FAQ TABLE OF CONTENTS
Between us, the attorneys at Monsees & Mayer P.C have been practicing law for a combined total of around hundred years. During that time we have handled hundreds–approaching a thousand cases. While we have represented people in many different legal matters, we have found that there are some common questions most clients have regarding their legal rights, the legal system, and the lawyers that work for them. Below are some of these Frequently Asked Questions and their general answers. These answers may address some of your concerns but do not constitute legal advice to anyone. For that, you must contact us or another attorney.
Are my health plan benefits affected by any legal claim I may make against someone else for personal injuries?
ANSWER: No. Your health plan benefits should not be affected by whether or not you have or pursue a personal injury claim. If the health care plan administrator tries to tell you otherwise, such as it does not pay for certain medical conditions because you have a personal injury claim, it is time to contact an attorney. Depending upon the health care plan involved you may have an obligation to repay the costs or benefits received from it out of any third party recovery. But that does not affect whether you are entitled to receive your health care plan coverage in the first place.
ANSWER: Yes. It frequently costs a great deal of money to pursue a case, although our law firm advances those costs and only claims reimbursement if your case is accepted and pursued successfully. Costs or expenses of litigation include such things as copies of medical records, consultations with your doctors, travel, fees of expert witnesses needed to help prove your case, filing fees, fees of court reporters and video technicians.
If your case is lost, the defendant may seek recovery of legal costs. These may be different from the expenses of a case discussed above. A court may order the losing party to pay legal costs, although that is usually a very small percentage of the expenses to pursue a case. Legal costs are generally limited to the opposing side’s court reporting fees and court filing fees. Otherwise, the expenses of pursuing or defending a case are usually born by the party which incurs the expense. Except in extreme circumstances, if your case is lost, you do not have to pay the opposing side’s attorney’s fees or expenses of litigation.
ANSWER: Yes and they are very important. All legal claims are governed by statutes of limitations which are time periods within which a law suit must be filed or you will lose your legal right to pursue your claims. These time periods are different in each state and vary by the particular legal claims you can make. It is important that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible so you do not lose your legal rights.
ANSWER: Yes. While there is no hard and fast rule, we will usually tell you that minor injury matters are best handled through your local county small claims court, which does not require a lawyer. The circuit clerk in your county is required by law to assist you in filing a small claims petition and serving the other side. You will usually receive a prompt hearing before a judge which is very much like the “Peoples Court” television program except you have the right to ask questions of the other side as they do of you.
There are other situations in which you may not need a lawyer on the rare occasions when an insurance company or defendant may be willing to settle your case with very little input from an attorney. It is always good, however, to seek the advice of an attorney. A competent and honest attorney should tell you if your situation is one in which you should represent yourself. Mistakes can be made if this is done improperly, such as when there are other potentially responsible parties or theories of recovery that may allow you to maximize your chances for a full and fair recovery. Remember, no matter how friendly the insurance repetitive may sound, he or she is not on your side.
ANSWER: Our attorneys have over 100 years of combined legal experience, and our law firm has annually been awarded the “Best Law Firms” recognition by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, individual attorneys have long track records of recognition as Missouri Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America and Kansas City’s Best of the Bar. We are also recognized by the national legal publication Martindale-Hubbell with an “A/V” rating, which is the highest rating attorneys can achieve for both legal competence and integrity.
Do I have a workers compensation claim and if so how does it work with any general personal injury claim?
ANSWER: If your injury or occupational illness was suffered on the job, you may have a workers compensation claim. We do not ordinarily practice in this area, but we can work with you to refer you to competent workers compensation counsel.
We frequently accept cases that involve work-related injuries that arise due to the negligence or wrongdoing of a third party; not the employer, such as an automobile collision experienced while on the job, or an injury resulting from a dangerous machine used on the job. In such situations, amounts paid through workers compensation may have to be repaid in the event of recovery against the responsible third party. We work with the employer and its insurer to negotiate any repayment to only a portion of what you may receive through workers compensation protection.
