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Lawyers help wanted
Old 06-24-2010, 04:25 PM   #1
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Lawyers help wanted

Hello all,

I notice a lot of very smart people here and need to ask for help with my legal dilemma; and there are many of FIRE'd lawyers here as well

I was involved in a major car accident earlier this year, not my fault, thanks G me and my passenger survived it. I was on full time disability for ~1.5 mo and still on part time for 4 mo., suffered from concussion, head aches, bruises, back pain, shoulders, etc. Recovering very slowly unfortunately

Insurance of a negligent party assumed responsibility and want to move quickly (as usual I would add) to settle the case.

I am not sure what to do. Do I wait, recover (I am not sure how long it might take thou) and then ask for legal help? Or do I hire a lawyer now? They ask for 1/3 of overall settlement amount and I feel that lost of wages should not be part of it. Is it normal?

Thank you in advance!
wanaberetiree
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Old 06-24-2010, 05:15 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wanaberetiree View Post
Hello all,

I notice a lot of very smart people here and need to ask for help with my legal dilemma; and there are many of FIRE'd lawyers here as well

I was involved in a major car accident earlier this year, not my fault, thanks G me and my passenger survived it. I was on full time disability for ~1.5 mo and still on part time for 4 mo., suffered from concussion, head aches, bruises, back pain, shoulders, etc. Recovering very slowly unfortunately

Insurance of a negligent party assumed responsibility and want to move quickly (as usual I would add) to settle the case.

I am not sure what to do. Do I wait, recover (I am not sure how long it might take thou) and then ask for legal help? Or do I hire a lawyer now? They ask for 1/3 of overall settlement amount and I feel that lost of wages should not be part of it. Is it normal?

Thank you in advance!
wanaberetiree
What follows is from my experience as the injured party in a serious crash. I am a layman, not an attorney.

My understanding (and experience as a plaintiff) is that all expenses come off the top of the entire award, then there is a 1/3-2/3 split of the remainder. I think this is about the best you can expect, but read the contract as it can be less favorable to you. For example, I think some attorneys charge time if you should wind up in court.

I went with an ethical attorney (maybe not the best choice, as I truly needed someone with a briefcase full of piranhas), but at least I didn’t have to keep my eye on him as well as the criminals in the enemy camp.

See what the adjuster will offer you up front, but do not respond to any questions or requests for your medical records. Only "talk" via email, and nothing more than that you are badly hurt, really upset, don't know when or if you will ever get better and need compensation for your grievous injuries. Try to shuck your ideas about fairness, as this process is not about fairness, it is about money and nothing else. Dishonesty is wrong, and it would be dishonest for you not to let them know how grievously you have been damaged.

Overall, I am glad I went with representation. It should be done ASAP, IMO.

One more thing I would add. Although many of your interests are aligned with the attorney representing you, not all of them are. Think every move through carefully, especially as regards settling vs. trying the case. Sometimes s/he may want to settle for cash flow reasons. Other times s//he may want to litigate, to keep the defense attorneys and insurance companies honest.

Unless you are very different from me, do not expect it to be fun, or quick.

Ha
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:35 PM   #3
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i'm no attorney, and this is my co-workers experience who was side swiped while riding his motorcycle.

1. His health insurance took care of all his medical attention from day one. The guy who hit my coworker had his insurance company pony up the full maximum for which they were liable right away. well, if you have employee coverage, there are rules within EIRSA where your health insurance gets to recoup costs first, then you get whatever is left. if the party who hits you has low liability (read:state minimum), you're employer will most likely not recoup all medical expenses from an accident where the insurance company is quickly cutting a check for the max liability. the kicker is you need to release the insurance funds to your employer's medical coverage people. so, they need your signature, you need the liens off your house and the standard deal is 50/50. Just one thing to check into.

