Accidents happen. We hear it all the time, and usually chalk it up to bad luck or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But sometimes an accident and a resulting injury are somebody’s fault. And if someone else is at fault for your injuries, shouldn’t they have to pay if you have doctors’ bills, missed income, or even worse? There’s a large and often complicated area of law that covers accidents, the injuries they cause, and determining who, if anyone, is at fault. After an automobile, truck, motorcycle or ATV accident, you may be surprised at how quickly you are contacted by an insurance adjuster or claims examiner. While procedures vary among insurance companies, it’s not unusual to be contacted while you are still in the hospital or while you are still being treated. We often hear from automobile injury victims who are unsure as to whether they should talk directly to an insurance adjuster.
As with other major decisions, you should carefully evaluate the pros and cons before deciding to negotiate a personal injury settlement on your own.
• Prompt payment: The biggest “pro” of working directly with the insurance company is the speed in which the claim will likely be handled. If you accept the amount the insurance company offers as compensation after an accident and agree to sign a release, you may have a check in hand within weeks.
• Easy when damage is limited to personal property: If the only damage from the accident was damage to your vehicle or other property and neither you nor your passengers were injured in any way, then going this route often makes sense. One thing to keep in mind in property damage cases is that you may be entitled to a rental car. If the accident was not your fault, the other driver or their insurance company is, by law, obligated to pay you reasonable rental value for the period in which you had no vehicle. However a second opinion is always advised.
• Negotiation is a skill: Many people who decide to deal directly with insurance adjusters end up settling their claims for far less than what they could have likely obtained by working with a accident injury Lawyer.
• Danger of being misconstrued: When you work directly with the insurance company, they will use the information you share with them when they make a settlement offer. When you are recovering from the accident, you may inadvertently make statements that could be misconstrued and used against you. In fact, you may end up hurting your right to recover fair compensation by making a casual misstatement. When you hire an accident injury attorney to represent you, your attorney will handle communications with the insurance company.
• Pressure or intimidation tactics: Sometimes, automobile injury victims are also pressured or intimidated into accepting a low personal injury settlement amount. While this is not a universal truth, it unfortunately does happen. Victims may end up settling their case before they even know the full extent of their injuries. This can lead to additional financial and emotional stress that can last for years after the initial accident. After settlement agreements or releases are signed, courts are very reluctant to undo them.
• Risk of not being compensated fairly: Insurance companies have one primary goal when it comes to settling automobile injury claims, settling them for as little money as possible. Unfortunately, that often means that automobile injury victims are pressured to accept a personal injury settlement amount that does not fairly compensate them for their injuries or damages. When you work with an experienced accident injury attorney, the lawyer will know the law that applies and will work hard to uncover and present all relevant evidence, with the goal of helping you get the best possible outcome for your case.
• Added stress: The days, weeks and even months after a personal injury accident can be stressful and confusing. Having to deal with an insurance adjuster for injury compensation can just add to that stress. When you work with an accident injury lawyer, you can have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have a skilled professional in your corner, handling communications with the insurance adjuster on your behalf.
Pros and Cons of Contingency Agreements
A contingency agreement is an arrangement between a plaintiff and a lawyer, stating that the lawyer will represent the plaintiff without money to pay up front. In these situations, the plaintiff pays the lawyer only if the lawyer wins the case. In the event of a settlement agreement for the plaintiff, the lawyer keeps the percentage of the award agreed upon beforehand. At first glance, contingency agreements seem like a win-win for the plaintiff: The plaintiff pays nothing out of pocket, and the lawyer works hard to win the case in order to receive a paycheck. However, depending on the circumstances, it may not be the best fee agreement for your case.
One of the biggest draws for contingency agreements is if you lose the case, you don’t pay the attorney for the work done. It’s also a plus because in many cases, the plaintiff can’t afford a lawyer unless the case is won. This also provides an incentive to the attorney to do the best work that they can, otherwise they miss out on payment. Usually, a contingency agreement comes into play in cases where the plaintiff has been injured and is seeking money damages for the injury. A plaintiff can request many types of damages from the defendant, including:
• Economic damages – lost wages and medical bills.
