely, just like a GP doctor would refer you to a specialist, so too would the GP lawyer … or one that doesn’t specialize in personal injury law. If yours is a serious or complicated personal injury case, you would be better off choosing that experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer yourself.
I’m concerned about your statement that your lawyer sent a letter telling you your case was settled. Lawyers do not, and cannot, settle cases. They can get you a settlement offer. If the offer meets with your approval and you sign the release, then the case is settled.
I’m fairly certain that in the letter sent you by the lawyer, he was informing you of the settlement offer he received. By signing the release and returning it to the lawyer’s office, you gave your consent to the settlement. The case cannot now be “reopened” because your injury is more serious than originally thought.
While you cannot receive any more money for your injury claim, you may still be able to recover additional money for medical bills you may incur. It depends on the law in your state. Please check with your lawyer.
As a rule, never sign a release until you know the full extent of your injury. Just because a lawyer informs you of a settlement offer, the case is not settled. It’s only settled once you agree to the offer by signing the release. If you have any questions about a document you receive from your lawyer, call him.
Questions I Recently Answered On Avvo.com below: