10 Things to Do After an Auto Accident

You just got into a car accident. Your next few decisions could make a huge difference in whether your claim is paid in full, partially, or not at all.
Know these tips to help avoid making a terrible mistake that loses your claim.

  1. Even if you think the accident was your fault, do not say anything that could show you were at fault.
  2. You do not know if the person you were in an accident with was texting while driving. Even though you may feel sorry or feel that you are to blame, you cannot know all of the facts that led to the accident without finding out more. Also, you have a constitutional right to remain silent in any criminal proceedings (i.e. getting a ticket).

  3. Call the police, get them to come, and get a police report. Make sure the police get it right.
  4. Insurance companies love it when people do not get police reports, because it gives them a great opportunity to deny claims, even if their own insured is at fault. Almost every day I get calls from people who did not get a police report and trusted the other driver to be honest regarding what happened, only to find out the other driver told their insurance company something different, and now you cannot get your damages covered by insurance.

    I have also had many people tell me that what actually happened was completely different than what the police wrote down in their report, only to find out that their claim was denied. Often this happens if a person leaves the scene before the police report is done, and then the police officer has to rely solely on the other driver. Before leaving the scene, make sure the police officers get it right in their report.

    It is a hard battle to disprove an incorrect police report, and not many attorneys will take this type of case unless you have large amounts of medical bills to justify the risk.

  5. Get a lawyer as soon as possible.
  6. One of the biggest mistakes many people make is trying to resolve the insurance claims by themselves without a lawyer. Having a lawyer creates a barrier between you and the insurance company. Once you have a lawyer, the insurance company can no longer contact you directly (if they do attempt to contact you, refer them to your lawyer). This is a good thing, as every insurance company has one goal: to collect premiums while avoiding paying claims in any way possible.

  7. Tell your lawyer everything, good and bad.
  8. If your lawyer knows the bad facts along with the good ones, he or she will be better able to prepare your case and know what is coming. If you forget to mention any negative fact at all (i.e. you were texting while driving), then your lawyer will have no idea of that fact, and when the insurance company finds out about it (and they always do), your lawyer will have no way to protect you or help you in your situation and you will probably lose your case.

    Make sure to tell your lawyer everything, good and bad. Attorney-client privilege protects conversations you have with your attorney regarding the legal advice you are seeking in most circumstances. This means that if you tell your lawyer that you were texting, the insurance company cannot use your discussion with your lawyer as evidence at trial (they could still pull the phone records, but they cannot use your statements to your lawyer).

  9. Do not talk to anyone else except your attorney about the details of the accident.
  10. Anything you say to almost anyone but your attorney regarding the accident can come into court, and insurance companies love to find things you said in passing to someone that destroy your case. Insurance companies often hire private investigators to follow people who are making claims, and to interview others about accidents. For this reason, do not talk about the details of the accident to anyone.

    Attorney-client privilege protects conversations you have with your attorney regarding the legal advice you are seeking in most circumstances.

    There is one exception: make sure the police get the story about the accident right. What goes in a police report will often be the sole determination of liability in a claim. This is not always the case, but it is frequently true enough that it is imperative that the police report reflect what happened in the case.

  11. Even if you don’t feel hurt, go to the doctor as soon as possible after the accident.
  12. Insurance companies love delays in treatment. They try to use any delay as a method to say a few possible things: (1) that you didn’t immediately go to the doctor, so you must not have been injured in the accident or that any injury from the accident must only be mild because you obviously did not feel bad enough to go to the doctor immediately; (2) that the injury must have come from something else that occurred in your life; or (3) you failed to mitigate your damages, and so their insured is not liable for the full extent of your damages.

    In order to show the insurance company that your claim is valid, you need to create a paper trail showing exactly what injuries were directly caused from the accident.

  13. Inform your insurance company about the accident, giving only the minimal details.
  14. Your insurance coverage can potentially be denied if you do not timely inform your own insurance carrier of the accident. It is extremely important, therefore, to inform the insurance company of the accident.

    Also, the more details you give your insurance company, the less likely they will side with you. Give them the police report number, the date of the accident, the names of parties involved, and then tell them that you are not willing to give a statement at this time.