• Non-economic damages – non-monetary losses, such as pain and suffering.
• Compensatory damages – a combination of economic and non-economic damages.
• Punitive damages – served to punish the defendant for a lack of care of others.
In any of these cases, the plaintiff can qualify for a settlement. After winning a settlement under a contingency fee agreement, the attorney will pay the expenses of the lawsuit.
The main problem with a contingency fee agreement is that it could cost the plaintiff more than standard hourly rates for a lawyer if the case settles quickly. A standard contingency fee can range between 30-40% of the final award. Whether your lawyer works for one week or one year, he or she will get the same amount of your settlement. If you have a risky case, a lawyer may negotiate a higher fee. Lawyers who use contingency fees can be very selective about the cases they take and avoid cases that appear to have low odds of winning. They do not have to accept a contingency agreement if they aren’t satisfied with the nature of the case, or if the state has imposed a cap on the amount of damages the plaintiff is able to claim. Also there may be additional fees associated with your cases, such as filing fees, discovery costs, and service of process fees. Be sure to scrutinize the full agreement to know what costs you are responsible for, on top of the percentage of the overall award at the end. Furthermore, laws vary state by state when it comes to placing caps on compensation.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Out-of-Court Settlements
When you’ve been injured because of the negligent actions of others, you can file a personal injury claim. With this action, you’re standing up for your rights to compensation and will hold the person accountable for their negligence. While you may think this automatically means your case will go to court, there are a few steps before that phase. It’s possible you may settle your case out of court. This situation has a few advantages and disadvantages. However, when you’re pursuing legal action, you should always have representation on your side. Before making a decision, you should have the information about out-of-court settlements and how they may be beneficial and when you may want to consider other options.
Out-of-Court Settlements: The Advantages
Let’s start with the advantages of out-of-court settlements. These typically center around time and money, but there are other aspects you may have not yet considered.
When you reach a settlement payout, you’ll usually arrive at this faster than you’d receive a jury verdict in a courtroom. If you do go the courtroom route, you do not know how long the case could take. You could be fighting your case for months and even years. As a person with financial losses and other damages from an accident, you may have expenses due before that final day in court.
Another advantage to settling your case out of court is you’re guaranteed compensation. You and the other party will reach a settlement agreement and you’ll receive the payout. Then, you can get started on paying back medical expenses, affording current treatment and keeping up with other financial responsibilities that have become harder to deal with since the accident.
You save courtroom costs when you settle your case. If your case goes to trial and it takes a long time, those court costs can add up to expensive amounts. Unfortunately, this may not be a viable option for some people. Exhausting funds spread out over time may also make you lose steam for pursuing your case. When you’re going the settlement route, you know you’ll have compensation at the end of it.
When a case goes to court, the trial becomes public. The news may report on it and your name and story will be out there for everyone to see. While you haven’t done anything wrong, it may feel invasive for the public to know all about what happened to you, how you were hurt, and what you’re seeking for it. People may make uninformed opinions and not have the full story and those judgments from strangers can hurt. When you settle, you have control over this and can keep the matter private.
Out-of-Court Settlements: The Disadvantages
While settlements certainly have many pros, the cons may be enough to make you pause and think about which option is best for you.
Settling your case will guarantee compensation, but it may not be as much as you’re rightfully owed. You have to reach an agreement with the other side and they may be unwilling to cooperate. Also, if you settle early, you may not even know the full extent of your injuries and therefore will not have the clear picture of how much compensation you should be asking for. Going to court will allow you to fight for full compensation with a lawyer at your side who has carefully evaluated your case and will seek to maximize your compensation. This can provide great peace of mind when it comes to paying for past and future medical care.
Cannot Make Defendant Pay Compensation
When you settle, the other side does not have to pay compensation if they’re being difficult during negotiations. Taking them to court means that if the jury sides with you, then the defendant will have to pay compensation.
Cannot Pursue Legal Action
If you agree to a settlement, you may not be legally eligible to pursue any further action. So, if you have a lower award at the end of the settlement, that’s the amount you have and the matter is handled regardless of how you’re feeling. You may have had a much higher award if you had taken your case to court.
