- Look for experience: Identify a firm with a proven track record of recovering settlements and favorable jury verdicts in personal injury lawsuits.
- Find an attorney with extensive trial skills: You want an attorney who can argue your case before a jury should settlement negotiations fail.
- Value clear and direct communication: Timely responses and personal attention are two important facets to look for in your attorney. The legal process – from start to finish – can last upwards of a year or more, so be certain you retain someone you feel provides the highest caliber of service and is fully committed to your cause.
- Hire a lawyer who works on a contingency fee basis: Most reputable personal attorneys in Southern California only get paid if their client’s case is successful. Never pay upfront consultation fees for a personal injury matter, as all legal costs should be deferred until a settlement or award is secured.
The Benefits of Hiring a Private Attorney
- Representation in court. Litigation can be overwhelming and we see unrepresented people struggling every day in court with court rules and procedures. Even if a case ends up in small claims court, the system will eat up pro per (unrepresented) parties, because their cases are often dismissed for failure to comply with the rules. If your case involves any type of litigation, you need an attorney.
- Having Court Costs and Expenses advanced. Most attorneys will advance costs for medical experts and the costs of litigation. Litigation is very expensive. Filing fees have more than doubled in the last few years. Most injured parties don’t have the financial means to pay the costs associated with obtaining a report from a medical expert which is often required to obtain a decent settlement.
- Fighting big entities. It is impossible for unrepresented persons to handle claims against large companies on product defect cases. You must have attorney representation to prevail on a bad drug or bad product case.
- Accident reconstruction. If you are involved in a multiple vehicle car accident where liability of multiple drivers is involved, an accident reconstruction may be necessary to sort out the various claims against the adverse drivers. You as a layperson do not have the means to hire and accident reconstruction expert. If the other side has one, you will probably need one on your side. Attorney representation is imperative for these types of accidents.
- Advantage of experience. Each Insurance company has its own personality and they handle auto accident claims different from each other. Sometimes they are difficult and won’t settle cases. And, at other times, they may be more conciliatory. Companies that only write minimum liability policies ($15,000.00 per person and $30,000.00 per accident) are often the most difficult to deal with. You need an attorney on these claims, because these companies do not give their adjusters authority to pay out the minimum limits, even though your claim may be worth thousands of dollars more than their insured’s liability limits. If you don’t settle for the entire the policy limits of negligent party, you may not be eligible for benefits under your Under insurance Coverage.
- Insurance adjusters will take advantage of unrepresented claimants. Adjusters will offer unrepresented claimants small settlement amounts in exchange for a full release. Insurance adjusters want to get your signature on a release early on. They offer a nominal sum that you may accept knowing that you may be under financial pressures. If your injuries take a turn for the worse, you are stuck. Some injuries don’t heal. Some get worse with time. Most spinal injuries have some long term effects, which are reduced by proper treatment. One of the benefits of attorney representation is access to proper medical care on a lien basis. Don’t settle your injury until you have had proper medical evaluation and treatment.
- Help in deciding when to settle, file suit, arbitrate or mediate. Alternative dispute resolution is often used in an attempt to settle insurance claims. This is a complicated process which can occur before or after litigation. Insurance companies won’t usually mediate or arbitrate your claim when you are not represented. You need an attorney to represent your interests if your case is to be resolved by alternative dispute resolution.
- Access to medical care on a lien. This is one of the biggest benefits of attorney representation. Health care providers who deal with injury claims want some guaranty that, if the insurance company pays you money, that their interest in getting paid for their services will be protected. Unrepresented claimants have been known to go south with the settlement proceed and not pay their health care providers. Attorneys are bound by ethical rules concerning liens. We must satisfy liens (or negotiate liens if the settlement proceeds do not give the claimant adequate compensation) out of the proceeds of a settlement. This is the health care provider’s insurance that they will be paid. Generally, you cannot get treatment on a lien if you are not represented.
- Federal laws. If Medicaid or Medicare is paying your accident-related medical bills complex state and federal laws apply. Reimbursement to Medicaid and Medicare is required. If these laws apply to your claim, you will have much difficulty negotiating and dealing with dealing these governmental entities. Financial penalties and civil litigation can arise against you if you do not reimburse these entities. If Medicaid or Medicare paid your medical bills, you need an attorney to get involved in your claim.
