Posted by Gary Burger on April 28, 2016 in Car Accidents
You have been injured in a car accident due to the fault of another driver. Your car has been wrecked and you are experiencing a significant amount of pain. No one asks to be in a car accident. In fact, most accidents just happen.
The person who hit you may have committed an egregious act of negligence by driving while intoxicated or a non-egregious act of negligence by making a bad judgment about how long they had to clear the intersection. Regardless of the circumstances, you were injured due to no fault of your own and have the right to legally recover for the harms and losses you suffered in the accident.
If you are reading this right now, you have likely arrived at the decision to make an injury claim for compensation against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You are also considering the option of hiring a lawyer to help you with your claim. The questions shared below are to assist you in evaluating lawyers during the hiring process. Utilize these questions to carefully vet the attorneys to determine who will be the right fit for you and your case.
1) DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH THE INSURANCE COMPANIES INVOLVED IN MY CASE?
We chose to list this question first because the answer will help you quickly determine whether or not you should continue interviewing the lawyer. First and foremost, you want an attorney who has direct experience working with the involved insurance companies. Every insurance company has its own legal team and a unique set of tactics that they will employ to limit your claim as much as possible. You want your attorney to be familiar with their tactics so that you walk away with full and fair compensation.
For example, we go against some insurance companies that have in-house counsel. These particular companies will fight aggressively to reduce as much of your settlement as possible because they are employed on a salary basis and have relatively fixed costs. Other insurance companies hire outside counsel and are weary of going to trial because of the costs involved. We adjust our tactics based on the insurance companies involved in order to maximize the value of your claim.
2) HAVE YOU WON A CASE LIKE THIS AT TRIAL?
The truth is that the vast majority of most injury claims do not make it to trial. You need an attorney who is experienced in pre-lawsuit car accident litigation AND who has a winning record in front of a jury. As the injured party making a claim, you never know if your case is going to require a trial in order to receive a full recovery. Make sure that you choose an attorney who can go the distance if the circumstances of your case require a trial.
If the attorney does claim to have trial experience, you can dig a little deeper and inquire about how often they take car accident cases to trial. Attorneys who try cases several times a year are considered to be active trial lawyers.
3) WILL YOU BE PERSONALLY HANDLING MY CASE?
This is an important question to ask because some lawyers will meet with you and then assign your case to another person in their firm – often a junior associate. It is important for you to meet and evaluate the person who will be working on your case prior to signing any contract with a lawyer. Ask if any associates will be working on your case and ask for more information about their involvement. Ask to meet with them before you make any hiring decisions.
At Burger Law, we believe that our clients are better served if a named partner oversees your case from start to finish. This means that you will be personally represented by Gary Burger if you choose our law firm.
4) DO YOU HAVE THE TIME, STAFF AND RESOURCES NECESSARY TO HANDLE MY CASE IN A TIMELY MANNER?
The last thing you want is to sign a contract with a lawyer who is going to turn around and throw your case file into a drawer that will not be opened for many months to come. This usually happens when an attorney has too many cases and not enough support staff. Ask this question so that you can establish a timeline of expectations. How long will it take for the office to collect medical records? How long will it take for the attorney to calculate your damages? How long will it take before a demand for compensation is made in your case? You want an attorney who can quickly move your case forward as soon as you are done treating for your injuries.
5) WHAT IS THE VALUE OF MY CASE?
Beware of attorneys who give you a definitive answer to this question without first closely reviewing the facts of your case. There are many variables that factor into the value of your car accident injury claim. A good car accident lawyer will take time to explain your available recovery options and how the jurisdiction and questions about the degree of liability will impact your claim.
The following variables will impact the overall value of your case:
- Related medical expenses (past and future)
- Wage loss damages (past and future)
- Pain and suffering compensation
- Disability and disfigurement (future)
- Insurance policy limits (of the at-fault driver and your own)
- Jurisdiction in which the case is filed
- Strength of liability
You want an attorney who is willing to discuss each aspect of your damages BEFORE you hire them. (However, keep in mind that some of these variables will be difficult to discuss at length if you are still treating for your injuries.) Be wary of attorneys who pressure you to make a decision before all of your questions have been answered.
6) IS YOUR WORK RECOGNIZED IN THE LEGAL COMMUNITY?
A lawyer’s good work is often recognized by other lawyers. You want an attorney who is respected by their peers to represent you in your case. Look for lawyers who have been recognized with the highest legal honors such as an AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating by Martindale-Hubbell, recognized on the list of Super Lawyers in your state and have achieved Avvo’s 10.0 “Superb” Top Attorney rating. These honors require the good opinions of other lawyers and are good indicators of an attorney’s legal skills and professional ethics.
Look for a lawyer who has been recognized with two or more of these great distinctions. Other accolades such as membership in the Million and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Top 100 Trial Lawyers are given to attorneys who have achieved significant results via settlement or verdict for their clients. These are also good indicators of the quality of an attorneys work, but do not reflect the opinions of their peers.
The Difference Between A Good Car Accident Lawyer And A Bad One
It is safe to say that most car accident lawyers are good at what they do and can help you achieve a recovery that is larger than what you could have achieved on your own. In fact, insurance industry studies show that people who choose to work with an attorney receive settlements that are on average 3 ½ times larger than those who choose to deal with the insurance company on their own.
This figure is shocking! The people who are receiving settlements that are larger aren’t getting more money than they deserve; it is the people who are going it alone and receiving smaller settlements who are missing out on the money that is rightfully owed to them. Insurance companies are getting away with these smaller amounts because the injured person does not have someone familiar with car accident litigation looking out for them and advocating for their fair recovery.
But all of that is neither here nor there. If you are reading this guide, you are already considering hiring a lawyer to help you with your claim. Although most car accident lawyers out there are good at what they do, if you happen to pick one lacking the necessary skills and experience, you are at risk of settling your injury claim for less than is rightfully and fairly owed to you. It is important to remember that you have only one chance to recover. Once you settle your case or receive a verdict, you can’t go back to the insurance company for more compensation.
Consider our client Kathy’s story as an example of how choosing the wrong attorney could have cost Kathy $200,000 in lost compensation:
Kathy was seriously injured in a car accident with an uninsured driver. She met with an attorney who reviewed her case and told her that she could only collect a $25,000 settlement from her uninsured motorist coverage policy. Since the $25,000 figure did not even cover the cost of her medical care, the attorney advised Kathy to work with insurance company on her own.
After considering her options and her ever-growing medical bills, Kathy decided to seek the advice of another attorney. Kathy contacted us at Burger Law and we quickly met with her to take a look at the facts of her case. After carefully looking over Kathy’s insurance coverage, we were able to determine that she could collect $100,000 from her commercial policy of uninsured motorist coverage and $25,000 from uninsured motorist coverage on each of her personal vehicles. We were also able to collect $25,000 in medical payments coverage from her commercial policy.
In this case, we were able to secure a recovery that was nine times more than what the insurance company had offered and what the original lawyer thought could be recovered. Why the discrepancy between what we actually recovered and what the original lawyer considered to be the value of her case? It is simple; we have extensive experience working with car accident victims and know how to evaluate insurance policies to ensure that our clients receive the maximum compensation possible.
Don’t settle for an attorney who only occasionally practices car accident litigation. Use the questions outlined in this guide to help you find an experienced car accident lawyer who is right for you and your case so that you don’t have to settle for less than full and fair compensation.