When you hire a personal injury lawyer to help you with your case, you should have a reasonable expectation of what that lawyer is going to do. After all, you’ve just agreed to give them a sizable percentage of whatever money they can obtain for you, not to mention entrusting them with handling your case with care and attention, so that you can be made whole again after being injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault.
In this video, Personal Injury Lawyer Lakota Denton lays out what you can expect from a reputable lawyer, and some of the processes and considerations that will be evaluated as your case is investigated, negotiated and settled (or if a lawsuit needs to be filed if a reasonable agreement can’t be made).
One of the most important things that you can expect from a good lawyer is upfront, transparent communication. A client often has questions as the claim process progresses and a good attorney will take the time to make sure that you understand what is happening, and what your options are.
My name is Lakota Denton and I’m a personal injury lawyer in Asheville North Carolina. I want to talk to you about what to expect when you hire a lawyer for a personal injury case. A lot of times people come into my office and they have questions: how does this process work? What do I need to do? What does my lawyer do? How much does it cost? And I want to answer some of those questions for you here.
First of all, personal injury lawyers really never charge any money to meet with you or to work on your case. Almost every personal injury lawyer is paid on a ‘contingency’ of whatever they can recover for you. So a percentage of whatever the recovery is for you is how the lawyer is paid, ONLY if the lawyer recovers money. That’s true across almost the entire country but certainly is true in North Carolina.
What a lawyer will do when you first meet with them is ask you about your case, find out exactly what happened, get photographs (if you have any) of whatever caused your injuries, get any documents you might have (whether it’s a police report or a letter from the defendant acknowledging that you have a claim, any discharge papers about your injuries). A lawyer will ask you exactly what your injuries are, which doctors you’ve seen, which doctors you are going to see, what kind of treatment you’re getting, what kind of future treatment might be in store for you.
Your lawyer will get all of that information together and will probably have you sign some documents, and those documents will include a contract with that lawyer’s firm, HIPAA releases (which allow the lawyer to obtain your medical bills and medical records) so they can have a good idea of how much money you owe to medical providers and also exactly what your injuries are according to your doctor. That will be the intake process.
After the intake process where you give all that information to your lawyer, you will continue to get treatment from your doctors, and your lawyer might have a suggestion as to certain doctors that don’t charge money until you settle your case or might have a suggestion of doctors that they have heard are good. But you will continue to get your treatment, and sort of in the background, your lawyer will be requesting all of your medical bills all of your medical records as you get treatment. That includes whether you have Medicare Medicaid or health insurance. Your lawyer will contact those people and ask them how much has been paid on their behalf.
Your lawyer will also continue the investigation of what happened. That might include talking to witnesses, obtaining affidavits, it might include talking to the investigating officer, and it might include talking to your doctors. During the time you’re getting that treatment your lawyer will be following up on records and bills, and investigating. Now really nothing happens again until you’re finished with treatment, and for some people that’s only a couple months, but for other people that can take years. During that time, you may think that your lawyer is not really doing anything on your case, but really until you’re done with treatment is not appropriate to try and settle your case, and it may not be appropriate to even file a lawsuit.
Once you’re done with treatment, that’s when the lawyer will sort of step in again and start to work on your case more. Now the lawyer will have contacted the at-fault party (which is usually insurance company) and they would have let them know that the lawyer is involved in to direct all correspondence to the lawyer. When you’re finished with treatment, the lawyer will take all the information they’ve gathered: bills, records, witness statements, photographs, officer’s reports, and put it all into a package of information that they will send to the insurance company. That will be the first attempt to try and settle the case. That package is usually called a “demand package” and it means that the lawyer is demanding that the responsible party pay for the injured persons medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, future lost wages, whatever might be the case.
Once the insurance company receives that information, they can take 30 or 60 days to review it and evaluate the claim. They’ll turn around and they might make an offer on the case, they might deny the case altogether, and your lawyer will negotiate with that insurance company. That involves talking to the insurance adjuster about why the case is being valued the way it is from each side and going back and forth with numbers. The lawyer might come down a little bit and the insurance company might come up a little bit and you try to meet somewhere where you’re comfortable with a settlement amount.
One of your lawyer’s responsibilities at that time will be to tell you “right now the insurance company is offering this much money. After you pay your medical bills and after you pay your lawyer, you will end up with exactly this much money after you settle your case.” And if that’s acceptable, you can agree to settle the case. You sign a document settling the case and you get a settlement check to pay your bills and to put money in your pocket. If you are not okay with the offer from the insurance company, your lawyer might file a lawsuit. A lawsuit involves an extended amount of time through the courts, involves a lot of paperwork, depositions, testimony, and possibly even a jury trial. But the timeline of your case from meeting with a lawyer to hopefully settling your case is really: the intake process with the lawyer where you give them all your information, you continue your treatment while the lawyer investigates everything about what happened and about your injuries, and then a negotiation process where your lawyer negotiates with the at-fault party and tries to reach a number that you’re comfortable with. And if you are, you settle your case. If you’re not, your lawyer is probably going to file a lawsuit and push it through the court system.
If you have questions about the process of hiring a lawyer, or about your potential case, please feel free to contact our office by phone or email and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have. Our consultations are always free.
For more information, read our blog post entitled: Do I need a lawyer to help me with my personal injury claim?