After a serious accident, victims may face difficulties and hardships such as medical bills and the inability to work. Hiring a lawyer to handle their personal injury claim at this juncture may seem like an added cost the individual is not sure they need. However, since personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, the victim will not have to pay any upfront fees.
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Many law firms, including Panter, Panter, and Sampedro, work on what is known as a contingency fee. This type of agreement requires no upfront costs, and the attorney is only paid a percentage of the gross recovery if the client wins. According to The Florida Bar, “the lawyer and client must enter into a written fee agreement at the outset of the representation, stating what portion of the recovery the lawyer will receive.” If an individual is worried about legal costs, finding an attorney that works on contingency may be the best bet.
Your odds of success with and without attorney representation
Unlike criminal cases, in civil cases (which includes personal injury) there is no constitutional right to an attorney. Although a person does have the right to represent themselves, statistics show that those that hire an attorney to represent them experience much better outcomes. Not hiring a lawyer can be much more costly in the end.
According to TheConversation.com, “When tenants represent themselves in New York City, they are evicted in nearly fifty percent of cases. With a lawyer, they win ninety percent of the time.” Similar studies were conducted across the United States, including Colorado (2014-2016) and here in Florida during the American Bar Association’s Everyone Counts initiative. Although the ABA has not concluded its findings in Florida, it is important to note that as stated in its report “Everyone Counts: Taking a Snapshot of Self-Represented Litigants in Miami-Dade”, 30% of cases involved a party with representation versus a self-represented party.”
How accident attorneys may be able to help
As identified in one study, there are almost two hundred different tasks a self-representing litigant must perform during a civil case. These tasks require intimate knowledge of the law and court procedures. Missing any one of these efforts may result in having to start the process anew, or having the case dismissed, without the option of refiling. An accident attorney can help with all these tasks to ensure an individual has the best chance of winning a personal injury claim.
Who should I contact first? An accident attorney or my insurance?
For the best results, contact an accident attorney before contacting the insurance company. A lawyer will protect an individual’s rights and handle all communication with the insurance provider on their client’s behalf. Most insurance companies allow a limited window for claiming damages. Therefore, when contacting a lawyer prior to contacting an insurance provider, it is best to act swiftly.
Leave it to your attorney (to determine if you have a case).
Whether or not there is a case, depends on a variety of factors including the valuation of the claim. An attorney can analyze the extent of personal injuries, the insurance money available, the complexity of legal issues involved, and whether or not the case may benefit from witness testimony or accident reconstruction. An attorney will review these and other factors to determine whether or not an individual has a case.
Your attorney will be able to determine how much compensation you are owed.
An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to begin to determine the compensation that a victim is owed.
An attorney will base the amount of compensation on the following:
- Punitive damages – Also known as “exemplary damages,” this amount is not based on the degree of damage to a person or property, but rather the level of negligent behavior by the responsible party.
- Pain and suffering – This amount is based on the degree of physical and emotional discomfort, and is considered non-economic. For example, these can be damages for the “loss and enjoyment of life.”
- Lost wages – This amount can be calculated from the date the incident occurred to the date you are able to return to work. As the name implies, this form of compensation is for missed paychecks while rehabilitating from injuries.
- Reduced earning capacity – This amount is determined by considering the economic losses a person will incur during the totality of their work-life expectancy.
Do you want to negotiate with multiple insurance companies and deal with insurance adjusters?
When an individual represents themselves, it is also important to take into account the amount of time and effort required to potentially win a claim. Personal injury claims can take months, and sometimes years to reach a resolution. At some point, the claimant will also have to negotiate with the other side’s insurance company. The negotiation process may begin with presenting the insurance company with a demand letter and its supporting documents. After some initial back and forth, the insurance adjuster will present a settlement offer that is less than what was requested in the demand letter. It is then up to the claimant to determine if the amount is fair or to counter the offer with a higher figure that is more acceptable.
What’s the average settlement with and without an attorney by your side?
Although there is no “average” settlement amount, insurance companies often take advantage of those that do not have attorney representation because they assume the person does not have a true valuation of their claim. An attorney can not only argue the counter-offer effectively but also ensure that the settlement figure is closer to the originally requested amount while providing the necessary documentation to support the claim.
My claim was already denied or low-balled. Can I still hire an accident attorney?
If the initial claim was denied or the insurance company is offering a settlement well under the requested amount, it is still possible to hire a personal injury attorney. The attorney may be able to secure a higher settlement on the behalf of the individual.
What happens if you need to go to trial?
According to The Law Dictionary, ninety-five percent to ninety-six percent of personal injury cases are settled pretrial. Yet, if the case falls in the five percent that does go to court, it is always best to have a lawyer. Working with a lawyer means having the support of someone with the legal know-how to perform the nearly two hundred tasks required in the average civil case, while also being able to present all the evidence in an effective manner.
The first step in taking a personal injury claim to court is to file a lawsuit and serve the defendant the complaint and summons. Then, both parties will be asked to participate in a deposition. Without a judge or jury, both parties will give their deposition or testimony to a court reporter. If the case continues to court, a litigant may be asked to testify again, along with any other witnesses to the accident. It is the constitutional right of the victim in a personal injury suit to have a jury present, but a jury trial must be requested by the individual or their lawyer.
If the original outcome of the lawsuit is not in the individual’s favor, they may choose to appeal. There are time limits to filing an appeal, so it is best to do so as soon as possible. The litigant or their attorney will then appeal to take the case to the Court of Appeals.
Panter, Panter & Sampedro accident attorneys work on contingency.
In general, attorneys can receive up to one-third of the gross amount of a pre-suit settlement or forty percent of the gross settlement recovery once a defendant files an answer to a lawsuit. As mentioned earlier, this is known as a contingency fee, and its rules are regulated by the Florida Bar.
Have your case evaluated by Panter, Panter, and Sampedro for free.
Panter, Panter, and Sampedro are here to handle your personal injury case. We have been helping our community for more than 30 years in resolving and trying all types of Personal Injury Claims including automobile accidents, slip and fall claims, medical malpractice, product liability claims, and more. Let our family help you and your family. Contact us with your questions and speak to one of our attorneys directly about your situation. We offer free consultations. We can be reached at (305) 662-6178.