  15. Do not give any insurance company a statement.
  16. I recently listened to a recording by an insurance company of a statement given by one of my clients. In the interview, although the insurance adjuster was extremely nice and kind, every single question the insurance adjuster asked was meant to find a way to avoid paying the claim. It is easy to fall into a trap set by an insurance company, especially when the adjusters are so nice and kind. The moment something is said in a way that causes the slightest doubt of the claim, the claim is then denied.

    Remember, insurance companies make money by denying claims. They answer to their shareholders, and if their profits are low, the shareholders are not happy. Insurance companies have every incentive to find frivolous reasons to deny valid claims.

    Getting you to give a statement is a tool insurance companies use to find a way to deny or pay less on your claim.

  17. Be completely honest with your doctors about any pain or injury.
  18. After an accident, if you do not tell your doctor about every pain you are feeling, it will not get documented. If some injury develops later or becomes worse over time, if there is not a paper trail showing that you had complained of the symptoms early in your treatment, then an insurance company is more likely to deny the claim and say the “new injury” was caused by something other than the accident.

    For this reason, tell the doctor every pain you are feeling and make sure it all gets documented. The more thorough and honest you are with your doctor about your injury, the better off you will be when it comes time to settle your case with the insurance company.

  19. Do not miss any doctor’s appointments.
  20. Insurance companies love gaps in treatment. They try to use any gap as a method to say a few possible things: (1) that you missed doctor’s appointments, so you must have recuperated fully because you did not need to see the doctor on that day; (2) that your pain after any gap in treatment must have come from something else that occurred in your life between when you obviously recuperated (because you didn’t need to go to the doctor), and your next visit to the doctor; or (3) you failed to mitigate your damages or take care of your injury, and so their insured is not liable for the full extent of your damages.

The Goal of Insurance Companies: Pay You Less (or Nothing at All)

When you are in an car accident or are otherwise injured, it is important to get an attorney involved.

Insurance companies make money by collecting billions of dollars in premiums and then by paying less than what they should or even nothing on valid claims.

As much as they claim to be, insurance companies are not your friends. They are certainly friendly when they are collecting your premiums, but the moment you file a claim, they do everything in their power to keep from paying you.

They have years of experience developing a system that is meant to deprive you of money that is owed to you. Everything the insurance company does is meant to deprive you of your valid claim. I have seen the aftermath of an insurance company telling a person that they were coming in “to resolve an identification problem” (their driver’s license had expired) and then sit the person down for a full-blown deposition, resulting in the signing of a settlement agreement for an outrageously low amount.

While working on one of my cases, I recently listened to a recording of an insurance company interviewing my client. The recording was taken before I was hired, and I would never allow a client to have a phone conversation with the insurance company because of the insurance company’s goal of denying the claim. The adjuster was very friendly and courteous, and you would never suspect what the adjuster was trying to do. In the recording, every single question the insurance adjuster asked was meant to deprive her of her very valid claim. Luckily for my client, she had all of the right answers.

Unfortunately in these interviews, too often a claimant answers a question too hastily, worded poorly, or says something in passing in such a way that it will destroy the claim. If an adjuster can find a way to twist your words or show you are at fault for getting hit by a drunk driver, they will be more than happy to do so.

Remember, insurance companies make money by denying claims. They answer to their shareholders, and if their profits are low, the shareholders are not happy. Insurance companies have every incentive to find frivolous reasons to deny valid claims.

Whenever you are dealing with an insurance company, make sure to hire an attorney. Often, if you were injured or otherwise harmed by someone with insurance, an attorney will be willing to work on a contingency basis (taking a percentage of the recovery, but not charging you for attorney’s fees if you lose).

Attorneys provide a shield for you. The insurance company cannot talk directly to you without your attorney’s permission as long as you have an attorney and the insurance company is aware that you have one.

Adjusters are very skilled negotiators, as it is what they do all day. Adjusters do everything they can to keep you from hiring an attorney, because they know that the moment you hire an attorney they will no longer be able to settle for substantially less than your claim is worth. Like adjusters, attorneys also have experience valuing claims and negotiating injury settlements. Negotiating with an adjuster for your own claim is like going to a gun fight with a knife — chances are you will not get what you should have. According to a Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims done in 1999, injured victims received an average of 40% more money when hiring an attorney to represent them when compared to representing themselves. (“Paying for Auto Injuries: A Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims,” Insurance Research Council, 1999, pg. 45-52).