Do I have any right to Social Security benefits and if so how do they work with my general personal injury claim?
ANSWER: The Social Security system is also a separate benefit program which does not depend upon fault, but does require that you meet certain conditions before receiving compensation. In order to recover Social Security benefits you generally need to be disabled for a continuous period of 12 months from any gainful employment, not just your prior job. If you have become disabled as a result of an accident, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability. We do not practice in this area, but can assist you in finding competent disability counsel.
ANSWER: We always encourage people to consult a tax attorney if they have any concerns in this area, as we are not qualified to adequately advise people regarding tax issues. In general, one does not owe income taxes for recovery of money in a personal injury claim. The taxation rules are constantly changing, and the nature of the damages you recover may be taxable, especially if your claim includes allegations of lost income or punitive damages. Claims involving employment discrimination are treated differently, and some such recoveries and awards are taxable.
ANSWER: It never hurts to consult, and our consultations are free. Experienced attorneys may have ideas that you might overlook. We may recognize claims or rights that are not obvious. Some cases do not ultimately require an attorney for effective pursuit. Our job is to help you know the difference between those you can pursue on your own, and those for which you need legal help. Statistics prove that cases handled by attorneys secure better results, compared to those pursued without legal help.
ANSWER: Yes, for your own benefit so that you know what the relationship is between you and your attorney. It is important for you to know exactly what matters in which your attorney is representing you, and it is also important to find out if there are matters in which the attorney is not representing you. In turn, most states’ ethical rules require attorneys representing clients on a contingent fee basis to enter into a written agreement. Be sure to read the attorney/client contract before you sign it and ask any questions so that you understand this arrangement. Most plaintiffs’ attorneys have a standard form contract that meets state ethical requirements and varies little from case to case. Two areas of particular note are the attorney fee percentages and how costs are handled. While attorney fees can and do vary by a few percentage points between firms, you should never pick an attorney solely on the basis of who has the lowest contingent fee. Sometimes better attorneys charge more.
ANSWER: Most good personal injury attorneys are willing to accept cases on a percentage or contingent fee basis. In other words, the attorney only gets paid a fee if he/she wins your case, or settles it out of court. Our law firm handles cases on a contingent fee basis, and we charge no fee to meet with you and review your case. The percentage amount may vary depending on the complexity of your case. Never engage an attorney based solely on who charges the lesser fee. Good representation, like many other fine things we buy, sometimes costs more.
ANSWER: They are settled through negotiation with either the insurance company adjustor or its defense counsel, both of whom deal with personal injury matters day in and day out, as do we. But before negotiations begin, both sides must be aware of the facts of the specific case, including liability or fault, injuries and damages, as well as the ability to collect a judgment either from the responsible parties or their insurance companies. Consequently, the first thing we will do in an effort to settle a case is to fully investigate it, beginning with:
- Collecting all relevant medical records and bills with an appropriate affidavit so that they are admissible at trial, if necessary;
- Requesting employment records for any lost wage claim and evaluating income tax records for the same reason;
- Investigating the accident scene, including photographs, videotapes, measurements, etc.;
- Interviewing eye-witnesses to the accident as well as other people that have knowledge regarding the occurrence or the injuries and damages suffered;
- Legal research regarding potential causes of action and how to prove them;
- Discussing the cause of injuries as well as the need for future treatment with medical professionals;
- Researching jury verdicts to see what compensation has been awarded in similar cases;
- Investigating the responsible parties, their insurance company and the amount of coverage they have for a specific claim;
- Checking for other similar accidents which show the responsible party had knowledge of a particular danger;
- Retaining experts who help in evaluating, preparing and presenting different aspects of the case.
