Auto Accidents: Step by Step, by the Right Attorney

I have written this article with the “average” case in mind, as that imaginary “average” case is the one which occurs most often. I believe that there are absolutely “rights” and “wrongs” in the handling of a personal injury claim. At the conclusion of this report, if you have questions, I will tell you how we can connect to try to get them answered.

Problem Presented:

You have just been involved in an automobile collision which was not your fault. Your car is all banged up; you are hurt; you are probably worried about many of the consequences this collision has now created, and as the expression goes: “this just wasn’t a good time for this kind of thing”. There are 101 things racing through your mind. Certainly, the last thing you need is to worry about finding a good attorney to handle matters for you. Hopefully this article will give you a leg up on making that search a bit easier, by allowing you to know what to look for, and by allowing you to know what questions to ask.

Plan of action to solve the problem: find an attorney to help!

Finding an attorney is easy. Finding the right attorney might be a little tougher. First, understand that there is nothing immediately critical about hiring an attorney. I recommend, however, that you do so within 2 – 3 days of the collision. In this fashion you can avoid being hassled by insurance adjusters, and an intelligent course of action for you and your case can be formulated. Back to finding that attorney. If you have a good case, there are hundreds of attorneys who will be thrilled to work for you. I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that legal fees for “personal injury” cases can be very handsome. Such fees for the right attorney however, are well worth it. Read on, and you’ll see why.

You should be able to recognize a sincere appreciative attitude on the part of the attorney you select. Again, there are hundreds of attorneys who’d be very happy to have you as a client. If the attorney you select isn’t one of them, find one who is. That attorney will work very hard for you. Keep reading, and I’ll help you learn how to pick the right attorney.

The Initial Stages and the first contact.

Your car is in need of repair, you are in need of medical treatment, and your ability to go to work at this point is in doubt, both because you now lack transportation, and because you don’t feel physically able to do so. Insurance adjusters are calling. What should you do? A good attorney can tell you. A good attorney will also find out many important things, such as: did police investigate? was the other party given a ticket? who is the other guy? is there insurance? is there enough insurance? Again, a good attorney will advise you about what to do, and find out the answers to all of these questions. You need to concentrate on getting better. Investigating these matters and spending hours on the telephone are the last things on the doctor’s prescription pad for you.

Good attorneys can be found in many places. If you don’t know anyone who has used an attorney for a personal injury matter, there is probably a local bar association referral service. If there isn’t, or if they’re not open and you want contact now, internet search engines will offer the names and website addresses of all types of attorneys, from single practice attorneys up to large firms. I encourage a good look at the lawyer’s or the law firm’s website: read about their experience and see if the website “speaks to you.” I do not recommend telephone book ads to find a lawyer, nor do I recommend television ads, because really, they don’t tell you much. Once you select an attorney or two or three to interview, don’t jump without asking a lot of questions, no matter where the attorney’s name came from.

The first call to the attorney’s office.

You select an attorney and you want to call him or her. Pay attention to several things: Is the number you are calling advertised as 24 Hours? If so, who answers the call? Is it a tape? Is it the staff? Is it the attorney? Any may be acceptable, but clearly, you should be looking to talk to the attorney within a reasonable time if that first call doesn’t get you connected to him or her. Next, should you call “off-hours”, or wait until business hours Monday through Friday, 9 – 5? My feeling is that an attorney who practices personal injury law must recognize that potential clients are calling, often very traumatized, often very confused, and often in need of some good solid advice. Accordingly, that attorney should be available whenever the potential client calls. So you call, and you are generally pleased. The attorney sounded okay, and invites you to his or her office for an appointment. Before you go in, ask some questions:

How long has the attorney been in practice? You want someone with experience.

What percentage of the attorney’s caseload involves handling personal injury matters? It should be over 50%.

Does the attorney regularly go to court and try cases involving personal injury matters? Yes is the only acceptable answer.

Is the attorney accessible? Get a commitment that you’ll be able to speak to the attorney, if you want to, within a reasonable time, every time you want to. Promise to respect the attorney’s off-hours privacy, but ask if the attorney will give you a home telephone number for emergencies.