Deciding When to Get the Court Involved in Your Injury Case
Until a civil lawsuit actually begins, your lawyer can keep a lid on the insurance claim process. For example, the insurance company has no right to interview you directly unless an actual lawsuit is underway. And the insurance company cannot speak to your doctors. Nor can it force your lawyer to do any more work, or run up more in expenses, than the lawyer decides is necessary to investigate and prepare your claim. But once a formal lawsuit begins, your lawyer may have to do considerably more work, including responding to steps initiated by the insurance company’s lawyers. This can run up both stress and expenses that you and your lawyer cannot completely control. An accident injury lawsuit technically begins when a “complaint” is filed in the local branch of your state’s civil court. The complaint is a legal document setting out the facts and legal basis for your claim against the defendant. This complaint must be filed within the time limit set by your state’s statute of limitations. But the real action of a lawsuit does not begin until the defendant and his or her lawyer are formally brought into the case when your complaint is “served” on formally delivered to the defendant. The decision of when to serve the defendant, and therefore when to start the expensive and often stressful course of a lawsuit, depends on whether settlement negotiations are making any progress. If they are not, your lawyer may feel that proceeding with a formal lawsuit is the only way to pressure the insurance company to step up with a reasonable settlement offer. A decision about taking your case to court should be made jointly by you and your lawyer after a thorough conversation about the pros and cons of filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Conducting Discovery in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The legal process that each side of a lawsuit (plaintiff and defendant) uses to get information from each other is called “discovery”. Discovery can involve the relatively simple exchange of written questions and answers called interrogatories, as well as other exchanges of documents. But it can also include expensive procedures called depositions in which lawyers from both sides get together and question the plaintiff, the defendant, or a witness. The questioning is done in person, under oath, while a court reporter records the answers (and then later prepares a written transcript). Although depositions are a basic part of most lawsuits, the number of depositions scheduled in a case can vary considerably. In a case involving huge amounts of money, lawyers take the deposition not just of the plaintiff and defendant but of every conceivable witness, hoping to turn up even a single crumb of useful information. However, this tactic is rarely used when smaller amounts of money are at stake. Your lawyer needs to bear in mind the expense of taking depositions. You might want to ask that your lawyer not schedule the deposition of anyone other than the defendant without discussing it with you first. Even though you may have already provided the lawyer with your medical and billing records, lawyers sometimes order them again out of habit, or to ensure that the file is complete. But the doctor’s office will charge for these records, and may charge a larger fee to a lawyer than to the patient and the lawyer, in turn, will pass this cost on to you. Also, lawyers sometimes want to get a doctor to write a report concerning your injuries. Such reports are sometimes important for your case, but they may cost a thousand dollars or more. Ask your lawyer (tactfully, of course) not to order any duplicate medical records, or request a medical report, without at least discussing it with you first.
Setting a Personal Injury Case for Trial
Setting a lawsuit for trial means asking the court to assign a date for the actual trial to begin. Often lawyers are forced to set cases for trial in order to put enough pressure on an insurance company to get a reasonable settlement offer. Getting a trial date from the court is a simple matter your lawyer just sends the court a written request. It’s what happens next that you have to be concerned about. In the first place, many contingency fee agreements provide that the lawyer’s fee goes up often from 33.3% to 40% as soon as the case is set for trial, regardless of whether the trial ever actually takes place. If your fee agreement has such a provision, you do not want your lawyer to set the case for trial unless it’s truly necessary. This means that the insurance company has not come up with a reasonable settlement offer and there are no more legal maneuvers, short of setting for trial, available to pressure the insurance company. Also, once the case is set for trial, the pace of legal maneuvering and preparations may speed up dramatically. The lawyers may schedule depositions and other expensive proceedings they had been putting off. And your lawyer may have to spend more of your money hiring outside experts to begin preparing for trial.
Trial in a Personal Injury Case
If you decide that what the insurance company is offering is just not enough, even after your lawyer has done everything possible to persuade the insurer of your damages and the other party’s liability, you may end up in a trial. At this point, you will rely on your lawyer almost completely, which is why it’s so important to find the right legal professional for you and your case.
Accident Lawyer Rose Park Utah
When you need an accident lawyer in Rose Park Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506