In essence, we need to know as much about the case as possible before evaluating it for purposes of settlement and making recommendations to our clients regarding the amount of compensation to demand. You, as our client have approval of each step in the process. An attorney cannot settle your case or even submit a specific monetary demand without your authorization. Our job is to give you advice, sometimes quite pointedly about the settlement process and the risk of trial. Your job is to decide what to do. While you control the result you should pay attention to what your attorney tells you as he or she has the experience to properly evaluate claims. Ultimately, what the parties are trying to do in settling any case is to predict what a jury might do in rendering its verdict after trial. Since no one can predict the future, past experience is the only way to evaluate a case for settlement.
ANSWER: Preparation, presentation and persistence. People who have been injured usually have other things on their mind such as healing physically and emotionally, returning to work, caring for their families or otherwise rebuilding their everyday lives. These are more important than dealing with insurance adjusters or the defense counsel they hire whose job it is to question your claim, minimize your damages, or even prevent you from making any recovery to save money for their insurance company. Our job is just the opposite, to develop your case, both regarding liability and damages so as to maximize your monetary recovery under the law.
ANSWER: There are two ways a claim is resolved-by settlement or through trial. Some cases have a better chance of settling than others. If there is a realistic possibility of settlement we will usually try that option first as it is the most beneficial and the least risky for you. However, the threat of trial is what drives settlement. The knowledge that a law firm will try a case is what causes the responsible party or its insurance company to pay full and fair compensation for your injuries. Frankly, some cases are not economically feasible to try due to the cost of litigation. We try to limit our practice to only serious personal injury and wrongful death claims so that most cases can be tried if not settled. Your attorney’s job is to recommend the best course of action possible given the circumstances of your case–then pursue that course to a favorable conclusion through trial or settlement.
ANSWER: Every case is different. It depends on the complexities of your case; who are the defendant, who is representing them, and in what court is your case pending. For cases in the Greater Kansas City area, one can generally plan on a 12-16 month course between meeting with the attorney and any reasonable chance at a trial date. We make efforts throughout to resolve the case, if the opportunity arises. It may take a couple of months to simply investigate and evaluate your case. If we accept and file your case, it takes approximately a year thereafter to have any reasonable chance to resolve it through settlement or trial.
ANSWER: Any attorney who tells you what your case is worth in an initial meeting is doing you a disservice. What your case is worth depends on how easily your case can be proven, and the damages you have suffered. How much were your hospital bills? Did you lose income and time from employment? Is your injury permanent? Will you need future care or have other future expenses? What are the odds that a jury is going to find in your favor? Answering such questions takes time. We employ a number of means to evaluate the fair value of your case, but a lot of our insight on case value is based on our collective years of handling cases just like yours. We never settle a case without your permission, and only after discussing with you, when the time is right, all the considerations for the value of your case.
ANSWER: We can obtain a lot more information after a case is filed than we can beforehand, by using the discovery tools authorized by the Rules of Civil Procedure. While most of the available information from third party sources will have been collected prior to filing a lawsuit, discovery allows you to ask questions directly of the other side and requires the responsible parties to answer. This usually begins with interrogatories, which are written questions, and requests for production of documents or other things, which the other side answers with the assistance of counsel. You will also receive similar discovery from the other side and your attorney will help you answer as well. The next step usually involves depositions of all parties, which is a conversation each client has with the opposing party’s counsel in the presence of their own attorney. Other people may be deposed such as your medical doctors, liability or damage experts and other witnesses who have relevant information. The parties may file various motions during the discovery phase and once discovery is complete there are often other motions filed by the defendant to dismiss the case or by the plaintiff to establish certain aspects of this case before proceeding to trial. Preparation for trial involves analyzing all of the evidence collected during the discovery process and deciding what to present at trial. It may also involve a number of motions to exclude or limit evidence or otherwise gain tactical advantages at trial. Ultimately, the court will schedule a pre-trial conference where a lot of these issues are resolved shortly before trial. Trial can take anywhere between a few days to many weeks depending upon the complexity of your case. Preparing your case for trial takes a lot of time and effort and involves many choices along the way.
I am ethically, morally or philosophically opposed to filing a lawsuit against someone else-what should I do?