Will you be kept informed of all significant developments? This means that you’ll routinely get copies of important correspondence, and that you will be consulted before decisions beyond the mere routine occurs.

How money is handled? Don’t be shy about asking about this!! This is the primary reason you are hiring an attorney. Think about it… The mechanic is going to fix your car. The doctor will get you back to good health… You’ll certainly ask them questions… The attorney is the person who will help get you the money from the other guy’s insurance company to pay for all of this!

The first meeting with the attorney.

You’re satisfied and you agree to meet with the attorney you’ve called. At this meeting you should meet the attorney, talk with him or her for as long as you want, and the entire process should be explained to you. This includes explaining all of the possible insurance benefits available to you from all sources, including your own insurance company, and how and when such benefits are to be expected. It also means explaining, at least in summary fashion, the applicable law which governs your case. Different states have different laws which control “liability” issues and ultimately affect compensation. Ask your attorney if your state follows no-fault, comparative negligence, or contributory negligence principles.

At this first meeting, which is really the beginning of your case, your attorney CANNOT predict how much money you’re going to get for your injuries. Nobody knows, at the early stages, how badly you are hurt, how much medical care you’re going to need, how much time you might miss from work, or even the potential legal theories which might be available. Can you predict the final score of a baseball game in the first inning? IT IS RIDICULOUS FOR AN ATTORNEY TO ATTEMPT TO ESTIMATE HOW MUCH YOU’RE GOING TO GET AT THE BEGINNING OF THE CASE.

At the initial meeting a paralegal or other staff member may take “administrative” information from you. The attorney should explain the legal contract, or fee agreement, with you. Attorney’s fees in this type of case are almost universally “contingent fees”, which means the attorney only gets paid when the case is settled; that is, the fee is “contingent” upon resolution. Usually attorneys charge one-third of the recovery, and usually contracts of this sort detail a higher fee, perhaps 40 – 50%, if the case goes to trial. This is fair; because going to trial is a lot more work for the attorney, and involves the attorney taking on a lot more risk. Recognize that every “contingent fee” case an attorney takes on is a case where the attorney is working for free, and at great risk of getting nothing, until (and unless) the case resolves.

How the first meeting should end.

Your initial meeting with your attorney should conclude with you receiving a copy of the fee agreement, and with a very concrete list of things which should be set to happen.

1. You should have a list of things the attorney needs, such as a copy of your insurance policy, pay stubs, tax returns, photographs, etc.

2. Telephone calls should be made promptly for the resolution of the damage to your car. The two most typical scenarios are as follows:

a) The car is repairable. If it’s in a tow-lot, plans should be set to get it out, as storage charges accrue quickly. Next, insurers should be notified of the location of the car, so an appraisal of damage can take place. If the insurers can be notified quickly, often they will move it out of the towing lot. In any event, discussion as to what’s going to happen one way or the other should be presented to you.

b) The car is destroyed, or “totaled”. If there is an outstanding loan on the car, you must supply the lender’s name and account number to your attorney so they can contact them to discuss payoff. Again, insurers must be notified of the car’s location, so it can be moved and they can appraise the value. You will have to sign over the title to the car, so be prepared to make it available quickly. If there’s a loan, usually the lender has the title, or a part of the title.

3. Plans should be set for you to get alternate transportation. Any good personal injury attorney should be able to recommend a reputable rental car company.

4. Plans should be set for you to get “the right type” of medical care. This means, in most cases, that you should be treating with an orthopedic physician, a chiropractor, or a general practice physician who provides physical therapy services. If you don’t have a family doctor who can refer you to “the right type” of doctor, or if you don’t know someone who knows such a doctor, your attorney should be able to give you the names of several reputable physicians near where you live or work. It is essential that you receive medical care if you are hurt, and that you get this care as soon as possible. Medical study after medical study shows that individuals who start medical treatment later end up needing more medical treatment than they would have if they had begun that treatment soon after the trauma occurred.

a) Good personal injury attorneys have many medical “contacts”. If needed, arrangements often can be made through your attorney allowing you to receive medical care without payment up front (or as you go). This is accomplished by a document called an “Assignment”. Both you and your attorney sign this document, and thereby agree that the doctor will get paid at the end of your case, from the proceeds recovered. In this fashion, the doctor is satisfied, because of the attorney’s reputation, that payment will probably be forthcoming. Your attorney should tell you that the signing of this document does not eliminate your responsibility for payment.

