When it comes to personal injury our goal is to nullify the advantage that the insurance companies have when dealing with claimants and to give everyone who has suffered a personal injury or loss the best possible legal representation and financial compensation. Generally speaking, when it comes to representation, insurance companies use large established law firms that have numerous connections with the judiciary in the region where they practice. These larger firms are generally referred to as “big law” law firms and tend to do business using a traditional law firm model. Even though our clients are not multi-million-dollar insurance companies that bill thousands of hours per year, we believe that our clients should enjoy equal access to top-notch representation. While these insurance defense firms are fighting to preserve the financial bottom line of the company they represent, our business is fighting for the lone injured plaintiff who has suffered a personal debilitating injury or loss.
To reach this goal our vision is to maintain a smart, responsive, and legally agile practice that can compete with these bloated “big law” firms and give them a well-argued, determined fight on behalf of our clients. It is our job to stand toe-to-toe with these giants and do what we were trained to do. While we respect our adversaries, we think our cause is the more noble pursuit because when you weigh profits against pain, resolving someone’s pain and suffering will always trump corporate gain.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a free consultation, please feel free to call us at (402) 990-5953.
Do I really need an attorney to help with my car accident or personal injury claim?
While many people think that an incident such as a car accident can be successfully resolved without retaining counsel, this is simply not the case. Even if the other driver was cordial and admitted fault at the scene, it does not mean that it will be a simple open and shut process. You will not be dealing with the other driver when the time comes to receive your recovery settlement, but instead an insurance adjuster. By dealing personally with insurance adjusters, many whom view your injuries and property damage as a mere number on a spreadsheet, you expose yourself to the risk of limiting your potential monetary recovery. Dealing with car accident victims is something that insurance adjusters do for a living and they utilize many techniques to minimize what they pay out on claims. You should always remember that the adjuster on your case is trying to pay you the lowest possible amount on behalf of the insurance company, and that these companies profit by limiting the payouts to claimants. If an adjuster tells you that you do not need an attorney, this is more than likely a sign that you should at least contact an attorney to be sure.
Here’s what’s at stake: Not getting an attorney for your car accident or personal injury claim can reduce the amount you are reimbursed for damages both immediately and in the future in the event of other related injuries or issues. It is very common for insurance companies to attempt a very quick settlement for a fraction of what the claim is worth. For example, it would not be uncommon for an insurance company to offer you a “quick and easy” settlement of $20,000 on a claim worth $200,000. Always remember, when an insurance company is offering you money, but you have to sign paperwork to receive it, you are more than likely settling the claim and agreeing to forego any future legal recovery action. You cannot take a settlement check and then attempt to get more in a subsequent legal action. Always speak to an attorney before you take any money or sign any documents from an insurance company, even your own. Keep in mind, an insurance adjustor may be friendly but he/she is not your friend.
At Joseph D. Hall & Associates we provide free consultations regarding your car accident or personal injury claim. We will go out of our way to give you a better understanding regarding the details of your case and provide you with some options. If you should decide to hire Joseph D Hall & Associates to represent you on your claim, one of the first things we will do is inform the insurance companies that we are representing you. Knowing that an attorney has been retained and the potential for a lawsuit created sends a clear signal to an adjuster that you are serious about your claim. At this point, after you have procured legal counsel, you can relax. Once you have legal representation, you will be free from dealing with the numerous questions and phone calls from the insurance companies.
Additionally, at all consultations we provide you with some great tips to help deal with insurance adjusters in the future, and can even provide you with a basic understanding of how to deal with other attorneys should you decide to take that route. At Joseph D. Hall & Associates LLC, we want what is best for you as a person, not just as a client.
What are the steps required to hire an attorney for an accident claim?
Generally speaking, in order to get an attorney to work on your behalf you will call and schedule a consultation at the attorney’s office. At Joseph D. Hall & Associates we provide free consultations on personal injury cases. At the consultation you will fill out some standard paperwork regarding your claim and then discuss your accident in detail with the attorney. At this point the attorney will explain your legal options and the possible outcomes should you choose to move forward. If both the client and the attorney are interested in pursuing the claim, then both parties will sign an engagement letter. This is a legal document that states that a relationship has been formed where the attorney will work on your behalf regarding this claim. Generally, an engagement letter should have the details of the claim and state that the attorney is only authorized to work as your legal counsel for the specific incident listed.
After the relationship has commenced with an engagement letter, you then will negotiate and sign a fee agreement. A fee agreement is a contract between you and the attorney that outlines how the attorney will get paid for their services. Typically, in a car accident or personal injury case, you do not pay anything to the attorney up front. Instead the attorney is going to suggest a contingent fee agreement. This means that the attorney will take a percentage of the recovery once it has been paid out. This has two important benefits to you as a plaintiff: not only will you not have to put down thousands of dollars to retain the attorney to work on your behalf but also you will not owe the attorney anything for their work if nothing is recovered from the claim.
There are three important points that a plaintiff should know about the process of signing a contingency agreement.
- First, the agreement should contain the percentage of the recovery that the attorney will be paid. This is generally around one third of the recovery, but there are also associated litigation fees and costs. Always look to see how and when the cost and fees of litigation are taken out. If the costs and fees are taken out before the attorney takes their share, then you and the attorney will split the costs and fees in the same percentage that you are splitting the recovery. If the attorney takes the cost and fees of litigation out after their share has been removed, then you alone will be paying the cost and fees. This should be specified in the fee agreement because it can lead to a difference of a few thousand dollars in a decent size case. Ask about how cost and fees are dealt with if you do not see it in the fee agreement.
- The second thing to consider is how an appeal will be handled. If an appeal is required to preserve your recovery after winning the first trial, then the fee paid to the attorney for their work will sometimes rise to around 40% of the recovery. The flip side to this coin is that most fee agreements do not require the attorney to file an appeal on your behalf if you lose your first case, generally if you wish to appeal a lose the attorney is going to change from a contingency agreement to one that bills you hourly. Be sure to ask your attorney how these two scenarios will be dealt with in your fee agreement.
- The final thing to ask your attorney about is what will happen if you, or the attorney, decide to terminate representation after some work has been done on your behalf. Generally, most fee agreements will have a provision explaining what will happen if either party decides to terminate the agreement and representation. Most of the time it is a provision that outlines how an appropriate payment to the attorney will be calculated, should the client terminate the relationship. If you do not see a provision like this in your fee agreement, then you should ask the attorney to have it added.
Things to remember and inquire about when hiring an attorney for your personal injury claim
- Remember that a fee agreement is a legally binding contract, it explains and governs the details of the legal relationship you are creating. If you see anything you think is odd, you should ask your attorney to explain it.
- Make sure the engagement letter and fee agreement are both limited to the specific incident, especially if you have multiple legal claims.
- Have your attorney explain the contingent fee percentages.
- Review how the costs and fees are taken out, before or after the attorney takes out their share.
- Make sure there is a provision regarding how an appeal is handled.
- Review how the agreement deals with changing to a different attorney after work has been completed on your behalf.