Another area where adjusters always attempt to take advantage of unrepresented parties is in lessening the damages and completely ignoring other types of damages. Attorneys know what can be considered as damages. Attorneys know the tricks of the trade that allow the best possible measure of damages to be required from the insurance companies.

Even if you do not want to share your recovery with an attorney, at the very least, pay an attorney for a few hours of time to negotiate with the adjuster.

In the end, whenever you are dealing with an insurance claim, get an attorney involved. It will make a huge difference.

While contingency fees are not free, they require no money up front.
If the Law Office of Gregory Wilder, PLLC takes your case on contingency, you will not be charged any legal fees up front. If you lose the case, you will not need to pay any attorney's fees.
The Law Office of Gregory Wilder, PLLC's contingency fees start at one third of any recovery, plus costs! Generally, in car accident cases, if the case settles before filing suit, the fee is thirty-three and one third percent of any recovery, plus costs (33 1/3% before the costs are deducted); if suit is filed or if the case goes all the way to trial, the fee increases.
The Law Office of Gregory Wilder, PLLC is willing to do a mix of a flat fees and a contingency fees to lower these percentages. These fees are subject to a legal services agreement.

Is It Worth Suing? When to Get an Attorney Involved.

As a local Fort Worth attorney, I often have a candid discussion with potential clients about whether it is worth suing or hiring an attorney. Often, potential clients are surprised when I recommend not getting an attorney involved.

Whether to sue and whether to hire a lawyer are difficult decisions. There are several considerations that you should keep in mind when determining if you want to hire a lawyer or file suit.

  1. Cost of Suing.
    By and large, the question I get asked most frequently by people wanting to sue or looking for an attorney is “how much will it cost?” This is often a difficult answer for attorneys to give due to the unique situation most cases have.

    I have compiled a list of prices for many types of legal services that you can reference to get a general idea of what it costs to have an attorney do something. If what you are looking for is not on the list, feel free to give me a call.
  2. Your Damages.
    How much are your damages? Damages can often include things you may not have thought of. Talk to an attorney to make sure you are getting all of the damages you are entitled to at law. The amount of damages you have incurred is the largest factor in determining whether your case is worth pursuing.

    If you have only a few hundred dollars in damages it is not likely worth hiring an attorney to collect. Most attorneys will not take a case on a contingency basis (getting a percentage of the recovery instead of charging you up front) when the damages are only a few hundred dollars.

    Litigation is always risky, and often everything rides on which witness a jury will believe more. It is generally not wise to risk thousands of dollars in order to have a chance to win a few hundred (even if you can win your attorney’s fees). In these instances, it is often better to let the few hundred dollars go.

    On the other hand, if you have many thousands of dollars in damages, more attorneys will be willing to take the case on a contingency basis, and even if you hire an attorney on an hourly basis, your risk of a few thousand dollars to recover many times that will be worth it
  3. Attorney Fee “Shifting” Availability.
    Texas law is very favorable to Plaintiffs when it comes to who pays for attorney’s fees. Under the current law, attorney’s fees can potentially be recovered by a winning party at trial against a defendant for various types of cases, including breaches of contracts, consumer law, warranty breaches, certain civil rights violations, and for many other types of cases. Your attorney should be able to tell you whether attorney fee shifting will be available to you.

    If you can get your attorney’s fees shifted to the other party, then even a small recovery for you can be a win, and you could get your small amount of damages plus your attorney’s fees, even if they are higher. However, there are always limits to the attorney fee-shifting provisions. Make sure to talk to your lawyer about these.
  4. The Defendant’s Assets or Insurance.
    Even if you get a judgment of $1,000,000.00 against someone, it will be worthless if the defendant has no assets or insurance. You could be spending thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees just to have the defendant declare bankruptcy and make your claim disappear.

