Injured in an Auto Accident: Springfield MO | Sims Law
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Injured in an Auto Accident: Springfield MO


I WAS INJURED IN AN ACCIDENT:

SHOULD I CONTACT AN INJURY ATTORNEY & HOW WILL I PAY THEM?

 

The simple answer is YES! I always suggest seeking advice early – trust me, the insurance company has professionals protecting their interest, why shouldn’t you? Frankly, if you truly believe the insurance company or their lawyers are looking out for your best interest, then you might be suffering from a brain injury.  Regardless of what stage of the settlement process has been reached, it is never too late to seek advice. Most personal injury attorneys will provide a free consultation…you have nothing to lose!

As a Springfield, Missouri personal injury attorney, I have clients seek my advice and help at all stages of their personal injury claim. Ideally, clients would seek advice from a personal injury attorney prior to speaking to an insurance claims adjuster. Reality, that rarely occurs.

Many injury victims initially attempt to settle their claim with insurance companies on their own. Often times, insurance companies are rude, demanding, and downright mean. I can’t tell you how many clients have hired me to represent them, simply based on the attitude of the insurance adjuster. Many others hire me after they have received what seems to anyone with common sense as a low-ball offer. In addition to the low-ball offer, the insurance company is attempting to force the injury victim to sign a release that is generally not understood by the injury victim.

Some injury victims are concerned with the percentage that an injury attorney will charge as a fee. The standard fee for a personal injury claim such as a car accident, slip and fall, wrongful death, etc., (Non Workmans’ Comp) is 33% prior to filing a claim, and 40% if a claim is filed, or the matter proceeds to within 90 days of trial. Of course, there are attorneys that charge less for particular cases based on particular circumstances, however, 33-40% is standard.

Just what is the 33-40% based on? Generally, personal injury attorneys will only take 33-40% of the damages associated with the injury. In other words, if you were in a car accident, the attorney may help you negotiate a settlement for the damage to the car, but will not likely take a percentage of that particular part of the recovery. Additionally, if an injury client has been offered a particular amount as compensation for injuries, prior to retaining the attorney, the attorney will not likely receive a percentage of that amount.

Who pays for the cost of litigation? Personal injury attorneys generally pay the cost of litigation up front. Once the matter is settled, the attorney recovers his/her costs from the settlement. If they attorney fails to recover compensation, they do not recover their costs or fees. Costs consist of items such as: filing a claim, ordering medical records, copies, postage, retaining expert witnesses, conducting depositions (court reporters), and in some cases travel.

Let’s take a look at how this might all shake out.

Jane Doe, 22 years old and single, was injured in a two car automobile accident. Jane was not at fault. The wrongdoer had insurance totaling $25,000.00 property damage and $100,000.00 per person for liability (injury).  As a result of the accident, Jane suffered a broken arm, soft tissue injury of the neck, soft tissue injury to the low back, and temporary headaches. Jane was taken by ambulance to the E.R., seen several times by her primary care physician, seen several times by an orthopedic doctor, underwent physical therapy for the broken arm as well as the neck and back injuries, and was seen by a chiropractor for the neck and back injuries. In addition to her injuries, Jane missed 10 days of work for which she received no compensation. Overall it took 8 months for Jane to recover from her injuries. The attorney expended $375.00 for medical records, $1,500 for deposition fees, and $35.00 for postage and copies. Prior to retaining the attorney, the insurance company offered Jane $4,900.00 as compensation for her injuries and lost wages, and $5,000.00 for property damage.

-          Medical bills (Total Charged – not total paid) = $18,500.00 (Total out of pocket by Jane $1,850)

-          Lost wages (10 x 8 x 15.00) = $1,200

-          Property Damage = $5,000.00

-          Pain and Suffering = $29,700

-          Total Compensation = $52,450

As stated above, generally, a personal injury attorney will not charge a percentage of the portion of a settlement obtained as a result of property damage. In some cases, however, the insurance company contests whether or not they are obligated to cover the damage under the policy. In such a case, the attorney may take a percentage. For the purposes of the above example, we will assume the insurance company did not contest their obligation to pay.

You might be wondering how pain and suffering is calculated. The reason pain and suffering is such a mystery, is because, every case is different. There really is no one formula applicable to every scenario. The reason is, each injury victim has unique injuries, affects on their lives as a result of the injuries, and outcomes or recoveries. The more permanent, serious, and painful the injuries, the higher the compensation. In the above example, the pain and suffering amount would fluctuate greatly depending on the severity of the broken arm. For example, was surgery or multiple surgeries required, was there a necessity to implant hardware to repair the arm, was there a permanent loss of feeling in the arm, was the break to Jane’s dominant arm, was their scaring, was the fracture compound (was the bone sticking through the skin), and many other factors.

In the above example Jane would receive $5,000.00 for property damage, and $4,900 representing the previous offer, with no attorney fee applied. The remaining portion would have the attorney fee applied and be distributed as follows.

-          Total $52,450

  • Attorney Fee
    • (52,450 – 5,000 – 4,900) x .33 =$14,041.50
  • Reimbursement
    • Medical records = $375.00
    • Deposition fees = $1,500.00
    • Postage and Copies = $35.00
  • Jane Doe (minus attorney and reimbursement fees)
    • Personal Injury Compensation
      • $26,598.5
      • $4,900.00
    • Property Damage
      • $5,000.00
    • Total
      • $36,498.50

In the above scenario, we assumed that there was no outstanding medical bills. In real life, there are often times outstanding medical bills or liens on medical bills. All outstanding medical bills and many liens must be paid out of the settlement proceeds. Responsibility for paying the outstanding bills or liens will be with the injury victim, here Jane Doe. Fortunately, lawyers have several tools in their tool box that can help reduce or eliminate the total amount of medical bills owed. The ability to reduce or eliminate medical bills is yet another good reason to consult an injury attorney.

Another important factor regarding recovery is the amount of insurance the wrongdoer has purchased. In the State of Missouri, minimum required insurance is $10,000.00 property damage, and $25,000.00 per person, or $50,000.00 per accident liability insurance. Had he wrongdoer in the above scenario had only the State minimums, Jane Doe would have recovered only $25,000.00 despite the fact that her injuries far surpassed that amount. In many circumstances, however, there may be other insurance policies that could apply. It is doubtful that the adjuster handling the matter will volunteer this information to an injury victim. Yet another reason to consult an injury attorney.

Remember, the choice of a lawyer is an important one and should never be based on advertising alone. If you have been injured in accident, you should consult an injury attorney as soon as possible.

 

By Matthew Sims

 

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