5. Your attorney should send out several letters within the first 24-48 hours after meeting with you. At a minimum, these letters are:

a) to insurers, advising you are now represented, and advising that all contact about your case should go through the attorney’s office;

b) to medical care facilities, requesting records, reports and bills;

c) to the accident witnesses, asking for statements, or requesting appointments to review what they saw or what they know;

d) to the investigating police, requesting the accident report.

The “middle stages”, where you get better.

Your attorney and his or her staff are now acting as both a “collection facility”, gathering records and bills from medical care providers, and continuing as a shield, keeping the insurance company representatives away from you. I often have clients call me and ask me “how’s my case going”? If case liability is not an issue, that is, if it’s clear that the collision was “the other guy’s” fault, and his/her insurance company has “accepted” responsibility, then my answer to the question is simply “fine, how are you feeling?” I say this because at that point, assuming we’ve “secured” the liability issue, all that remains is waiting for the client to get better.

A good personal injury attorney is able to review medical records and spot problems, either in the way the records are written (mistakes?), or in the overall medical course. I have called doctors when I have felt that certain diagnostic tests were questionable. I have called doctors when therapy seemed to be continuing endlessly without any improvement in my client’s condition. I have called doctors when bills seemed out of line. Your attorney should be knowledgeable enough to do the same, and should have the gumption to do so if and when appropriate.

The ending stages: evaluation of the case, and the settlement process.

ONCE YOU ARE COMPLETELY DONE WITH ALL MEDICAL CARE, AND ONCE YOU ARE BACK TO PRE-COLLISION STATUS, OR IF THAT’S NOT POSSIBLE, ONCE YOU’RE AS GOOD AS YOU’RE GOING TO GET, THEN, AND ONLY THEN, SHOULD YOUR ATTORNEY CONSIDER ATTEMPTING TO RESOLVE YOUR CASE.

Having said that, there are a few notable exceptions. First, the “statute of limitations” provides a limit on how long you have to either settle your case or file a lawsuit if your case cannot be settled. So, if you are not medically resolved, but the statute of limitations date is approaching, your attorney should meet with you and explain your options. Next, in many cases the total amount of insurance funds available (policy limits) will not be enough to truly fully compensate you. Thus, no matter how badly you have been injured, no matter how much your medical bills are, the insurance coverage available simply won’t be enough. Accordingly, the question presents as to whether it is reasonable to “settle” now, given that waiting will not produce any more funds for you. It may be reasonable to attempt to resolve the case, assuming all options have been explored, if this situation presents itself. Your attorney should explain your options.

Show me the money.

I recognize that most people do not voluntarily position themselves to be automobile accident victims. People generally don’t get hurt just so they can collect. Please don’t have misgivings about seeking money here. This isn’t about getting rich. This isn’t about fraud or trying to take advantage of the system. When an accident occurs and you are the victim, there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling an entitlement to money. Our system of civil justice provides this, MONEY, as the only remedy. You are entitled to be compensated for medical expenses you incurred, for wages you lost, for mental and physical pain and suffering, for disfigurement, for aggravation, for inconvenience, for disrupting the quality of your life, and for more.

Any good personal injury lawyer will tell you his or her opinion concerning the value of your case, now that you have gotten to that “settlement-ready” posture. If they don’t know, or have an opinion, what are they there for? Your attorney should set out several things in writing to you BEFORE going to the insurance company to discuss settlement. These are:

1. How much the attorney thinks your case is worth.

2. How much the attorney is going to demand. Clearly, in the upcoming process of discussion with the insurance adjuster, the attorney must have room to negotiate.