    As far as insurance goes, lawyers have strategies that can potentially make an insurance company liable and have to pay for more than the insurance policy limits, if the right steps are taken. Whenever dealing with an insurance company, always get a lawyer if possible.
  5. Contingency Availability.
    If your attorney is willing to take your case on a contingency basis, then that is a good sign that you have a good case. Contingency is usually where the lawyer will not charge you any attorney’s fees up front (the attorney may ask for a deposit for costs, like court filing fees or postage), and if you lose the case the attorney will not typically take any fee (you may still have to pay for costs even if you lose). Because of the amount of an attorney’s time involved with each case in litigation, attorneys avoid cases that are not clear victories or have high amounts of damages.

    Contingency means you will spend less money up front, but it also usually means that if you do get a settlement or win a judgment, that you will have paid more to the attorney than you would have paid on an hourly basis. The attorney is taking the risk of not getting paid for their work, and so they get rewarded for it. What this means, typically, is that if you can afford to pay an attorney on an hourly basis, do it.
  6. Going it Alone
    Going to court or negotiating with an insurance company without an attorney is like going to a gun fight with a knife. Chances are you will lose or be taken advantage of.

    Some people opt to attempt to negotiate with an insurance company without an attorney or file suit against someone and try to prosecute the case themselves. This is usually the easiest way to lose your case. Legal procedure is extremely important, and the slightest mistake can automatically lose your case. From knowing when to file, what to file, what motions to make, what to argue, how to get evidence into court, and how to keep opposing evidence out of court, these issues are ones that attorneys studied in law school and deal with on a daily basis. There is a reason attorneys charge hundreds of dollars per hour. Going to court without an attorney is the fastest way to lose.

    Having an attorney provides you with protection, especially when dealing with insurance companies. Insurance companies make money by denying claims. Every claim they do not pay is more money they can give to their shareholders. For this reason, every question the insurance company asks you is meant to find a way to avoid paying your claim or to pay less on your claim.

    Insurance companies are very skilled at finding ways to deny claims or to pay less than what your claim is worth. I cannot tell you how often people contact me after they accepted a settlement that was far below what their claim was worth, and at that point there is often not much I can do to help. I also cannot tell you how often people have their claims denied because they said the wrong thing at the wrong time, and the insurance company jumped all over a statement that was made and twist it out of context in order to deny the claim.

    Having an attorney is the best way to stop the insurance company from getting you to say something that can potentially damage your claim. Once you have an attorney the insurance company cannot talk directly to you any more without the permission or presence of your lawyer.

    Additionally, attorneys are skilled and typically have a lot of experience knowing exactly how much your case would be worth. Most of us have never purchased an airplane, and so we would not know what a good deal is. People who have experience purchasing airplanes will be better positioned to know if a deal is good or not. Likewise, most people do not have much experience valuing personal injury or other claims, and so they are not as well positioned to value the claim as a claims adjuster or a lawyer who deal with these types of claims on a daily basis.

    There are a few times when going it alone may be the best option: (1) If your claim is very small and attorney fee shifting is not available; (2) if the defendant does not have assets and you are not likely to recover anything from the defendant; (3) if you cannot find a willing attorney; or (4) if you cannot afford an attorney and cannot get a court appointed attorney or a pro bono lawyer to help and have exhausted all other options.

    In these instances, avoid the district and county courts if possible. Small claims courts will often be cheaper, less formal, and more lenient on mistakes and proper procedure.

    Finally, it is never wise to go it alone if there is an attorney on the other side.

Keep these factors in mind when deciding whether to sue or to hire an attorney. Every situation is different, so make sure to ask your lawyer regarding your particular case.

5 Legal Things You Can Do to Protect Your Children

5 Legal Things You Can Do to Protect Your Children

Protecting your children is a priority for all good parents. However, there are many things that are easily done and can prevent a substantial amount of heartache that people do not often think about. Five easy, and relatively inexpensive things (inexpensive when considering the potential effects if you do not do them) are often forgotten when making preparations to protect your children.

  1. Update or Get a Will
  2. If you die without a valid Will (you die “intestate”), the state where you live will typically decide who gets any property you left. By having a current Will, you can save your children and other loved ones from having to worry who gets what. I cannot tell you how often a person dies without a Will after they have been separated (but not divorced) from their spouse for decades. The family members are often surprised when the surviving spouse gets a substantial portion or all of the deceased person’s assets. This could have easily and inexpensively been solved by simply having a valid Will.

