Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hiring An Attorney After An Auto Accident

Personal Injury Lawyers Can Be Vital When In A Bad Collision. 
SEATTLE (ESTRA) - Hiring an attorney to assist in a car collision claim requires understanding of your specific case.  A lawyer’s skill level, ability to build a relationship with clients, loyalty, and integrity when defending your interest will make a big difference in the resolution of claim. 

So what should you be looking for when hiring an attorney after a Car Accident? 

Most personal injury lawyers have built up either an adversarial or congenial relationship with local insurance companies. Personally, I have dealt with both types of attorneys.  My personal preference is ones whose taken an adversarial stance because I have found that they are less able to be manipulated by insurance companies.  However, the length of time to receive benefits takes longer, because typically insurance companies take a hard stance against these cases.  If you have also taken this stance due to the hopes of receiving a fair and equitable claim, this may be the type of attorney who may best represent your case.  Also base selection on factual information which aids in meeting needs and goals for your case.  Both attorneys and insurance company’s reputations are known within the community.  Both attorneys and insurance companies have resources to ascertain character of the other.  Typically, the only person whose information is limited is the clients or insured.

Your temperament and length of recovery time also play a role in the selection process of an attorney. Sometimes other people, who have gone through the same injuries, will be more eager to share their journey with you, which allows insight from viewing experiences, first hand from an injured perspective. 

Questions to ask yourself when considering the selection of an attorney include:  How well do you interact with people?  What communication style do you prefer to talk with, especially when injuries may be causing a great deal of discomfort, which means usually less patience?  Is your personality more of a serious nature or optimistic?  Take a moment and write down personal needs, preferences in communicating with attorneys, how often, information updates you need on a regular basis, and how much the lead way, you prefer a lawyer to take on your behalf. 

By the way, some attorneys divulge information perhaps you hold sensitive, therefore, make sure what you share is legally required and expect that they may share with others.  Also, in my opinion, some seek out historical experiences that can be used to encourage settlement agreement regarding claims at a later date. Therefore, it’s important to learn the style and behavior of a lawyer before sharing information with them.  From my perspective, it’s important to take time to get to know them and evaluate if they are or will work upon your behalf.

Whenever Possible Have Police On The Scene To Verify Collision Facts.
Most attorneys consider their time precious and you should consider your own time in this same way.  A mutual respect can accomplish much for a claim.  However, a lawyer who will be straightforward with you and discuss the conversations they have with anyone communicating information regarding your claim.  In particularly, being kept in the loop makes the claim process run smoother rather than learning this information at a later date and it causing conflict.  From my experience, if attorney sees their role or themselves on the level of insurance company or employer, meaning, not necessarily on an equal footing with a client, they may not be seeing you in a light that will effectively bring a satisfactory claim outcome.  Therefore, make sure selection is someone who can honestly relate to you and your situation.

It helps to communicate the expectations at the start of each relationship. Request to be notified if anyone contacts them regarding your case and the reason why. It is important for medical professionals and attorneys to share the names of individuals or corporations who contact them requesting information. Realize many of these people may be communicating on a regular basis for presentation of other injured individuals.  Thus, there can be pressures placed upon attorney or medical professionals to cooperate in order to receive their fees. 

The money is coming typically from insurance companies, not just for your claim, but others.  This can cause havoc on the bottom lines on anyone assisting in personal injury claims.  So learn about everyone involved in the processing of your claim.  Evaluate how you will handle intrusions or harassment if the situation arises until recovery.   

By staying in this loop of communication you are better able to decide if the attorney you are sitting across from will be working in your best interest, theirs, insurance carrier, or employer.  In my opinion, if they want to get around sharing information about you they are not supposed to, they have been doing this long enough, to be able to do so.  Think how you will respond if some of these scenarios occurs.  This places you in a better position and allows time to figure out an effective way in putting it in perspective.

Many times professional like to take the lead in their area of expertise.  This can be acceptable because this is the reason why they are helping with recovery.  However, remember you are the reason why they are getting paid for services, whether out of your own personal pocket and/or insurance payments.  So you have the final say about what is in your best interest. Do not be intimidated into thinking that you have no input on how decisions are made about settling claim or medical care.  For I almost guarantee, the moment you run out of money, the help will dry up immediately.  So be your best advocate on medical care and finances. 

Unfortunately, most people don’t realize this until all the money medical care is is still required. Furthermore, insurance companies have estimated expectations on the length of time and cost of care of most common injuries.  Therefore, there is no guarantee insurance companies will cover total medical expenses.  Most attorneys also have an idea about the estimated cost insurance companies are willing to accept. 
Keep A Copy of Book, Car Accident by ESTRA in Vehicle for Checklist.