3. How much you owe in outstanding medical bills. This will affect the “net funds” you receive.

4. Whether there are liens against the proceeds of your settlement. Health insurance, worker’s compensation, or a federal, state or local agency (Medicare, Medicaid) may have made some payments for your medical bills or to you for wages you lost. These groups may be entitled to be reimbursed. Again, this will affect the “net funds” you receive.

5. What options are available if settlement negotiations aren’t successful.

Is the lawyer going to attempt to mediate? to arbitrate? to litigate? You should know what all of these options are, if they are available, and what the pluses and minuses are with each. AND THESE should be compared to the settlement possibilities. It should be pointed out to you that if you get 95% of what you want through settlement negotiation, it probably isn’t a stellar idea to file a lawsuit, which forces delay, causes extra expense, and leaves the case unresolved.

6. Who is going to negotiate. I believe that if you hire an attorney, it is fine for the attorney to delegate non-legal, administrative matters to non-lawyer staff. On the other hand, I believe the attorney you hire should be the one who gets on the telephone and negotiates your case for you.

The very end, hopefully: a successful settlement.

Once the case is settled, the attorney should receive a check from the other party’s insurance company. You should see this check. It should have your name on it as a payee. It’s okay if it also has the attorney’s name as a payee. You should sign the check. The attorney should present to you a document similar to what I call a “Settlement Memorandum”. This document should detail the “money in” (the insurance check for settlement), and the “money out”, that is, all of the things which are going to be paid from that check. These will include the attorney’s fee, outstanding medical bills, any liens, and a “net” for you. The check should be placed into a special bank account which the attorney should have, called either an “escrow” account, or a “trust” account. This is an account where client funds are held, and attorneys are held to the highest of standards for the accounting of these bank accounts by attorney licensing authorities and bar associations. Routinely funds should be deposited immediately after the check is fully endorsed, and thereafter, funds should be disbursed within 5-10 days, the delay simply to allow the funds to “clear”.

After care.

Your attorney should complete all legal matters relating to your case. This means sending payment for all outstanding medical bills and liens. This means providing you with a copy of all of the checks written for those purposes. You should also either be given copies of the important items in your file (medical records, for example), or your attorney should advise you that he or she will keep them for your future needs.

Some Final Thoughts.

Good luck to you. Please drive safely. Wear your seatbelt. Put your kids in car safety seats. Don’t even think about drinking alcohol or using drugs and then getting behind the wheel. I hope you never get into an automobile collision. If you do, I hope you don’t get hurt too badly. Remember to keep your perspective. Remember that you are more important than your car. Take your time with the legal matters ahead of you.

Drive: Tapping Into Lawyers’ Intrinsic Motivation

Daniel H. Pink’s 2009 book entitled “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” (“Drive”) is filled with information that is highly relevant to the legal profession today.

The central thrust of Drive is that motivating professionals like lawyers requires law firms to go beyond the traditional use of sticks and carrots, punishments and rewards. Pink argues that instead of focusing on these external motivators, what law firms need to do is tap into the intrinsic motivational drive of their lawyers. This will result in more engaging and ultimately more satisfying work. Pink argues that this will not only reduce lawyer turnover and burnout, but that it is in fact the secret to high performance.

Pink highlights three key aspects of work that make it more inherently satisfying: (i) autonomy; (ii) mastery; and (iii) purpose. He argues that these components of intrinsic motivation are interdependent and mutually reinforcing – that, like the legs of a tripod, the apparatus of excellence cannot stand without each component in place.

If there is any merit to Pink’s argument, then law firms would be well advised to pay careful attention to each of the three components of intrinsic motivation in their human resource strategies. Here are some ideas on how to do so:

(i) Autonomy: There are five main ways firms can increase their lawyers’ overall sense of autonomy. These include giving lawyers greater leeway over: (i) what to work on (subject autonomy); (ii) when to do their work (time autonomy); (iii) where to do their work (place autonomy); (iv) who to do their work with (team autonomy); and (v) how to do their work (technique autonomy). The idea here is not that firms have to grant their lawyers full autonomy over all aspects of their work. It is simply that law firms have at their disposal five separate channels along which to promote greater lawyer autonomy, and that an increase in autonomy along any one of these five channels will result in a higher level of work satisfaction.