- Underinsurance. Sometimes an adverse insurance carrier will pay you their insured’s liability limits before you have attorney representation. This will occur when you have catastrophic visible injuries and your claim is clearly above their insured’s limits. Under these circumstances, unrepresented claimants can’t handle the transition that occurs between an adverse claim and a first party under insurance claim. The “stacking” of multiple under insurance coverage may be involved. If under insurance creeps into your claim under these circumstances, you should consult an attorney.
- Education. If you have a concerned personal injury attorney on an accident claim, he will educate you, not only about your claim, but he will advise you about your auto insurance coverage and how you can better protect you and your family in the event of a future accident.
- Prior or subsequent accidents or pre-existing conditions. If our claim involves these issues, you will need both an expert medical witness and an attorney. Treating physicians are not litigation experts. You will need an attorney to handle the apportionment issues that are involved with these claims. Your attorney will likely need to hire an expert medical witness. Insurance companies have databases, so if you were involved in a prior or subsequent accident they will know it at the beginning of your claim. Hire an attorney to deal with these issues.
- Accident reporting to your own insurance company and DMV. Did you know that if the police are not involved with investigation of your accident that you must report it to DMV? You must report any non-investigated motor vehicle accidents involving property damage of $750.00 or more and all injury accidents to DMV. Under insurance claims and uninsured motorists claims must be reported to your insurance company early on or your claim may be denied because you have taken away your insurance company’s ability to investigate your claim while the evidence is fresh. An attorney can protect your interests on these reporting matters.
- Crossover areas bankruptcy, workers compensation and probate. If you or the adverse party files bankruptcy; or, if the adverse party dies; or, if you are injured at work, and there is third party liability, these claims are too complicated for you to handle on your own. They involve crossover areas of law. Hire an attorney immediately.
- Worst possible scenario cases. If you have a lot of medical bills and there is minimum coverage for your auto accident, or if there are multiple claimants against minimum liability limits, you simply cannot handle these situations by yourself. An inter-pleader may be filed with you named as a party defendant. An inter pleader action is where the insurance company deposits the policy limits proceeds with the court, and the parties must litigate to see who gets what amount out of the deposited proceeds. You will absolutely need an attorney if you are involved in this type of case.
What Documents Does An Attorney Want To See When Meeting A Client?
You don’t want to show up empty handed when you meet with an attorney. So that your prospective attorney can accurately evaluate your personal injury case you want to give as much information as you can, which won’t exactly work if you leave crucial documents at home or at the hospital. Make sure to bring the following documents to your consultation:
- Medical Records.
If you were injured in any substantive way, you likely sought medical help either from a doctor, clinic, or emergency care facility. In any of those cases, the medical provider should have given you records on what procedures were performed, the cost of your care, and contacts for the medical professionals who treated you. You may need to sign a release to get these records, but you have a right to them.
If you claim expenses related to your injuries that you’ve paid, you need to bring those receipts.
- Correspondence With the Other Party.
If the person who injured you has sent you voice mails, emails, letters, or even text or Facebook messages, bring a copy or recording to your consultation. This is especially important for any settlement offers.
- Police Report.
You may have a police report associated with your injuries, and you need to give that information to your attorney. You should be able to obtain a police report before you come to the consultation.
- Insurance Policy Information.
Your attorney can help you determine what is and isn’t covered by your insurance policies, but only if you bring your policy information with you.
Did your accident cause you to miss work or permanently diminish your earning capacity? You need to bring prior pay stubs to allow your attorney to properly calculate your potential damages.
- Legal-Looking Documents.
You may have been “served” with a complaint by another party or even sent a cease-and-desist notice on a law firm’s letterhead. Make sure to bring these documents as well, as your attorney will want to know why certain parties are suing or threatening to sue you.
Pictures of the accident location, car damage, and your injuries will be valuable evidence for your case.
By arriving prepared, you can give your attorney a better idea of your case and not waste your free personal injury consultation
Most Important Thing A Potential Client Should Know
The most important thing you should know is that the handling of your personal injury case is secondary. Your priority is to immediately get the medical care and attention you need following the accident, because your well-being out weighs any compensation you receive.
For more information on Choosing The Correct Attorney, a free initial consultation is your best next step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (714) 697-8600 today.