    Something you need to consider now to protect your children when making your will is who will become the guardian of your children? Additionally, if that person does not want to become the guardian or is unavailable, then who should get the kids?

    Many people want to draft their own Wills to save a few hundred dollars in attorney’s fees. While it is possible to do this, it is never recommended: for a Will to be valid, all of the requirements in the probate code must be met with exactness. If any requirement is lacking or not done perfectly, the Will is likely invalid, and you would potentially die intestate. Do you really want to risk dying intestate and allowing the state to decide who gets what and who will take care of your children just to save a few hundred dollars? Hire an attorney to draft your Will to make sure your Will is valid.

  3. Get a Living Will (Advance Healthcare Directive)
  4. If you are ever on life support or unable to make medical decisions, what do you want done? You can decide now with a “living will.” Do you want to have your life sustained as long as medically possible, or do you fear the indignities of deterioration, dependence and hopeless pain more than you fear death? In what situations do you want the “plug pulled” or do you want to be kept alive?

    The decision to keep you on life support can be a terrible decision for your spouse, children, or other loved ones to have to make. There could be a disagreement between family members, potentially creating lifelong divisions or grudges between family members. By having a Living Will in place, you can prevent these problems and cause less heartache to your family because they will know exactly what you would have decided if you were able to decide.

    Like Wills, Advance Healthcare Directives also must follow certain procedures to exactness, so make sure to have an attorney draft your living will for you to avoid it being made invalid.

  5. Enter into a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement (also known as a “Marital Property Agreement” or a “Partition Agreement”)
  6. If you get divorced from your current spouse, or if you die, how do you want your property divided to help your children?

    Many people do not realize that Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreements help control how your assets will be divided at your death. Instead, most people only think that a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement affects how the spouses’ assets would be divided upon a divorce. Depending on the state you are in, however, your death could be treated virtually the same as a divorce in determining how your assets will be divided. If there is a prenuptial agreement, this could help preserve assets for your children and for those you want to receive your property in your Will.

    Like Wills and Living Wills, certain procedures must be followed with exactness for a Prenup or Postnup to be valid, so make sure to have an attorney draft your prenup or postnup for you.

  7. Set up a Trust
  8. Trusts can be very helpful in protecting assets for yourself and for your children. If a trust is set up properly, the assets you put in the trust can potentially be protected against creditors or people you injure. For example, if you cause a car accident which results in severe injuries to other people, and if your liability insurance is insufficient, the people you injured could obtain a judgment against you and have a sheriff seize your assets to help pay for the damage you have caused. If a trust is properly set up, however, the assets that you put in the trust can potentially be protected, and you or your children may potentially be able to still enjoy the income from those assets.

    Trusts are complicated to set up, however, and certain procedures must be followed to keep the assets away from potential creditors. Get an attorney to set the trust up for you so that you are protected properly.

  9. Get Insurance (UM/UIM, Life, Health, Homeowner’s, Disability)
  10. UM/UIM Insurance
    I am always surprised at how often people get less insurance than they should. For car insurance, make sure to get a substantial amount of Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (“UM/UIM” coverage). If a person with the minimum statutory insurance or no insurance at all causes an accident, and you are permanently disabled, the statutory minimum of liability insurance (in some states as low as $15,000) will be insufficient to pay for all of your losses. If you are injured and spend only a few days in the hospital, you are potentially looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. If you are disabled or killed, there is no way that the statutory minimum amount of insurance had by the person who caused the accident will be able to cover your losses. If you have Under Insured or Uninsured Motorist Coverage, however, your own insurance can step up and make payments to you and to healthcare providers.

    By getting UM/UIM insurance, you are helping to protect yourself and your children by making sure at least some money will be available if you are disabled or killed in a car accident when someone else is at fault.

    Also, make sure to hire an attorney when seeking payment from insurance companies. Insurance companies love when people do not hire attorneys because they are able to undervalue claims substantially. An experienced attorney will know the value of your claim and will be best able to help get the insurance companies to pay. A lawyer also creates a shield between you and your insurance company so that the insurance company is not as able to talk to you and later twist your words.