ANSWER: Only you can make that decision. Our job is to analyze your legal rights, and if we believe you have a valid claim, to give you advice about your claim’s potential. Many people have reservations about filing a lawsuit for moral, spiritual or emotional reasons. Unfortunately, our system requires that a lawsuit be filed against the responsible party, but rarely does that party bear the actual financial burden of the claim. Insurance companies invariably pay any settlement or judgment, and are obligated to also hire attorneys for the defendant to handle the claim. So, while the same philosophical considerations may enter in to the discussion, lawsuits rarely impose a direct financial burden on the person or company sued.
I am short on money due to the accident-are there any benefits I may be able to obtain quickly to tide me over?
ANSWER: Maybe. A lot of it depends on where and how you were injured, and the severity of your injuries. For folks more or less permanently disabled, Social Security Disability is an option. If you were injured on the job, workers compensation benefits may be available. Although we seldom recommend this approach, there are now many companies which are willing to loan money to individuals who have pending claims. The downside of this option is that these companies loan money at very high interest rates. Generally, you do not have to repay the loan unless you prevail in your claim, but if you do, you may pay back a lot more money than you borrow. We can work with you to examine any of these options.
ANSWER: You have the right to seek adequate and fair compensation for the damages caused by your injury from any responsible party. But this right is only as good as your ability to enforce it through our civil justice system. You have constitutional right to a trial by a jury of your peers which is the mechanism that actually causes most cases to settle. Responsible parties make settlement offers in order to avoid the risks of being judged by a jury made up of regular citizens exercising their common sense under the law. Beware of any “tort reform” as this is merely a legislative effort to diminish or destroy our constitutional jury system. This in turn diminishes or destroys your legal rights and with them your ability to recover fair and adequate compensation for your injuries, either by way of trial or settlement.
I have heard a lot about frivolous claims, malingering victims and greedy lawyers--I do not think that fits my situation but what effect will this attitude have on my legal rights?
ANSWER: The American public has been led to believe that there are too many lawsuits, that any lawsuit lost is frivolous, that all injured people are taking advantage of the system and that all lawyers are greedy. Many organizations, including the National Chamber of Commerce and others associated with the insurance industry have spent millions of dollars fostering the myth that lawsuits are bad. There is little statistical data that supports that claim. However, many people have bought into the myth of the runaway “coffee” verdict and others, and it does affect how many jurors perceive even meritorious claims. Finding fair-minded jurors who do not hold these beliefs is one of the many challenges of successfully pursuing personal injury cases. However, our years of experience give you a good chance of having a fair day in court.
ANSWER: While the question is simple, as in many unsettled areas of the law, the answer is not. Health care plans routinely claim a right to reimbursement from patients who have a personal injury claim against the parties responsible for their injuries. However, many times these claims are unfounded and in some instances even fraudulent. Whether or not a health care plan has a right to reimbursement, sometimes called a subrogation claim or a statutory lien, depends on a number of factors. The first factor is whether the health insurance policy or plan document contains any right of reimbursement. Second, some states’ laws (such as Missouri) prohibit reimbursement of medical expenses in personal injury claims. Third, federal law may preempt state law for bills paid by certain federal programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Fourth, some federal laws such as ERISA are unsettled so that the right to reimbursement has not been finally determined by the courts. Fifth, even if there is a right to reimbursement, the health care plan should reduce its claims by your pro rata share of attorney fees and costs so you do not have to pay for their recovery. Finally, even then the repayment amount may be negotiable depending upon the facts of your case and the strength of the reimbursement claim. In sum, this is an area in which you must seek legal advice from an experienced attorney. The law is difficult and may still be in a state of change which makes reimbursements subject to negotiation that might save you a lot of money.
My health care plan, Medicare or Medicaid is claiming that I need to pay them back out of any recovery--is this true?
