Because details can be hard to remember, and because some clients feel intimidated or stressed by this meeting, we recommend that clients bring all of the documents they have that are related to the accident — things like police reports, hospital bills, pictures, your insurance policy and more. We always do our best to put clients at ease and explain everything as thoroughly as possible, without "legalese."
Most personal injury lawyers work on what is called a contingency-fee basis. This means that you are not required to pay for legal services unless and until the case has been won. The lawyer should have a fee agreement that specifies that he or she will be paid with a percentage of the financial settlement or verdict. The size of that percentage depends on whether the claim is resolved before or after the lawsuit is filed. (It is possible, and common, to resolve claims before filing).
This arrangement may sound strange, but it remains popular because it allows lawyers to take strong cases brought by clients who might not be able to afford legal fees otherwise. We believe this is an essential and valuable part of our legal system, providing access to justice for everyone, no matter what their income or background might be.
An experienced personal injury lawyer who meets you and takes the time to listen carefully to the facts of your case can sometimes save you substantial financial and personal hardship. Take the case of a 39 year old man who was hurt in an auto accident, requiring spine surgery to correct his injuries. To settle his claim, the insurance company had offered him just $150,000 out of a total available insurance policy of $250,000. What's more, the man did not realize that he had an additional $750,000 in underinsured motorist insurance, which could cover his treatment if his claim exceeded the $250,000 limit.
The man and his wife consulted several lawyers to discuss whether they should accept the insurance company's offer. The first two lawyers they consulted did not delve into all of his medical problems. Importantly, they did not identify the fact that he would likely require future surgeries, which could jeopardize his livelihood as a salesman who traveled thousands of miles a year. Fortunately, the couple sought out the advise of one of the lawyers who wrote this article After listening carefully to the prospective client, the lawyer realized that this gentleman was a likely candidate for future surgeries that could threaten his career. The lawyer recommended that he wait for several months before considering any settlement offers, to see whether he needed more treatment or had other problems related to the accident.
As the lawyer suspected, the man ultimately needed two additional spine surgeries, which resulted in permanent physical limitations. He was terminated from his job and ultimately had to accept a job paying significantly less. Based on these lost future earnings and his additional surgeries, the lawyer was able to negotiate a settlement that was over six times the amount of the offer from the defendant's insurance carrier. In this case, waiting to make a claim until he fully understood his injuries, and hiring an experienced personal injury attorney, helped the man avoid the financial and medical problems that might have resulted from taking a smaller initial offer.
To get the case started, your lawyer and staffers will obtain your medical records, doctors' notes and medical test results, along with a copy of any accident report and any insurance information or statements the insurer might have recorded. If necessary, the lawyer might also retain a private investigator to find important but elusive information about your case. All of this case development takes time – and a good lawyer views this information gathering as preparing a case for trial. Good lawyers understand that a case prepared for trial at an early stage has the best chance of being resolved without a trial. At our firm, we have found that most clients appreciate being kept informed, whether or not we have any significant advances to report. We make sure that clients know the staff members who are helping the lawyer on the case and encourage regular updates about the status of the cases.
In this first stage, your lawyer is working to understand the facts and the strengths of your case. After the case is built, your lawyer can begin negotiating with the other side to get you the best possible compensation under the laws of Idaho and the facts of your individual case. You may end up settling the case outside of court or participating in a full trial.
For a lawyer to accept a case, he or she must consider many factors, including the severity of your injuries, who was at fault, conflicts of interests, legal limitations, time constraints and more. If the firm decides that it cannot handle this case for you that does not necessarily mean that you do not have a case — just that this firm is not in a position to accept your case.
At our firm, turning down cases is one of our least favorite parts of our work. When we have to tell clients that we cannot take their cases, we do our best to refer them to a local bar association or another lawyer who is better suited to help. We also try to provide them with educational materials, like this website to help them better understand the system and where their cases may fit into it.