Q: HOW IS MY LAWYER PAID? WHAT IF I CAN’T AFFORD A LAWYER?
A: Unlike most other lawyers, personal injury (accident) lawyers frequently work on a “contingency basis”. What that means is that the lawyer gets paid only if he or she collects money for you. If the lawyer is successful, a percentage of the settlement will go to the lawyer as a fee. On most accident cases, the percentage will equal one-third (33%) of the net settlement or judgment.
Q: HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO BRING A CASE?
A: The law gives various time limits within which to bring a case. These are referred to as “Statutes of Limitations”. For most negligence lawsuits, the law requires that a case be brought within three (3) years from the date of occurrence. Statutes of limitations can be extended or “tolled” under certain circumstances as when the injured party is under a “disability”, such as infancy. Some statues of limitations are very short. For example, a claim against a municipality must normally be made within 90 days of the date of occurrence. A word of advice, CONTACT A LAWYER IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOU’VE BEEN INJURED OR AS SOON AS YOU FEEL YOU HAVE A POTENTIAL CASE.
Q: WHAT IF I AM UNHAPPY WITH MY LAWYER? CAN I CHANGE? WHAT WILL IT COST?
A: You are the client (employer) and your lawyer (employee) works for you. If you are dissatisfied with your lawyer, you have an absolute right to hire a new one. Changing lawyers does not increase the fee you pay. Remember you only pay an attorney’s fee when the case is won. Your prior attorney will generally be entitled to payment for services rendered up to the time of dismissal. Payment will be made from the fee earned at the conclusion of the case. The lawyers will usually work out an arrangement whereby the fee is split.
Q: I SPOKE WITH A LAWYER WHO DIDN’T THINK I HAD A CASE. SHOULD I GET A SECOND OPINION?
A: Absolutely! Not all lawyers will see a potential case in the same way. You might have spoken to a lawyer not fully familiar with the type of case you are presenting or your case is not “big enough” for the firm you have contacted. If the first lawyer you contact rejects your case, always seek a second, or even third, opinion.
Q: I WAS INJURED BUT I FEEL PARTLY AT FAULT. CAN I STILL SUE?
A: Yes. Under Washington’s “comparative negligence” rules, you may still have a good case even though you may have contributed to the accident. The facts are very important. A lawyer my find, after investigating the circumstances of your accident, that there was a party unknown to you that caused the accident.
Q: IT DOESN’T APPEAR THAT MY INJURIES ARE SERIOUS ENOUGH FOR A LAWSUIT. SHOULD I SPEAK WITH A LAWYER ANYWAY?
A: Yes. An experienced personal injury lawyer is generally in a better position than you to evaluate your injury. Some injuries that at first appear to be minor can result in serious permanent damage. As most lawyers offer a free consultation, it doesn’t cost you anything to get a lawyer’s opinion.
Q: CAN A LAWYER TELL ME WHAT MY CASE IS WORTH?
A: Every case is different and predicting the outcome of a particular case is almost impossible. A lawyer can give you a “general” idea of the value of your case based on prior similar injuries, court decisions and appeals. Be very suspicious of any attorney who tells you what your case is worth or “what I can get for you”.
Q: AN ADJUSTOR FROM AN INSURANCE COMPANY WANTS TO SETTLE WITH ME AND SAYS I DON’T NEED A LAWYER. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
A: Adjusters who work for insurance companies, no matter how sympathetic they may seen, have one goal and only one goal in mind when they offer to settle your case… to do it in the least amount of money possible. What may sound like a fair or even great offer to you could be woefully inadequate compared to a similar case settled through a lawyer. Studies have shown accident victims recover more money through the use of a lawyer even after taking into account the attorney’s fee. Always consult with a lawyer before accepting any offer made to you by an adjuster.