During the thousands of hours of personal injury client meetings I have participated in over the last twenty years, I have noticed certain questions continue to come up. This list is certainly not exhaustive but highlights some of the more frequently asked questions.
What are the risks associated with hiring a personal injury lawyer?
My answer is that there are usually not many risks to hiring a lawyer and pursuing an injury claim. I tell my clients that this is the same advice that I would give to my own mother. Medical bills are really the biggest issue to watch out for. Clients need to understand that 80% of their medical bills up to $10,000 are paid through no-fault insurance (PIP). As long as you and your lawyer are watching your bills, there is normally no down-side to working up a claim and pursuing damages.
How do I pay for the lawyer?
Auto accident cases are contingency agreements, so the lawyer is only compensated if there is a recovery. Many clients are used to paying a flat fee as is customary in a criminal or traffic case, or a retainer and hourly rates like in family law or business case. Because auto accident claims are paid by the insurance company, no money for fees or costs is due from the client unless a monetary recovery is made.
How long will my case take?
Although this answer varies from case to case, most auto accident claims that do not involve surgery or injections should take 6 months for us to get the demand sent out. Conservative treatment usually lasts 3-4 months, so our goal is to get the demand to the insurance company by the 6-month mark. Of course, anything other than conservative treatment will delay this guideline. Remember, in the demand we give the insurance company 30 days to respond.
Will I have to file a lawsuit?
Again, this answer varies from case to case, but most cases do not end in a lawsuit. It is beyond our control if the insurance company fails to pay what is appropriate for your claim in response to the demand, which is why lawsuits are necessary. We try to avoid filing lawsuits, but sometimes they are the only way to keep the insurance companies honest. Overall, the vast majority of cases settle quickly after the demand is sent out.
Who pays for my medical bills?
As mentioned in the above, your own auto coverage, also known as PIP, will cover 80% of your bills, up to $10,000.00. If you exceed the PIP limits, the providers that we work with will not require you to pay them as you go or out of pocket. Most medical providers will accept a letter of protection (LOP), which is basically an I.O.U. We then pay the LOP out of the recovery. If you have health insurance and the provider will accept it, the bills can then be handled in that manner. If health insurance is used, there is a lien that will have to be repaid out of the recovery.
How much time will this case take out of my schedule?
This question about how much time will the case cost me versus how much am I going to recover is a constant. Fortunately, your time spent treating will not be wasted. I tell clients that going to their medical appointments is paramount to the case. It illustrates to the insurance adjuster that you are injured and are taking the case seriously. I also never forget to remind people that therapy should help them feel better too. For most cases, therapy will start at 3x per week and then taper down. I certainly realize that going to a doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist is time-consuming, which is why we try to pair up our clients with trustworthy facilities close to where they live. Most therapy sessions last 1 hour.
I hope this list helps educate those who have been in a car or motorcycle accident and are deciding whether to hire a lawyer. If you think you have a claim, I would be honored to discuss it with you and share my insights.