(ii) Mastery: Law firms can promote lawyer mastery by aligning the difficulty of certain tasks with their lawyers’ overall level of skill or development. Pink calls these “Goldilocks tasks” – tasks that are neither too hard nor too difficult. The idea is that in order to develop mastery it is important for lawyers to be engaged; and in order to be engaged they must be presented with challenges that are well suited to their skill level. Tasks that are too challenging result in a sense of being overwhelmed; tasks that are too easy result in boredom; tasks that are neither too hard nor too easy, but “just right” result in engagement. Engagement, in turn, leads to mastery. Law firms that care about developing masterful lawyers should ensure that they are neither overwhelmed nor bored – that overall they are engaged by their work. If firms are able to strike this balance, their lawyers’ work becomes its own reward.

(iii) Purpose: To make their lawyers’ work more satisfying, law firms would also do well to consider increasing the emphasis they place on meaningful, not just profitable, work – that is, work that gives their lawyers a sense that they are making a positive contribution to something greater than themselves. This does not mean rejecting profit as a motive; it simply means making greater room for non-profit driven contributions. This might mean crafting a mission or vision statement that espouses genuine non-profit related values, and ensuring that incoming lawyers share those values. It might also mean placing greater emphasis on pro bono work, and perhaps including it as part of performance reviews. It might even mean hiring professional coaches to work with their lawyers. Whatever the approach, taking steps to instill a greater sense of purpose into the work life of many lawyers will ultimately make them more committed, creative, resourceful, and yes: satisfied.

It is no secret that lawyers are, in general, a notoriously unhappy lot. It is also clear that lawyers are the most important resource of any law firm. Firms that value this resource would be well advised to take seriously the ideas put forth in Drive. In the end, when lawyers are satisfied with their work, everyone stands to win – not just the lawyers themselves, but their colleagues, their firms, and most importantly their clients.

Is Hiring a DUI Lawyer Required?

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious crime which is seen in every nation in the world. The penalties, however, deviate from region to region. The crime of DUI is committed by driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For a person who commits this crime, there will be a lot of legal troubles in store for him or her. Such an individual who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not just a terror to himself or herself. He or she also poses a menace to other innocent people too. Due to the DUI state, the involved person may also get the attention of the cops and be pulled over. He or she may be put through to a breathalyzer test or a number of sobriety tests. If the person fails to pass these sobriety exams, he or she may be held for driving under the influence (DUI).

If you are such an individual and are captured for DUI, there is no way that you will be able to get out of this wreck on your own. Until you know about the DUI laws and rules and are familiar with the way these kind of things work. Most of the individuals who get captured for DUI are no experts in this field. As a result, they will be unable to find a answer to their trouble. To make it darker, there are some organizations and groups that are making it worse for the accused. They are lobbying for tighter rules, harsher penalties and larger fines. There is a lot of trouble in store for someone who has been captured for DUI. In such a situation, you will need a continuous hand to help you stand up. There are many DUI lawyers available who can offer you this steady hand.

One of the first matters that must be done is to get the get the assistance of a professional and highly qualified DUI lawyer to manage your case. The DUI lawyer represents the person who has been charged with driving or operating a motor vehicle under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. If a person is seen to have consumed surplus amounts of alcohol, he or she is charged with DUI. There have, nonetheless, been cases where a person who had not crossed the limits had been arrested. The DUI lawyer functions as the attorney of the charged, and therefore he or she will take care of everything: from the start to the finish. There is absolutely nothing to worry about. The DUI lawyer will assist you along every step on the way.