ANSWER: The answer to this question depends on who paid your bills. As a general rule, health insurers in Missouri have no right to repayment of money spent to cover your medical bills. There are exceptions. Some medical benefits, such as those paid for job-related injuries through workers compensation, Medicaid or Medicare must be repaid in accordance with state or federal statutes. Others may claim a right to reimbursement through some contract. You should never sign anything committing yourself to repay medical bills from any personal injury recovery without first talking to an attorney. Some “insurers” claim this right when it does not exist. If it does, we work with you to get bills properly paid out of any recovery, and we can often save you money from the amounts originally billed.
ANSWER: The answer to this question is similar to the previous one. You should never make any personal decisions based on the fact that you have a potential claim or a lawsuit. If your doctor has released you to go back to work and you believe you are physically, mentally and emotionally able to do so, and you still have a job to go back to, then you should return to work. Certainly, if your doctor has not authorized you to return to work you probably should not do so. If you have been released to return to work but your job causes you pain you have a choice to make. Either you can continue to work which results in an increased claim for pain and suffering or you can stop working which will result in a increased lost income claim if the jury truly believes that you were unable to work. The choice is yours, but we would always recommend that you should work if at all possible as we believe that jurors will be more considerate of people who attempt to work despite pain than those who refuse to work to avoid it. Sometimes employers will keep jobs open and make accommodations for employees they value, but they have no obligation to do so. If your employer has filled your position or has actually fired you because of your accident then this is a factor in your lost income claim, but you should start looking for a new job as soon as possible.
ANSWER: Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other federal programs such as TriCare and FEHBA definitely have a statutory right of reimbursement under federal law which cannot be ignored. If you make a recovery in the civil justice system on your personal injury claim you will have to repay the full amount of medical payments made on your behalf by these federal programs, less their pro rata share of attorney fees and costs. If this repayment obligation poses a hardship based on your financial situation then you may request a waiver or compromise of the repayment obligation. If you qualify under federal law for a full waiver of this claim or a compromise resulting in its reduction then your repayment obligation may be eliminated or further reduced. We typically negotiate with Medicare/Medicaid and other federal programs to reduce your repayment obligation as part of any settlement of your personal injury claim. As with any government programs, they are difficult to deal with, take their time and do not always recognize your concerns. Sometimes the most difficult part of resolving a personal injury claim is dealing with federal and other reimbursement claims.
ANSWER: : While the insurance adjuster may be right, this comment should always raise a red flag telling you to at least consult an attorney. Remember, insurance companies are not on your side despite trite slogans such as “You’re in Good Hands with Allstate” or “State Farm is There.” An insurance adjuster, even one for your own insurance company, has no obligation to protect your legal rights. In fact, adjusters are evaluated by how well they protect their employer’s interest by saving it money. By contrast, personal injury attorneys have a legal and ethical duty to act in the best interests of their clients. Statistically, cases in which a client is represented by legal counsel, secure better results. We work for you and part of our job is to advise you whether and to what extent you need our help.
ANSWER: Be honest, keep us informed of new developments and keep an open mind. There are four times when your active involvement is needed. Early in the litigation process, it is likely we will receive written questions from the defendant that require your input. These written questions will ask us to identify witnesses, past employment, doctors seen, etc.
Later, it is likely your deposition will be taken by opposing counsel. You will be asked questions by the opposing attorney before a court reporter, and occasionally a videographer, who will record your answers and compile a booklet with your testimony. We will prepare you for these questions and accompany you to the deposition.
If settlement is discussed or considered, you will be involved in any discussion of the amount for which your case may be settled, and many times nowadays, settlement discussions take place in formalized meetings called “mediation” or “alternate dispute resolution.”
Finally, if your case does not settle, you will need to attend trial, and testify on your own behalf. Trials can take several days, or in rare instances with complex cases, several weeks.