    Life Insurance

    If you die, how much money would it take for your children to survive until they can provide for themselves? Make sure to account for inflation. An insurance agent can help you calculate an appropriate amount of insurance for you.

    You can name your children as the beneficiaries of your life insurance policy, even if they are minors. Depending on several things, someone may be put in charge of taking care of the money (a “guardian of the estate”). You can even have the money put into a trust for your children and have them receive it at a certain age or upon certain conditions.

    Health Insurance
    According to a 2009 CNN Article, 60% of Bankruptices in America are Prompted by Medical Bills. Make sure to get sufficient health insurance so that if the worst happens, you are still protected.

    Homeowner’s Insurance

    Even if your home is paid for, get homeowner’s insurance. Homeowner’s insurance not only protects your house in case of a fire or other common catastrophes (not typically floods), but it provides you with some general liability protection. If someone comes over to your house and falls because one of your children left a toy on the stairs, your homeonwer’s insurance can come in and pay for your or your child’s liability. Remember, if someone fractures bones and spends a few days in the hospital, you are looking at potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of liability.

    Disability Insurance

    If you become disabled, who will care for you? Who will pay for the added medical bills, or the expenses of converting your home into one that is wheelchair accessible?

    Protect your children by getting disability insurance for yourself.

When to Hire a Lawyer

The old adage “an ounce of preparation is better than a pound of correction” is especially true when it comes to legal issues. People hate hiring lawyers, and for good reason: we are expensive. What people fail to realize, however, is that hiring a lawyer early can save substantial amounts of legal fees.

Business Law: The clearest example of preparation saving money is in the area of contract drafting. Every experienced businessperson thinks they can draft a contract with the best. In order to save around a thousand dollars to have an attorney draft the contract, many people attempt to draft the contract themselves. Unfortunately, because the person does not have the training and ability to find out what a court will do with certain language in the contract, language is often added that will not stand up in court, or certain possible outcomes are not handled. Unfortunately, leaving out what happens after the death of a party to the contract or many other possibilities that most people do not think about (but that lawyers see litigated often) often results in the need to litigate. Litigation is expensive! Contract litigation frequently costs well over $100,000 in legal fees for each party in the contract dispute. If the person had hired an attorney who knows the many issues that create much litigation and had spent $1,500 or $2,000 on getting a professional contract drafted up, the person could have avoided the $100,000 litigation bill when the unforseen possibility happens.

At the very least, you should hire an attorney to review the contract you drafted. Contract review is not too expensive, and we offer a flat per-page rate (see our legal fees page for details). By hiring an attorney to review a contract you drafted, you will get a professional opinion on issues seen in the contract and suggestions on how to better it.

Hiring a lawyer to form your business will save you money because the lawyer will think about things and draft the partnership or company agreements around issues you have not probably considered: when and how the business will dissolve; how it will dissolve; how losses will be divided; and many more.

Granted, lawyers will not always see all of the possibilities or ways that a situation could go awry, but attorneys have seen many that most people will not think of. And, if worst comes to worst, you always have someone you can go back to and ask “why didn’t you think of this?” Hopefully the attorney will help you resolve the issue at a lower cost than if that attorney had not drafted the contract in the first place.

Family Law: Another area where preparation can save a substantial amount of money is family law. Divorces are expensive eat up tons of money from all parties. Also, because Texas and many other states utilize “Community Property” rules, where your income while married belongs to the community estate, if you get a divorce, you could lose many assets that you thought belonged to you. Most people realize that they could lose their home or car to an ex-spouse, but are surprised when they lose their pension or retirement accounts to their ex-spouse. A prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement can save this from happening. Here again, a little preparation can save a substantial amount on the back-end. Many people realize the value of having a prenuptial, but decide to do it themselves. Unfortunately, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are strictly construed, and if the procedures to properly enter into them are not strictly followed, the prenuptial becomes worthless. Prenups and Postnups should be done right, and for around one thousand dollars now, you save losing a substantial amount of money later.