The only solution to your problems is to get an excellent and able DUI attorney. This is the only means by which you can beat the system. It will help secure your release from jail. Posting a bail may also be needed. But there is no need to worry as all of that will be looked after by your DUI attorney. You need to stress on your defense against the charges. You will not be alone in this task. Your DUI attorney will be at your side and will aid you in taking the right actions and putting up a complete defense.

Arizona Business Lawyers

Starting your own business can be one of the most stressful events in your life. This is because of the numerous things you need to attend to in setting up you business, including getting the necessary permits, looking for a location, and hiring employees. Among these, one of the most complicated things to do is to review the lease agreements and other legal documents that you need for the operations of your business. One of the reasons why doing so can become a challenge is because not everyone can fully appreciate the legal languages that are in these documents. This is especially true if the place where you are starting your business has some of the most stringent laws with regard to leases and other legal matters. One such place is Arizona, which has some of the most stringent laws with regard to business as a result of the healthy and varied business profile of the state.

Getting a business lawyer in Arizona

Given the need for you to get legal advice on the different contracts you would be entering into in your business, getting a business lawyer becomes a necessity because, apart from giving you advice on contracts and other matters, like zoning laws, business lawyers can also negotiate on your behalf. However, looking for a good business lawyer requires that you do an adequate amount of research so that you can fine the best lawyer for your business. One of the best ways to do so is to ask for referrals from friends or from your accountant. In addition to this, you can also ask the Arizona Bar Association if they can refer you to some of their members who specialize in business law. Another good place to look is the Internet, which is host to a number of web site of lawyers and law firms.

After doing the initial research, you can now interview your prospects where you can ascertain whether the lawyer can really help you. One of the most important things you should do during these interviews is to explain your business to the lawyer and ask him about the ways that he can help you.

Starting a business can be very stressful, especially if you have to review a number of legal documents, which are sometimes very hard to understand. However, you can reduce the stress that you feel by hiring a business lawyer because doing so will give you access to good legal advice on legal matters and give you the assistance you need in negotiations and other important matters.

Employment Law Is An Important Part Of Business Law

Business law is one of the branches of the huge field of law. There are many things one has to keep in mind when starting a business; let it be a small or a large business. Breaking these laws may land you in deep trouble, so it is always advisable to have some basic knowledge of both small business law and business corporate law. With this knowledge, you are sure of being able to run your business smoothly without any hindrance from the law whatsoever!

One of the most important areas to consider in business law is employment law. If you don’t comply with all the employment laws and regulations, it is highly likely that you will end up in lots of trouble! There are different laws that actually rule the employment basis of both the regular employees and the contract employees of a business. Some of the employment business laws that have to be met by you are FLSA, the Fair Labor Standards Act, The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1966 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. However, these laws are not connected to the various state employment business laws that you may find to your business! These laws are a different thing altogether. To confirm that your business meets all the employment laws, it is always better to checkup with your HR department.
To run a business, it is important to have a business permit or a license. If you do not have one, there is a high possibility of you having to shutdown your business and to pay hefty fines and penalties. Moreover, in addition to federal business law it is required that you meet the state business law regulations too. And if you have an international based business, you have to be aware of the different international business laws and how they can affect your business, you and your bottom line. You at least have to meet the general international business laws, import laws, any specialized export laws and laws of the country you maintain business with.

Those running online businesses may be of the impression that there are no business laws pertaining to the internet. However, this is not so. There are many internet and online business laws that have to be followed to maintain any online business. The reason for these laws is that the internet explosion over the past decade has forced the government to introduce internet compliance laws to maintain some law and regulation over the internet. So if you by any chance run a website make sure that you abide the internet business laws. If you don’t do so, there is a high possibility of your site being shut down and of you, in the mean time, facing criminal prosecution and huge fines.

Remember that it is not advisable for you to try and comply with all the business laws on your own. There are numerous laws, and the best mode of avoiding falling into any trap would be to get the help of some professional business law firm. These tips are just to give you an idea of the types of business laws existing. However, even if you do hire a business law firm, it is also better, and important for you to have some basic knowledge of business laws!