2. If you plan on suing the person who hit you beyond what the insurance pays, check your homestead laws. here in texas, the law is very generous to the individual - not only is the 401k protected by eirsa, but all your retirement accounts, house, cars, horses etc are protected by texas' homestead laws. not only that, if you have assets not protected by the homestead laws, you have up until the day of a judgement to give your sister some gifts. if it's a business (hopefully a large one not a small one like ours where our assets + cash = $20k or so), you can get more out of them. but, this is what an advocate can do for you - tell you what is protected and sniff out if they A) own a business and/or B) were performing business duties when you were hit.

it can be annoying and i'm sorry to hear this happened to you. if you're lost and even fighting with an insurance company, a lawyer is probably the way to go, as ha suggested. unless you know what you are doing, having a reputable attorney is your best chance to getting as close to being made whole as you will get. and you're left with the physical effects. i hope the best.
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Old 06-25-2010, 10:29 AM   #4
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I am a longtime attorney (albeit not a personal injury attorney). It would be slightly insane (not to mention unethical) to try to give you specific advice on a board like this. In my area, many personal injury attorneys will negotiate a contingent fee far below the 33% you're talking about. Every experienced P/I attorney (including every insurance company attorney) can evaluate what a personal injury case is worth just about to the dollar. If your case were realistically worth $100K, the attorneys on both sides would basically be doing a kabuki dance to see if your attorney could settle at the upper range of $110K or their attorney could settle at the lower range of $90K. Studies tend to show that you end up with a higher settlement if you use an attorney, but less money in your pocket after the 25%-33% contingent fee is deducted. What I would do if I were you would be to spend a few hundred dollars to sit down with an experienced attorney for an hour or two and try to get a realistic evaluation of your case before you decide whether you need full-tilt legal representation. Always bear in mind the statute of limitations -- typically around two years for a personal injury claim. You'll want to know exactly what it is in your state. And bear in mind that the insurance company wants you to settle NOW because often really serious problems won't become apparent until several months down the road. In any event, I would at least talk to a good P/I attorney on an hourly basis. I've been practicing for 30 years, and it's uncanny how accurate of an estimate a good P/I attorney can give you. I remember a case where I, my partners and our client (a young model who had fallen ten feet off a city sidewalk and incurred some scarring on her face) all thought we had a $1 million case. We had her evaluated by a good P/I attorney who said "50K." The client was so irked that she fired us and retained a different firm. Two years later she settled with the city -- for $45K.

It is also true what the other poster said about a judgment-proof defendant. If there are no assets, the size of your judgment will be largely meaningless (although in most states you can renew a judgment indefinitely and hope the defendant wins the lottery). Do you have underinsured motorist coverage in your policy? That would be another possible source of funds.

Good luck -- I think any attorney here will tell you to speak with a local P/I attorney and get some fact-based guidance. You don't have to commit to anything but the attorney's time at $150-$400 an hour to do that.
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Old 06-25-2010, 10:33 AM   #5
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Old 06-25-2010, 12:12 PM   #6
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Well, it's certainly true that P/I attorneys are inevitably those with the largest Yellow Page ads, but I would personally go to a high-quality, multi-lawyer firm that does all types of legal work. They are likely to have a P/I specialist who will be less inclined to try to get you to immediately sign on the dotted line of a contingent fee agreement. Better yet, see if you can find an attorney who does mostly insurance defense work (i.e., represents insurance companies) and is willing to talk to you. If you have a pretty could handle on what your medical expenses and prognosis are, a good P/I attorney can give you a dollar figure within a narrow range, which is why 99.9% of P/I cases settle. It's also why contingent fee agreements tend to be a rip-off; I don't want to paint with too broad of a brush, but an awful lot of fairly large cases settle with a small investment of time on the part of the plaintiff's attorney. I defended one fee dispute where the attorney did a truly exceptional 4-5 hours of work, got a settlement of $500K and pocketed a contingent fee of more than $150K; the client complained to the State Bar, but it upheld the fee.
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Old 06-25-2010, 02:46 PM   #7
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You also might want to see who the insurance company is.... I was surprised when I was in a minor accident recently and Progressive called on Monday (the accident was Sat) talking about me coming in to get an estimate. I went in Tues... they handed me a check. They said, this is just our initial offer. If you do not like it, or if there is something else wrong when the work is started, get back in touch with us..

I took it to the place recommended by my dealership (they did not do body work)... their price was a few hundred less than Progressive... got the job done, with Progressive talking with them and me the whole time... they did not come back and say 'we overpaid you'... I pocketed the extra money... BTW, they also arranged for the rental car etc... I was impressed with them.
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Old 06-25-2010, 08:55 PM   #8
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Thank you all for very useful suggestions.....
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Old 06-25-2010, 10:44 PM   #9
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Or perhaps ask your "general practitioner" lawyer (assuming you have one), for a referral.
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