ANSWER: That also depends on the facts and like the preceding question can only be answered, after all necessary information has been gathered and evaluated. And remember, “win” is a relative term. While you may win a case against someone who rear ends you while you are stopped waiting for a light to change, the jury may not award all of the damages which you request. Remember, jurors are asked to make two determinations: first, each parties’ fault, if any, and second, the total amount of damages. The judge then multiplies each parties’ percentage of fault against the total damages and that is the amount they must pay, or the amount the plaintiff cannot recover if found to be at fault. Sometimes it is easy to win a case but difficult to recover fair and adequate compensation for your damages. For instance, you might win a judgment but find it is uncollectible if the losing party has no money or insurance to pay. Or, even if they have the ability to pay some or all of the judgment, they may refuse which means you will have to pursue further legal procedures to collect what is owed.
ANSWER: Again, “loss” is a relative term in that some cases are lost because the amount recovered is inadequate compensation for your damages or may be less that was offered by way of settlement prior to trial. However, in a situation where the case is a total loss in that the jury does not find anyone else at fault then you make no recovery. If you have a contingent fee agreement with your law firm and any costs advanced were to be repaid only if you win, then you owe the law firm nothing. However, one of the risks of trial is the assessment of “court costs” to the losing party. Court costs include certain costs of trying the case such as the jurors’ daily fees, the costs of subpoenaing witnesses to testify and the expense of depositions which may be used at trial, as well as a limited number of other items. While the other side will sometimes waive recovering these costs if you do not prevail, in particular if you agree not to appeal the trial court judgment, there is no guarantee. Of course, if you have a solid basis for an appeal you may not want to exchange that right for a waiver of court costs.
ANSWER: A lot, most of which you will not experience unless you want to. Typically, your direct involvement in the legal process happens during discovery when you answer written questions (called interrogatories) and respond to requests for production of documents and other things. Next, you may be called upon to give your deposition to the opposing counsel in the presence of your attorney, which involves a face-to-face question and answer session on the record. Finally, there is trial during which you will have to explain what happened and present your claim for damages. Most other pre-trial matters can be handled by your attorney. Your attorney will usually be in periodic contact with you to discuss various matters from factual information to ongoing settlement and trial strategy. All you have to do to be involved or find out what is going on is ask. For instance, you have the right to attend the other party’s deposition or watch court hearings to decide issues prior to trial. Your level of participation is entirely up to you. After all, one of the reasons you hire an attorney is so you do not have to worry about the details.
ANSWER: It is a fee that is contingent, or dependent upon the outcome of your case. Since your attorney is paid a percent of the amount he recovers for you his interests are the same as yours–he only gets paid if you make a recovery. The contingent fee system is the most efficient way of pursuing a claim since it encourages you to pick your attorney carefully and requires your attorney to pick his cases just as carefully. It also encourages us to work your case up efficiently and resolve it quickly, all of which is in your best interest.
ANSWER: You can recover for any injuries or damages that were caused or contributed to by the fault of another, whether they can be reduced to a specific dollar amount such as medical bills or lost income or involve non-economic damages sometimes referred to as pain and suffering. Typical economic damages in a personal injury case include medical and related health care costs as well as any lost wages, salary or other income. Non-economic damages are much broader but more difficult to quantify because they include such things as the pain you have suffered; the inability to do things you did before your accident; scarring or disfigurement; mental or emotional distress; and the consequences experienced by your spouse and sometimes your family. All of these damages have both a past and future component. Past economic damages can be proved by actual bills or tax returns. Future damages are usually estimated based on past experience, sometimes using an expert economist or doctor.
ANSWER: That is your decision to make in consultation with your medical care providers. Since this does not involve a legal issue it would be inappropriate for us to give advice regarding your medical care, other than to explain how it may affect your legal rights. Our basic answer to this question is to tell you should never do or not do anything simply because you may have a legal claim or pending lawsuit. Any medical decision you make should be done without regard to your legal rights. After all, your health is the issue and not the legal consequences arising from anything that affected it.