When communicating intelligently with an attorney, they will realize you will be paying attention during the claim process, and be monitoring progress, conversations, making request for information, and where claim is headed.  In order to stay up with on claim, your or someone else must be willing to do research at each stage. Otherwise, how can you approve request and make informed decisions?  Or are you going to strictly rely on what your lawyer is saying or anyone else for that matter?  How are you going to evaluate what is being said?  It is only by learning that best decisions are made. Personal advocacy is so important.  Trusting others is not necessarily a bad thing, but verify.  From my experience this is a very important way to approach a claim. 

This brings things to the surface not in your best interest and an opportunity to address them.  Sometimes you may not learn everything in time to change course, but the greater knowledge gained, the better chances of an acceptable outcome. 

Some attorneys come out and just tell you like it is, allow you to make decisions regarding claim, while others will attempt to intimidate you into making decision in which perhaps they feel is in your best interest, theirs, or the insurance companies  Can you decipher the true facts?

Constantly feeling pressured into making decisions you don’t want to make?  Are most request for information a search for discovering information to assist the insurance company?  Are your request for information ignored?  Are there threatening request of claim outcome unless you act in some way?  Do attorney constantly provide information on what auto insurance companies or employers want disregarding your premise of the claim?

From my perspective, trust your own intuition.  If not in agreement, ask for more information, or additional explanation. In my opinion, the more you know and understand, chances are your best interest will be protected.
Documentation Along With Police Report Helps With Claim Processing.

Do not tolerate manipulation tactics, if you find yourself in this situation.  Remember attorneys work for you, and no matter how pushed, you can always say no.  And, if things get too bad, you can end the relationship.  Make sure to understand your contract before making this decision.  Anyone writing the contract usually writes things in their best interest.
Putting this off to the last minute, meaning searching for a lawyer after having an accident, puts you in a vulnerable position.  It’s like going to buy an item at the peak of demand; this creates a disadvantage because you are in need of a product or service that is highly valued, which leads to less time and options to evaluate choice.  This does not give time to make a decision that is in your best of interest.    Although most states provide three years to resolve you claim, however, other circumstances may arise where you need the protection of an attorney sooner.  Most of us cannot afford “A” listed attorneys because their price is way above our pay grade, unless they are willing to take your case pro bono, meaning taking your case as a courtesy.  And, auto insurance, employers, or whoever is holding on to your benefits, can easily afford to pay for these top attorneys, which leaves many injured in the fight of their lives, typically against the people they trusted to assist them if seriously injured in a auto accident.  

In a way to get around this, some people prefer to work on their own case, and then allow these attorneys to negotiate their claim.  However, if you spend the time in search of an attorney prior to injury while capable of making decisions from a healthy state and given there is no time restrictions, you can find an attorney that is able to effectively assist in possible future claims.

This also gives you enough time to review the attorney’s contract.  Again, the person who writes the contract typically has the upper hand.  If after reading the contract you feel as if it’s a trap, recognize there is time available to negotiate the removal, revisions, or continue looking for a lawyer whose demands are more acceptable to you.  

Learn what is contained in standard contracts, remembering that everything is negotiable.  This also has to worth a lawyer's time.  Having an idea how much time it will take to settle your claim, how much effort an lawyer will have to put into it, and estimated upfront cost is well worth knowing.  Recognize if an attorney is willing to take claim, they have estimated the value of claim and their percentage.  This is regardless of methods of payment.  

Sadly, the only people not familiar with claim processing typically is the person injured in the car wreck.  Insurance Companies and Employers deal with this on a regular basis.  Its important going into this situation to have the knowledge and skill to navigate through pressures.  Its typically within the first few months insured is evaluated and a stance is made upon the claim.  Therefore, watch insurance or employer behavior and actions at this time.  Are you experiencing delays, denials, or attempt to eliminate claim? Chances are they will be fighting to keep your benefits.
Use Caution While Driving.  Reckless Drivers Cause Chaos Quickly.
Many attorneys will want you to immediately sign a contract with them, however, this is not always in your best interest if you have not done your homework.  Find out if attorney will go to court when needed, if skilled enough to win if they do, and which corporations they have come up against in court and won. 

Learning in the last stages of claim,that your attorney has already made a deal with the auto insurance company and is trying to get you to go along with it can be very disturbing and disappointing.  It can leave you feeling like being lead down to a trough for slaughter has always been the end game.   Realizing you have been in a maze that looks like a recovery spot until you reach the end and you become aware that its really a horror movie, staring you.  I can only imagine the number of client getting to the end of their case, only to realize the lawyer who was working for them, perhaps was not as hard working as they thought.  Don’t forget, huge corporation have a great deal of power and resources.  You may be the only one who becomes a target.

