The Qualities To Look For When Retaining An Attorney For A Personal Injury Claim
Interviewer: When someone’s looking for an attorney to represent them for personal injury, what are some qualities that they should be looking for? At the same time, what are some red flags?
Brett Hollett: The most important thing is that you are comfortable with that attorney and that you are confident in his ability. This can be based on a lot of different things. You may consider their personality, where their firm is located, and their experience. You want to ask them how comfortable are they in handling personal injury cases? Where did they go to law school? How many cases have they handled? Do they have settlement information they can share with you, not necessarily confidential information? What do they think your case may be worth? How long do they think your case may last? What is their fee structure? How will expenses be paid?
Almost All Attorneys Handle Personal Injury Cases on a Contingency Basis
Interviewer: In reality how does a lawyer get paid for personal injury cases?
Brett Hollett: The beauty of personal injury cases for the victim or a client is that they will never have to come out of pocket to pay for an attorney or front the costs of litigation. Almost all attorneys take personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that if there is no recovery, that there won’t be any fee that their client is going to have to pay. There isn’t any kind of out of pocket obligation or upfront cost to that client. The client is assuming zero risk. Depending upon the complexity of the cases, the fees will typically range from 33 percent all the way up to 50 percent based on the complexity of the case.
Many Clients Prefer the Contingency Fee Because it Does Not Entail Any Out of Pocket Expenses
A lot of clients prefer that method because they don’t have to come out of pocket and pay a monthly retainer or pay hourly fees, the attorneys will also front any expenses that are necessary in the case. At the end if there is a recovery, the attorney will take out the expenses and then, take whatever their contingency fee was and provide the client with the rest of the settlement, so the client’s really putting nothing at risk.
The Difficult Aspects of Handling a Personal Injury Case in Alabama
Interviewer: What are some of the most difficult aspects to deal with when it comes to a personal injury case?
Brett Hollett: Alabama is one of the few states that follows the contributory negligence doctrine. This means that if you are at fault in any way for the accident, you get nothing. So if you did something very minor that makes you 1 percent at fault, and the other person is ninety nine percent at fault – you lose. Thus, you have to be very careful as to what you say and this is again, why you should never give a recorded statement to an adverse party’s insurance company unless you are represented by an attorney. Another difficult aspect can be managing your client’s expectations. You want to be able to harness their expectations from the get go and really set their expectations in line with what you think a fair and reasonable settlement may be. If you start out your attorney/client relationship with your client thinking their case is worth million dollars when you know from day one that the best case scenario is their case is worth ten thousand dollars, nobody is ever going to be happy and there’s just going to be a lot of problems from day 1.
A Client’s Expectations Need to be Realistic in Order for the Claim to Proceed Smoothly
I think client’s expectations are big part of it and you need to be honest with your clients and have a real conversation once you know what all the expenses and what all the hard damages are so that you can make a reasonable demand and potentially settle the case.
Once An Attorney has been Retained, it is Advisable to Direct Insurance Companies to Deal with the Attorney
Interviewer: If I hired an attorney and an insurance company calls me, what should I do? Should I answer their questions or should I contact my attorney first or should I refer them to my attorney?
Brett Hollett: If an insurance company calls you after you’ve retained an attorney, you should tell them you’re represented by an attorney and you should give them your attorney’s information and tell them to contact that attorney directly. You should not answer any other questions about the accident or give them any other information at that point in time.
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