Most of us have probably seen countless commercials from injury lawyers who say something like “we don’t get paid unless you win.” But just how much do these lawyers eventually get paid? And, perhaps more importantly, is the lawyer’s definition of winning the same as my definition of winning?
To answer the first question, Marietta personal injury attorneys receive contingency fees. When the case is resolved, the attorney collects a percentage of the proceeds. Generally, that percentage depends on the amount of time the attorney spent on the case. Just like you, the more hours attorneys work, the more money they are entitled to receive. More on this below.
As for the definition of “winning,” about 97 percent of injury claims settle out of court. The settlement amount largely depends on the facts. Typically, settlement negotiations are like most other price negotiations. There is an upper end and a bottom line. Since the attorney works on a contingency basis, the closer the settlement figure is to the upper end, the happier both attorney and client are.
There are a lot of personal injury lawyers out there. Your lawyer should have a successful track record and be accessible. Location is important as well. Your lawyer should be relatively close to your home or office. So, the Phillips Law Firm is not right for everybody, but we are right for most people.
What an Attorney Does for You
Partnering with a Marietta personal injury attorney has both immediate and long-term benefits for accident victims. These benefits are unavailable to people who go it alone.
Injury Care and Vehicle Replacement
These two items are the top priority for most accident victims. There are significant obstacles in both areas. For liability reasons, many health insurance companies refuse to pay for injury-related costs. Additionally, many insurance companies only offer limited vehicle replacement. The coverage may only last a few days or might not adequately replace the family car (e.g. the company provides a compact car when the family lost a minivan).
To take care of medical expenses, attorneys send letters of protection to medical providers. Since these letters guarantee payment when the case is resolved, medical providers charge nothing upfront for their services.
As a bonus, many Marietta personal injury attorneys have relationships with injury physicians. These professionals know how to diagnose and treat whiplash and other car crash-related conditions. A general practitioner may not have the right skill set.
There’s more. Georgia courts follow the common-law collateral source rule. The amount of damages is the amount billed. So, if an attorney negotiates a lower price, which is common, the victim benefits.
Attorneys also send letters of protection to other car crash providers, such as vehicle rental companies. The same benefits apply. Victims get the services they need at no upfront cost. That means the replacement vehicle they need for as long as they need it, and not just the replacement the insurance company is willing to pay for.
Interfacing with the Insurance Company
In the days and weeks following a serious crash, the insurance company often calls constantly, trying to arrange a settlement. Frequently, victims are tempted to sign on the dotted line. Quite understandably, they want to move on as quickly as possible, and no one wants to get lawyers involved in a dispute. However, there is no way to know if the offer is fair.
Once victims partner with attorneys, they need not take any more of these phone calls. The lawyer handles them all. So, victims can concentrate on getting better.
Only an experienced attorney has a good idea as to what your case is worth. So, a lawyer can obtain maximum compensation. That usually means more money for victims, even when considering the legal fee. Assume Kay is hospitalized for several days after a serious crash. Her economic losses, mostly medical bills, vehicle replacement, and lost wages, total $10,000.
In most cases, the insurance company might offer roughly $10,000 to settle the matter. Kay isn’t sure that the offer is fair, so she consults with a Marietta personal injury attorney. Based on her pain and suffering and future economic losses, like future medical bills and lost wages, the lawyer sets her claim’s settlement value at $20,000.
Even after she pays legal fees and even if she does not get the full $20,000, she still comes out ahead, because she had a good Marietta personal injury attorney.
Your Financial Cost
The financial aspects of a personal injury case vary among different lawyers, different clients, and different situations. But here are a few rules of thumb.
Once medical treatment is at least substantially complete, an attorney can estimate a claim’s settlement value. If the lawyer jumps the gun and settles the case too early, the settlement might not cover all the victim’s losses.
To get the ball rolling, an attorney usually sends a demand letter to the insurance company. This letter outlines the relevant facts, lists the victim’s economic losses, and demands a certain amount in exchange for a liability waiver.
If there is no dispute as to liability, the insurance company has a duty to issue a counteroffer within a few weeks. This settlement offer cannot be a “low ball” offer. It must be fair. If the case settles at this point, the legal fee might be smaller. Again, it all depends on the circumstances.
Most cases settle during this phase since there is almost always at least some question as to liability. Many car crashes involve legal defenses, like contributory negligence. Even if the evidence supporting these defenses is not particularly strong, there is normally enough for the insurance company to drag its heels.
So, an attorney must often file legal paperwork to protect the victim’s legal rights. Once court supervision begins, things get more labor-intensive. Frequently, insurance companies try to get the case thrown out of court on a technicality. These efforts hardly ever succeed, but attorneys must always bring their A-games to defeat these motions.
Since the time investment goes up, the contingency fee percentage may increase as well. But remember the Kay example above. Because they are working with lawyers, victims still have plenty of margins.
This section will be very short. As mentioned, only a fraction of cases go to trial. That 97 percent figure might actually be a little low. Many Marietta personal injury lawyers only try a few cases over the course of a career. Since there is an even larger time investment, the fee percentage might go up as well.
Contact an Aggressive Lawyer
Legal help is generally not free, but it is always well worth the cost. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We routinely handle matters in Cobb County and nearby jurisdictions.