Again, in family law lawyers will not always see all of the possibilities or ways that a situation could go awry, but attorneys have seen many that most people will not think of or include in their form prenups. For example, what if you and your current spouse get divorced and then remarry after a time — what happens to the prenup? A prenup drafted by an attorney can properly deal with this situation.

If worst comes to worst, you always have someone you can go back to and ask “why didn’t you think of this?” Hopefully the attorney will help you resolve the issue at a lower cost than if that attorney had not drafted the contract in the first place.

Personal Injury Law: most people are not experienced negotiators. Insurance adjusters negotiate all day, every day. When you are involved in an accident or are injured, you will likely be dealing with someone who knows exactly what to say and how to say it. The insurance company will take your words and twist them to the insurance company’s benefit.

Having a lawyer in a personal injury situation can make or break your case. When you hire an attorney, you are hiring someone who spends much of their time negotiating, just like the adjusters they are negotiating with. An attorney also becomes your shield: once you hire an attorney, the opposing insurance company cannot speak with you directly any further. Because of this, there is no more opportunity for them to twist your words and use them against you.

Finally, an attorney who is experienced dealing with injuries will be more able to properly value your case. According to a Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims done in 1999, injured victims received an average of 40% more money when hiring an attorney to represent them when compared to representing themselves. (“Paying for Auto Injuries: A Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims,” Insurance Research Council, 1999, pg. 45-52).

The Moral of the Story: in the end, hiring an attorney early on in the process of any endeavor is almost always a good idea. Certainly, hiring a lawyer is virtually always better than attempting to do-it-yourself. You save money by hiring a lawyer to draft a contract or form a business because you will not as likely need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending your contract in court or dealing with dissolution issues that could have been addressed in the formation documents. You save money by hiring a lawyer to handle your prenuptial agreement because it will most likely hold up in court. You save money by hiring an attorney to handle your personal injury case early on, because you get the benefits of having a shield between you and the insurance company, and the attorney will be a more experienced negotiator in your situation.

5 Reasons to Hire a Lawyer After an Accident

You just got in an accident. The police come and make a report. They ticket someone — maybe you, maybe another driver; they may even not ticket anyone. Insurance information is exchanged. Negotiations between the insurance companies and the parties now begin.

There are many reasons why you should hire a lawyer after you get in an accident. Five important considerations follow:

  1. Attorneys Create a Barrier Between You and the Insurance Company
    Anything that you ever say to the insurance company or opposing party could be twisted in a way to favor them. Especially when the insurance company is asking for a statement about what happened from you. People are often surprised at just how their words are used against them when they were talking with the opposing party or insurance company. With an attorney, however, this problem is done away with: the attorney becomes a barrier between you and the opposing party and insurance company. After hiring an attorney, the opposing party or insurance company should not contact you directly about the accident without the permission of your attorney (and you can refer them to your attorney if they ever do try to contact you). Whatever your attorney says to the insurance company or opposing party is generally not admissible in court, and so it cannot be used against you.
  2. Insurance Adjusters and Attorneys are Experienced Negotiators
    Insurance adjusters have one job: to save the insurance company money by paying less on claims than should be paid. They do this by getting people to accept settlements far below what should be paid. Insurance adjusters negotiate all day, every day. Insurance adjusters know enough of the law to make them dangerous to the average person.
    Likewise, attorneys are experienced at negotiating. Attorneys have an in-depth understanding of the law, especially to how it would apply to your particular situation. They are equipped to explain the nuances that will win your case to the adjuster. Attorneys also deal with adjusters continually, and are also continually negotiating.
    In contrast, most people involved in accidents do not negotiate continually, and do not have an in-depth understanding of the law as it applies to their situation. People who do not hire an attorney go into negotiations with an insurance company at an immediate disadvantage because of these facts, and usually come out on the other end having left money on the table.
  3. Attorneys Get More Favorable Settlements
    According to a Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims done in 1999, injured victims received an average of 40% more money when hiring an attorney to represent them when compared to representing themselves. (“Paying for Auto Injuries: A Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims,” Insurance Research Council, 1999, pg. 45-52).
  4. Prosecuting a Case Is Expensive
    Trials are extremely expensive for all parties. Expenses begin to collect long before filing suit, with postage, medical expert reports (thousands of dollars), accident reconstruction experts (thousands of dollars), paying for medical records (frequently hundreds of dollars), research into the parties, the law surrounding the facts, and witnesses (often thousands of dollars). When filing suit, there is an initial filing fee (usually only a few hundred dollars), and service of process fees. After suit is filed, depositions of witnesses frequently need to be taken (usually over one thousand dollars each). Medical and other experts will need to be paid for their time in preparation for trial (frequently around $500 per hour). Discovery expenses also accrue. By the time trial arrives, many parties have spent many thousands of dollars in the hopes that they will be able to win a judgment at trial. Expert witnesses are particularly expensive at trial, and usually charge well over $5,000 for one day of trial. Trials often extend for many days, and expenses can accrue at an astonishing rate. Most law firms are equipped to handle these expenses leading up to a final judgment when necessary.
  5. Litigation and Trials are Extremely Complex
    From knowing what you have to prove at trial to knowing how to get every piece of evidence admitted, trials and litigation are extremely complex. Lawyers spend years in law school learning the ins and outs of litigation and trials. Most people do not have the training to know what to do when it comes to litigation. Because of this, when most people threaten a lawsuit, it carries little weight. When an attorney threatens a lawsuit, insurance carriers and people listen.