Therefore, pick an attorney with a reputation of protecting their clients when dealing with auto insurance or employer benefit claims.  In my opinion, this is not a job for the faint of heart.  True grit, is an understatement in some cases.  Most attorneys have a gift for gab or they would not be in this industry.  Therefore, stay with facts on how previous cases were handled with perspective attorney.  Local courthouses can provide helpful information about lawyers.  Give yourself time to truly investigate who are their clients. Hiring one the makes their living from corporations may provide more information regarding your claim to those attempting to eliminate case.  Don’t go in and spill your heart out to attorneys that work for them.  In fact save spilling your heart out to your wife or husband, someone you don’t expect can be influenced in any way to harm you because something may be held over their heads.  Staying with the facts of your case, in my opinion, is important.  From my experience, some companies will go to any lengths to demean and intimidate insured in hope that they will drop a claim.

There are examples of attorney contracts on the internet and in libraries.  You don’t have to become an expert. Learning the basics is fine. The key is knowing what you can live with, what you can’t, and standing you ground when getting close to the end of negotiating claim. This is when things begin to heat up.  By this time, know where your bottom line.  In most cases, this is when a "beat down" truly begins.  In my opinion, the twist and turns of claims come out at this point, so stay focus, calm, and recognize intimidation practices from anyone who throws them your way. 

When you decide on an attorney and sign a contract, immediately take a highlighter and mark the main points of the contract for future review and as a reminder.   My book, CarAccident by ESTRA has a section to write down appointments with your attorney and additional items to track.  It’s important to keep up with what is happening in your case.

It’s important to know what your claim is worth.  Evaluate what attorney states claim is worth initially, to the settlement amount.  If values are not close, analyze what happen during the claim process. Determine whether this attorney worked in your best interest.  Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but when this happens there are reasons.  In my opinion, its important to discern what influence this turn of events.  It’s always important to evaluate what has taken place and why.  This information will be useful in the future.  Going through an auto injury claim is a learning process for most insured.  In my opinion, it’s easy to get burned if you don’t understand, or know process, and sometimes even if you do.  As with anything in life, live, learn, grow, and never give up.  What you have been through will be an asset for the future.  I am of the belief that you can take whatever happens in life and make it work for you and others.  Attitude. Keep it positive in the midst of any storms.  Many lives have been rebuilt after trouble and although it may not be easy to recover, it can be done.

Once signing a contract with an attorney, trust in what they are doing to progress claim, yet verify that its taking claim in the direction that is in your best interest.  Never stop being your best advocate.  Turning over the reigns to someone else without input does not necessary take you where you want to go, so stay involved.  "Go home and I’ll call you" does not always work.

Lawyers and auto insurance companies work a lot together.  In my opinion, they can speak a language all of their own, navigating levels of communication that is foreign to the average person.  From my perspective, communication methods depend on their established relationship and level of power each organization holds.  Remember, in most cases, attorneys are paid a percentage of settlement, the amount received is typically by insurance companies, therefore, in my opinion, not only are they tied to your compensation, they are tied to these insurance companies willingness to pay.
Auto Insurance Companies can make it difficult on attorneys, due to typically holding the “decision to pay”. Therefore, from my perspective, this dependency extends not only to your case, but the total number of cases involving a particular auto insurance company.  A client cannot anticipate the stance insurance company will take with their claim, or response their attorney will have to the actions of being bombarded with paperwork from auto carriers, making it almost impossible to manage.  Therefore, take time and evaluate both the insurance company’s history and the attorneys track record with them.  Do they typically settle with this insurance company?  Is insurance company known for "Good Faith" or "Bad Faith" practices among their own insured?  The more you learn about the relationship between attorney and insurance company, the better off you will be in deciding whether this is a team you want to work on claim.  Information is power.  Otherwise, the insurance industry would not invest in learning as much as possible about you.  Never the less, don’t let intimidation or harassment stop you from pursuing claim.  Make decisions to the best of your ability.  Know doing your best is acceptable including the selection of an attorney to represent you. 
You Never Know When This Will Happen.  Be Prepared. 

Needing an attorney in most cases is an indication of a stressful situation.  Most people have a preference of resolving a situation in an amicable manner.  In my opinion, most people are fair in their assessments and just want to be treated fairly in the auto insurance or employer benefit claim process.  Because current legislation does not hold up the best interest of the insured at the same level of insurer, the option to make dealings fair has no consequences for most insurance companies, therefore, some decide in their best financial interest rather than a moral one.  This does place attorneys in precarious positions at times.  However, many attorneys have learned to navigate these waters, and protect the interest of their clients.  You as the client must also do your part.  You must educate yourself about the environment you have now found yourself in, learn how to be best advocate by gaining insight into an industry that does not always think of their insured interest first.  By selecting an attorney with a history of working strictly with people injured in a car accident and not bending from pressures placed upon them by insurance companies, at the end of this journey both you and your attorney can take comfort in realization best efforts possible were made in defense of claim.

Good luck in finding an attorney that is both skilled in their craft and able to come along side you as an advocate.  

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