Top 5 Things I Wish My Clients Knew
In the 20-plus years I've been a practicing personal injury attorney, there's one thing that has been consistent, and that's the fact that most people seem to develop their perceptions of the legal world by watching television shows.
Unless you've had the unfortunate circumstance to be seriously hurt in some type of incident, you don't really know what goes on behind the scenes when you hire a law firm to represent you. I continually find myself explaining to people – and a lot of them have known what I do for a living for a very long time – what really happens in the ‘real world' at my law practice, Goldberg Noone, LLC.
I also spend a lot of time telling my family and close friends that what you see on those TV crime and courtroom shows is not real. Those shows make everything look so simple, and all streamlined into a neat little 60-minute drama.
But in the real world, there are hundreds of different things and scenarios that dictate the specific circumstances of a personal injury lawsuit, and I thought it would be good to share them here.
1). You'll Likely Never See the Inside of a Courtroom
The vast majority of personal injury claims never make it to the courtroom. In the real world, if you retain our firm to represent you, we'll negotiate with the insurance company of the at-fault driver to obtain what we feel is a fair and equitable financial settlement for paying for your medical treatment, lost wages from being out of work, pain and suffering and any long-term medical needs you may be facing.
Of course, no one should be surprised that the insurance company will offer what is usually a “low ball” initial offer at first. That's how they make money – collecting your premiums every month, but stonewalling you on making any reasonable offer of a fair financial settlement. If the crash you were involved in was serious and you are left with critical injuries, the stakes are higher. A case in which a person may have injuries that will last a lifetime is different than a case where someone has what is known as “soft tissue” injuries, but is expected to heal over time.
But in all the cases we're involved in, our personal injury attorneys and case analysts work tirelessly to get the insurance companies and their armies of attorneys and adjusters to pay up, and do it in a timely manner. We've developed a well-known reputation in our law firm for being successful at that. But, in the event that the insurance company does not offer you what we consider an equitable financial settlement, we're always ready to go to trial to fight for your legal rights. To be clear, a case in which someone has lost their life or suffered extremely traumatic injuries to the brain or maybe lost a limb is different than a case involving a broken ankle or dislocated shoulder. But in the real world, most personal injury cases end up with our firm getting you the money you deserve, usually just before we need to file a lawsuit and prepare for a court trial.
2). No One Really Knows How Long Your Case Will Take
When clients first come in to meet with us, one of the first things they want to know is how long it will be before they get some money in their pocket. The unfortunate answer to that is we don't really know – especially in the early stages of your case. There are so many steps that need to be taken in order to be successful in our efforts on your behalf, and all of them take a certain amount of time. As you may suspect, the other person's insurance company is going to try to get us to jump through their hoops, dragging things out to avoid paying a financial settlement – if they even make an offer at all. There are a considerable amount of back-and-forth discussions, negotiations and a blizzard of paperwork involved in reaching a reasonable settlement.
We have personal injury cases we've been working on for years, and some that settle within a couple of months. Frankly, there's just no way to know how long it will take to successfully settle your case.
3). Do I Still Need to Pay My Car Payment After a Crash?
A lot of our clients feel they don't need to continue to make their car payments every month after their car or motorcycle was totaled in a crash. They think since they're no longer able to drive it, why should they continue to pay for it.
The answer is yes, you should still do everything you can to stay current on your car loan. The last thing you need following an injury crash is to jeopardize your credit rating.
4). Initially, We Can't Know Specifically How Much Your Case is Worth
It's natural for our clients to wonder what amount of money they can expect to receive after initiating a personal injury lawsuit. But the fact is, especially in the early stages of our firm investigating the crash or injury circumstances, we will not have enough information to gauge how much your individual case may be worth.
If you are working with an attorney after your crash who tells you right up front how much you could expect to receive in financial compensation for your injuries, our suggestion would be to find another attorney. Another thing our law firm is known for is not telling people what they want to hear just to sign up another case. Our job is to give you facts and information as we move forward on your case, and to ensure you are the one who makes all final decisions regarding how to proceed. We work for you – you make the calls when it comes to how your case is handled.
As we progress through all the steps necessary to establish your losses, including all of your medical bills, projected costs of any necessary future expenses for your care and treatment, any loss of income from being unable to work, we can then better assign a financial value to your case. In general, we'll explain to you the ‘range' of monies that a case like yours may be worth, after we've invested the time and resources necessary to make that determination. As we near the culmination of your case, we'll be in a position to provide you a more accurate number, after factoring in your medical bills, any expenses we've paid out in advance on your case and several other factors involved. By the time we present you with any final offer from an insurance company, we'll be able to tell you a specific amount that will go into your pocket.
As we've mentioned, should the insurance company not make what we feel is a reasonable offer, we will file a lawsuit on your behalf. At that point, we work on presenting your case in front of a jury, and determining what we feel is a fair judgement to adequately compensate you for your injuries, pain and suffering, future medical needs, loss of consortium*, and other considerations. Of course, we always keep you informed every step of the way.
5). Our Law Firm's Fees are Governed by The Florida Bar Association
When we take on a new personal injury client, we fully explain all our services, and spell out exactly how we earn our fees. In Florida, all personal injury attorneys and the fees they collect from each client are spelled out in a contract, and governed by Florida statute. In general, if we end up successfully settling your case, we're entitled to a fee of 33.1/3% of your settlement. (There are other situations that result in a reduction or an increase of that percentage, like the time the offer is made and accepted, the overall total of the final settlement or jury award, among others. We always fully explain that to all our prospective clients.)
Although 33.1/3% is the standard fee arrangement for personal injury lawyers in Florida, you may find an attorney who promises to take on your case for less than a 33.1/3% fee. And this is where a popular old saying comes into play; “you get what you pay for.”
There are just so many misconceptions and misinformation out there about what's involved in a personal injury case. Goldberg Noone law firm is made up of people who value the relationships we've developed with our clients over the past 20 years. Those relationships are based on one core belief, and that is to be completely honest, straight forward and candid about your personal situation. Candidly, not every crash or injury requires a personal injury attorney. We'll never give a prospective client false hope, or tell them something just because that's what we think they want to hear.
In the real world, we've found that giving people real world answers is the best way to help them.
If you're hurt as the result of someone else running into you, we're always here with answers to all of your questions – and you can speak to us at no cost. Call our main office in Downtown Fort Myers at 239-461-5508, or just fill out this form and we'll call you right away. Don't ever feel you need to pay to speak with an attorney, or that you can't afford help with fighting for your legal rights.
*Consortium can mean several things. Basically, it relates to the loss of something you may have previously enjoyed before your injuries. Examples include no longer being able to enjoy outdoor activities or engaging in playing sports, the inability of taking care of your home and yard, or no longer being able to have an intimate relationship with your spouse or partner.