There is little reason not to hire an attorney. Yes, attorneys do charge money. Most attorneys charge a contingent fee in accident cases (a percentage). Going alone in your accident case is like hunting deer with a knife instead of a gun — you save the expense of the gun and the ammo, but you also will have little comparative success.

To see what we charge for our cases, see our Legal Fees page.

10 Ways to Avoid Getting Ripped Off by Attorneys

10 Ways to Avoid Getting Ripped Off by Your Attorney

Aka: 10 Things to Know When Hiring an Attorney


People are often shocked at how much legal fees for their case adds up to. Many do not realize what legal services cost because the payments are made to their attorney over time, a few thousand dollars at a time. There needs to be more transparency on legal fees, so I have decided to write this lengthy article describing 10 ways to avoid getting ripped off by your attorney.

One tip on each page.

(1)              Understand What a “Retainer” Is

When you hire an attorney that charges an hourly rate, the attorney will likely ask for a “retainer” up front. Many people mistakenly think this is the limit of the fees that the attorney will charge. This thinking, although very common, is incorrect.

Traditionally, a “retainer” was a periodic fee that is paid to a lawyer to make sure that lawyer will be available if you ever need legal services. While these types of retainers still exist, they are not used by most consumers of legal services. Instead, the evolved retainer has become the standard. Simply put, a retainer these days simply means a deposit.

If an attorney asks for a $10,000.00 retainer and charges you at $350 per hour, you have paid up front for less than 29 hours of the attorney’s time. Not only are you responsible for all of the attorney’s fees your lawyer charges, but you are also probably responsible for costs of suit. If your case is complex and goes to trial, you can expect that the attorney will potentially work hundreds of hours on your case, and if you need expert witnesses, you can expect at least another $20,000.00 on expert witness fees. Even if the attorney is able to finish your case in just 50 hours of work, with no expert witnesses and only one deposition, his bill will likely be at least $20,000.00. This means that, even after paying a $10,000.00 retainer, you are on the hook for another $10,000.00. After paying a large retainer, many clients are surprised to receive a bill that is often much larger than the initial retainer.

Litigation is costly. Attorney’s fees add up and costs of suit add up over time. Another lawyer I work with on occasion recently told me that his firm tells clients it costs approximately $200,000.00 per year to have a suit progressing on the docket. Although this seems a little high to me, it gives you an idea about just how costly litigation can be.

Because retainers have nothing to do with the true cost of your legal issue, do not base your decision on the price of the retainer. If the retainer is high, and the work ends up being very simple, your attorney is likely obligated to refund to you any amount of the retainer that is not used. When you are hiring an attorney and making a decision as to which attorney to go with, remember that a low retainer is not indicative of low legal fees. Instead, base your comparison on other measurable data: fee caps, flat fees, ballpark estimates, or hourly rates.