ANSWER: The primary tool used to settle a case is the Settlement Brochure which lays out your case for the other side to evaluate and makes a monetary settlement demand based on this anticipated evidence. A great deal of preparation goes into any effective brochure because it requires that the case be fully investigated, researched and documented before the brochure can be prepared. A Settlement Brochure typically contains:
- A description of the accident with supporting documentation;
- Identification of the legal theories which will be pursued in litigation;
- Research supporting the other side’s liability for these claims;
- Any important factual support showing fault that is appropriate to reveal in negotiations;
- Your complete medical history, including all relevant medical records and bills, both before and after the accident;
- A full evaluation of any lost income claim beginning with past earnings history and potentially including an expert economic analysis of future lost income;
- A description of what effect the accident has had on your life, as well as that of your family including pictures, videotapes and other visual documentation;
- And finally, an opening settlement demand for fair and adequate compensation.
Depending upon the facts of the case the demand letter may be written in a way to create a potential excess claim if your damages exceed the policy limits or to make sure you obtain prejudgment interest if trial results in a judgment greater than the settlement demand. It usually takes several months to collect the necessary information to prepare a Settlement Brochure and typically the defendant is given 60 days to respond so that you can recover statutory interest if the case is not settled. Once you have made a settlement demand, the ball is in the other side’s court. They may indicate an interest in settling the case through their response or you may receive no response at all as there is no legal obligation for the other side to respond. In the first scenario we will negotiate settlement with the other side to arrive at a mutually acceptable figure. This may require the parties to go back and forth a number of times, each time only with your authority. In the second scenario, we simply file suit and proceed with litigation. The potential for and amount of a settlement depends upon on the lawyers’ reputation regarding litigation and trial of cases. If the insurance company knows that the lawyer will never try a case then it will merely make a low ball offer knowing eventually it will be accepted. On the other hand, if the insurance company knows that the lawyer will try a particular case then its offer will be much more realistic in comparison to what they stand to lose if the case if tried. As previously mentioned, the great majority of cases are settled because reasonable minds realize this is a much more economical way of resolving disputes. But in the small percentage of cases that do not settle, you and your attorney have to be ready to go to trial.
ANSWER: You do. Lawyers cannot ethically settle or try cases without their clients’ consent. Instead, your attorney’s job is to make recommendations regarding trial and settlement based on the facts and circumstances of your individual case. You will be involved in any decision to settle your case, and will have every opportunity to voice your own opinion about what should be done. We have many years of experience to draw upon in evaluating your chances for victory and the range of likely awards. We also have tools that assist us in placing a fair value on your case.
ANSWER: A proven track record. We have some video clips on our website that also address other services we believe we provide to our clients that, while not unique, go beyond just handling your claim or lawsuit. Basically, those additional services all fall into the category of simple human respect and compassion for our clients.
ANSWER: If your case is tried you will have to testify to explain the accident and how it has affected you and your family. Otherwise, you will probably never have to “go to court” as most court matters are handled by your attorney. You can always settle your case if you do not want to appear at trial, but you should never settle a case merely because of fear of “going to court”. Your attorneys will help you prepare for any court appearances or other aspects of your case in which you may be involved and will be there to help you through them. Typically, your only involvement in the lawsuit prior to trial will be to answer some written questions, provide relevant documents, give your deposition if requested and otherwise consult with counsel. Our goal is to make the litigation process as easy on our clients as possible so that they can make a rational decision about whether to settle their case or try it, rather than one made solely out of fear.
ANSWER: Statistically, most cases settle without the need for a trial. However, a good attorney can never afford to assume a case is going to settle. Cases pursued vigorously in preparation for trial give the client the best chance for a fair settlement. If the case does not settle, you need an attorney who is willing to take your case to trial, and who has prepared as if that is going to happen.
Cases frequently settle only after a lot of work has been done. Through “discovery” each side has an opportunity to learn things about the opposing side’s case. Once both sides feel they have enough information to fully evaluate the value of the case, settlement can be discussed. Sometimes that can happen within a few months, but quite often the process takes many months. A court may order the parties to “mediation” or some other form of “alternate dispute resolution.” These are essentially more formal procedures for settling your case.
Remember, you are the client, and we never settle a case without the client’s approval.