Many years ago, Allstate Insurance hired a team of consultants to help in redesigning their claims handling process. Their conclusion: Get the lawyers out of the claims process. Their studies found that by doing this, they could settle claims for substantially less money.
Even in small cases under $15,000.00, those persons represented by lawyers received substantially more in settlement, even after paying their attorney, than people who were not represented by a lawyer.
In larger cases, the difference was even more striking as the studies found that lawyers are able to get their clients exponentially more money as the claims value increases. Still want to handle your claim yourself?
Hiring an attorney early in your case will ensure that your rights and interests are protected. An attorney will usually charge a fee that is a set percentage of your eventual settlement or judgment amount. If you retain the attorney sooner rather than later, the attorney will have more time to ensure that your case is developed to its maximum potential value. The result – MORE MONEY IN YOUR POCKET.
If you have already determined that you should probably hire an attorney, these are the reasons you should hire that attorney NOW rather than weeks or months down the road:
1. An experienced attorney will be able to determine what evidence you will need to prove your case to the adjustor or at trial and how such evidence can be recorded and preserved in the meantime.
2. An attorney will help coordinate all available medical insurance coverage to make sure that you get prompt and thorough medical care.
3. An attorney can help you get medical care when you do not have any health or med-pay insurance.
4. An attorney will help you document all of your losses to make sure that you can recover for as much of your damages as possible.
5. An attorney will deal with the insurance companies on your behalf.
HOW MUCH WILL A LAWYER CHARGE?
Most accident attorneys will work on your case on a “contingency” basis. This means that you will not have to pay your attorney for any work on the case until, and unless, that attorney secures a settlement or judgment on your behalf. If your attorney does not recover any money on your behalf, you do not pay your attorney for his time. Please note that most attorneys will require you to pay for necessary expenses they incurred in preparing your case regardless of whether or not your case is successful.
Any attorney that you consider hiring is required to advise you of alternate types of fee arrangements (such as an hourly fee or flat fee) and give you the option of selecting one of these alternate types. However, these types require you to pay for your attorney’s time and work up front, regardless of whether or not they recover any money on your behalf. Consequently, most accident cases are handled on a contingent basis.
Important Tip: You will be paying your attorney the same amount whether he works on the case two months or two years. Why not give that attorney as much time as possible to make sure that your case value is maximized?
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK WHEN HIRING A LAWYER?
By asking the following questions when first meeting with a lawyer, you will quickly gain an understanding of the ability of that lawyer to adequately protect your interests:
1. How many years experience do you have in representing accident victims? A qualified attorney will have several years experience in representing accident victims. Make sure that your case will not simply be passed on to other, less-experienced attorneys.
2. Will I work with you directly or mainly with paralegals and legal assistants? Frequent involvement directly with your attorney will help ensure that your case is prepared as thoroughly as possible.
3. How do you keep yourself informed of the latest developments in this area of the law? Skilled accident lawyers spend many days each year at seminars learning new developments in this area of law.
4. What professional groups are you a member of? There are several professional organizations that allow attorneys to learn from other lawyers and stay better informed of recent changes in the law. Look for membership in a State Bar Association and state trial lawyers association.
5. Do you also represent insurance companies? Many qualified accident lawyers also function as “Insurance Defense” lawyers and represent at-fault drivers or their insurance companies from time to time. This may mean that your prospective attorney may have a “conflict of interest” and be legally precluded from representing you in a case that involves an insurance company with which that attorney has an ongoing business relationship.
6. Will I have to pay for your services even if you do not recover a settlement or judgment for me? If you retain your attorney on a contingent basis, you will not, in most states, be responsible for paying your attorney’s fees if they are not successful in securing a settlement or judgment on your behalf.
7. Am I liable for any costs associated with investigating and preparing my case? Under many states laws, if your attorney intends to hold you responsible for the costs necessary to investigate and prepare your case, they must advise you in writing of this fact before signing you up as a client.
8. How much will associated costs be for my case? A typical auto accident case will require expenses for such costs as copies of the accident report, copies of your medical records as well as any fees charges by expert witnesses that may be necessary to present your case. These costs can vary greatly from case to case but even a simple case can cost several hundred dollars to prepare.
9. Are there any difficult issues in my case? An experienced attorney should be able to quickly identify any problem issues and be willing to discuss these issues with you.
10. How many other cases will you handle at any given time? The more cases an attorney has, the less time and personal attention those cases will likely receive.
Caution: Many of the accident lawyers that you see advertising on television or in multi-page phone book ads handle HUNDREDS of cases at any given time. While this type of practice may be financially rewarding for the attorney, it prevents the attorney from working personally on their clients’ cases and can compromise their ability to effectively represent their interests.
You may also want to research any attorney with your State Bar Association. These resources will allow you to discover whether your prospective attorney has ever faced any disciplinary actions or had complaints filed against them by previous clients.
Caution: Not all attorneys focus on representing accident victims. Unlike some states, Colorado does not grant special designations to those attorneys who limit their practices to this area of law.