Do I need a lawyer?

Answer: Each case is unique. Without knowing the specific details of a particular case it is difficult to answer this question. For example, let's say that you are dealing with a property damage claim only and you have a pretty good idea of the amount of damage involved. In that situation you know whether or not the insurance company is treating you fairly and you may not need a lawyer. However, if you are dealing with a serious personal injury claim, you probably do not know what your case is worth. In that situation you should probably check with a personal injury lawyer to find out. Most lawyers will not charge you for an initial consultation.

What is my case worth?

Answer: This can be one of the most difficult questions facing a personal injury lawyer. There is no law book that the lawyer can open up to find the answer. Each case is unique, with many variables that apply. If a case cannot be settled with the insurance company, a jury or judge will then have to decide what the case is worth. That is the only "true value" of a case, however we never know that figure until the trial is over and done with and it is then too late to make any changes.

There can be great disagreement between lawyers and insurance company adjusters on the value of a case. A careful review of your medical records, the amount of your medical bills, your wage loss, the amount of pain and suffering that you have experienced, and whether or not you will continue to have problems in the future are all very important factors for the lawyer in deciding what your case might be worth. Even for an experienced lawyer it can be very difficult to determine the value of a case without knowing all of the specific details mentioned above. Even an identical injury to two different people can have drastically different values. A broken finger to a professional piano player could certainly be much more costly than a broken finger to a parking lot attendant, even though both might suffer the same amount of pain and both may pay the same amount of medical bills.

There are numerous variables which an attorney must take into consideration in trying to determine what a case is worth. Determining the answer to this question is one of the most important and difficult tasks that the lawyer faces when representing you. As you might expect, the particular lawyer that you get is a very important factor in this regard. As with any other occupation, there are "good" lawyers and "not so good" lawyers. This can greatly affect how much money you may be able to obtain on your case.

Note: The above discussion relates to non-work injuries (for example automobile accidents). Workers' Compensation cases (those dealing with on-the-job injuries) have special laws that apply, which are considerably different than other types of injury cases. For answers to work injury cases please call Julie Shipman Burns of the McCord & Burns Law Firm. That is Julie's primary area of practice.

How much will a lawyer cost me?

Answer: Most personal injury lawyers will charge you a "contingent fee" which means that they will receive a percentage of the amount recovered plus reimbursement of any expenses which they must pay on your behalf. The most common contingent fee is 1/3. The advantage of the contingent fee is that you do not have to pay an attorney fee if there is no recovery. In addition, on a contingent fee basis most lawyers are willing to advance the expenses associated with the case, which can be very substantial. Most lawyers are also willing to handle personal injury cases on an hourly fee basis, however you can expect to pay upwards of $150.00 per hour or more, plus a substantial retainer. On an hourly fee basis you will also need to be prepared to pay the expenses associated with the claim, which can be thousands of dollars, depending upon the type of case involved.

How do I choose the right lawyer?

Answer: One of the best ways to locate the right lawyer for your case is to call another lawyer that you may know and trust. For example, if you have a business lawyer who does not handle personal injury cases, he may be able to refer you to a good injury lawyer. Perhaps you have a friend who has used a lawyer in the past, and may be able to give you a recommendation. Choosing a lawyer based only upon advertisements is probably not the best course of action. A referral from someone you know and trust might be a better approach. And don't be afraid to ask a lawyer about his or her qualifications and experience. If the answers you get are not satisfactory, move on. There are plenty to choose from.

How long do I have to proceed with my case?

Answer: There are many different "statutes of limitations" which control how much time you have to bring a claim. The typical car accident between two private citizens is generally 4 years; however, if one of the drivers is working for the State at the time of the accident, you may have only 2 years; on the other hand, if they happen to be working for the public school system you may have only 1 year; on a written contract, you generally have 5 years in which to bring a claim when the other party breaches the contract; however on an assault and battery case you usually have only 1 year to sue the assaulter; for medical malpractice claims you generally have 2 years, however, if the doctor leaves a dirty sponge inside of you during the operation, and you do not find out about it until five years later when it starts causing problems, you can still probably sue the doctor for his neglect even though more than two years has passed. CONFUSING?? You bet. It is always a good idea to check with a lawyer "early on" to determine how much time you may have in a particular case. Once the time limit has passed, you are forever barred from getting a recovery for your injuries.

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