FAQ: Personal Injury Claims
1). How should I choose my lawyer?
When seeking any professional service such as a doctor, a dentist or a mechanic, a personal reference is extremely important. One should not select a lawyer based solely on an advertisement.
2). What should I expect out of my lawyer?
Communication is the most important aspect of the attorney-client relationship. When you hire a lawyer, most importantly you are hiring him or her for their advice and expertise. Any lawyer you hire should be readily available to take your telephone call or meet with you in person to discuss your case.
3). What are the fees and costs?
Virtually every personal injury case is done on a contingency fee basis, meaning that no attorney’s fees or costs are owed unless that lawyer wins your case. Based on the agreement, the lawyer then receives a percentage of the recovery for their fees.
4). How long does my case take?
This varies greatly. The majority of personal injury cases can only settle after all the medical treatment has taken place. A lawyer must know what your injuries, medical bills, future medical expenses, wage loss and loss of earning ability are before they can ascertain the value of your case. It is premature to evaluate a case before the medical treatment has finished. Occasionally, some factors such as a small insurance policy by the at-fault party will allow a case to settle early, but for the most part only after your medical treatment has been completed can your case be moved into settlement negotiations. The length of medical treatment varies greatly depending on the injury but is usually at least four months and up to one year. Catastrophic injury cases can take several years and in this case, the future medical expenses and future wage loss must be estimated by the use of expert witnesses.
5). What is the difference between a claim and a lawsuit?
A claim is any request for benefits against an insurance company. For example, if someone causes damage to your motor vehicle, then you have a claim for property damage with their insurance company. A lawsuit is what usually happens when a claimant (or his or her lawyer) and an insurance company disagree on the amount of the claim. A lawsuit gives someone the means for a jury to decide the amount of a claim through the legal process. Most claims are settled without lawsuits, but many times lawsuits are necessary to obtain the fair value of a case, whether it is eventually decided by a jury or the legal process alone causes the insurance company to make a better offer.
6). Should I talk to the insurance company before I talk to a lawyer?
Generally, most people can handle small details with an insurance company without causing any problems, such as obtaining a rental car or arranging for a vehicle estimate. What makes it difficult is that someone can compromise their case without knowing it. Generally, giving any type of recorded statement is not advisable unless you talk with an attorney first. Also, any person with serious injuries should always speak with a lawyer first, as a small mistake could cause major complications.
7). What should I do after a car accident or motorcycle accident?
If you are injured, call the police so they can generate an accident report and help you obtain emergency medical treatment if necessary. The accident report is very important because it will show the driver of the vehicle, owner of the vehicle and any insurance information. After you return home from the accident scene or hospital it is then advisable to contact an attorney so he or she can explain the law to you and allow you to make the best decisions. Florida law now limits the amount of time you have to obtain medical treatment under an automobile insurance policy Also, insurance companies may contact you shortly after the accident. You will be much better prepared after speaking with an attorney.
8). What should I do after a slip and fall accident?
Although it may be difficult, try to obtain pictures of the area where you fell or of the object/substance that caused you to fall. Many times, photographs of the accident scene are the difference between winning and losing a case.
9). Can I settle my own case?
Yes. You are always permitted to act as your own counsel. It is advisable in smaller cases where the amount of money in dispute is relatively small. If you plan to settle the case yourself, it is a good idea to speak with an attorney first. The consultation is free and the attorney make may you aware of something that you did not know.