Once you have been injured, whether in a car crash, from a fall at the grocery store, or any other unfortunate mishap, you are entitled to recover for your personal injuries from whomever or whatever caused your injuries. Most lawyers handle these cases on a contingency-fee basis. This is important because many lawyers advertise a so-called “no fee guarantee”. The fact is a contingency-fee is just that; it means the injury lawyer gets paid only if you recover for your injuries. The so-called “no fee guarantee” is just another way of saying “I will not get paid unless I recover for you.” The contingency fee still assures you of access to the courthouse and is the most common attorney-client agreement in personal injury matters.
Although your personal injury lawyer only gets paid if there is a recovery, you will still be giving up a share of the recovery to compensate the lawyer. You will also be paying any costs the lawyer incurred to, for instance, obtain a police report or medical records on your behalf. Your lawyer may have to hire an investigator or expert witness to help prove your case. Those items are costs and are in addition to the contingency fee.
If your injuries are minor, you may feel you cannot justify giving part of your recovery to a lawyer and may believe you can handle the matter on your own. That may be true in cases of clear liability (such as-you are rear-ended while at a stop light with both your brake lights and the stop light working correctly) and you want to recover only a medical bill. If your case is any more involved than that, you likely will benefit from a personal injury lawyer’s services and your ultimate recovery may more than justify the contingency fee your lawyer will earn.
Your case goes through many steps from the time of your injury until your potential monetary recovery. In fact, you may have to present your case to a jury before the insurance company for the person or entity that caused your injuries will compensate you for your losses. Each step along the way lays the groundwork for the next step and a misstep could be costly.
Although your claim will be against a person or entity, you will be seeking compensation from the insurance carrier for that person or entity. Your dealings will likely be with a claims adjuster who has no interest in your case and is employed by an insurance company with virtually unlimited resources. While the claims adjuster owes a duty to the insured person or entity, the adjuster’s goal is to pay as little as possible and to move your claim file off his or her desk as quickly as possible. As your lawyer, I will have an interest in you and your case and will be committed to obtaining as large a recovery as possible and will go the entire distance (to a jury trial) if necessary to get you your fair recovery.
From start (telling the insurance company you have a claim to bring) to finish (getting your recovery), there is much to be done. First and foremost, you must get the treatment you need. If treatment is not readily available, I will help you secure competent and appropriate treatment. If you missed work, you will need to gather the evidence necessary to support that lost time. That can be problematic if you are self-employed or work on a commission basis. Once you have completed treating for your injuries, you will have to collect all your medical records and your medical bills. If you have other losses (such as loss of value to your vehicle-even after it is been repaired) you will need to provide evidence of such losses. Not everyone completely heals from personal injuries. You may need a report from your treating physician to outline any lingering problems, including an estimate for future cost of care. The above necessary actions are all things that your personal injury lawyer does so you can focus on healing and getting back to your regular life.
Once all the above information is obtained, you are probably ready to make a demand for settlement. This is more involved than simply handing the adjuster your records, bills, and other documented losses. The adjuster needs to know why the insured should have to pay for your losses and why you should be paid anything in excess of your actual expenses. The demand letter I send on behalf of my clients analyzes the liability part of the case and sets forth the specific details justifying your demand. The adjuster may then make an offer to settle and from that point, you will negotiate with the adjuster until you reach a resolution or file suit. No matter what you demand, the adjuster will likely offer a small percentage of that demand unless there is an issue with limits of insurance coverage. For instance, you may have a catastrophic loss but the person who caused your loss may have a modest insurance policy. Keep in mind that the minimum required automobile liability insurance coverage in Arizona is $15,000. The adjuster will want you to settle your claims against the insured in exchange for that modest insurance payment. If the adjuster is unwilling to pay the minimum amount you will accept, and the insurance policy has a higher limit than the settlement offered, your next option is to file a lawsuit and go to trial if necessary. As your personal injury lawyer, my team and I will handle all those matters.
While no one is obligated to retain a personal injury lawyer, the issues that must be considered (from securing appropriate medical care to confirming adequate insurance limits to reaching a resolution) strongly suggest that you will benefit from our services.
I have been a Phoenix personal injury lawyer for over 35 years and my firm, Clarke Law Offices, handles many types of personal injury cases. For cases of clear liability and minor injuries, including third-party liability (where you make a claim against the insurance company for the person or entity causing your injuries) and uninsured motorist claims (where you must use the coverage available through your own insurance company because the other driver was not insured), I charge a flat 25% fee up to the filing of a lawsuit. If we must file suit, the fees in such cases will never exceed 30%. Remember, there may be costs in addition to the fees.
We hope 2013 is prosperous and rewarding and we truly hope your life is not interrupted by personal injuries. If you are not so fortunate, just remember, we are here if you need us.