- All Injury and Wrongful Death Claims
- Maritime Accidents
- Offshore Platform Claims
- Motor Vehicle/Truck Crashes/ Motorcycle Accidents
- FAQs: All Injury and Wrongful Death Claims
Q. Following an accident, do I need a personal injury attorney?
A. It is my view that personal injury attorneys can serve clients effectively in the case of what I would term “serious injury.” By that, I mean an injury which would require significant medical attention, usually for several weeks or months. Many clients call my office immediately after even a minor accident. I want to put their interests first, so I tell many of them that they should monitor their medical condition and call me if the condition looks like it is going to be something that will require significant medical attention or which will cause them to lose time from work. If, for example, an individual has an injury lasting only approximately two weeks, it would not be in his or her best interest to have to pay an attorney’s fee for prosecution of such a claim. Many claims can be settled by the individuals, themselves. In such cases, it is not necessarily advisable to retain an attorney. The undertaking of a personal injury claim is typically something fairly involved and serious and should be reserved for serious injuries. This has to be determined by the client in using common sense in light of his or her medical treatment and economic damages resulting from the injury.
Q. When should I call an attorney?
A. If you have any doubts or questions about how the accident was caused or the extent of your injuries, it is certainly advisable to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as you feel the need. In more serious accidents, a consultation should be done immediately so proper professional relations can be established and an investigation started.
Q. How should I choose an attorney?
A. It has been my experience that the best and most preferable way to choose an attorney is to rely on what your friends and family members might know by virtue of their own personal experience with an attorney. In today’s busy and mobile society, this is not always possible. Certain organizations exist, such as the Martindale-Hubbell law directory, which rates attorneys and gives information concerning their standing among their fellow lawyers. Obviously, the evaluation of this attorneys’ website, along with other materials which might be available in commercial advertising, can also guide someone in choosing an attorney. www.jimlambert.com.
Q. How much will the legal process cost?
Early in the 20th Century, the American legal system developed what is known as the contingency fee. This resulted from the inability of regular people to obtain highly skilled representation, while those with money and power were able to hire the best legal representation available. Attorneys began to charge their clients based upon a percentage of whatever they recovered, which could range from zero to very large sums of money. The Louisiana Supreme Court and the Louisiana State Bar Association have long recognized the legitimacy and validity of the contingency fee agreements. This is how my practice operates. If I recover nothing for the client, I get nothing as a fee. A typical fee in the majority of situations is one-third (1/3) of whatever is recovered. There are certain fact situations which may result in different fee structures. Additionally, the process of prosecuting a personal injury claim can be costly. Typically, my office will advance all of the expenses necessary to do this, but these expenses will be deducted from any recovery when and if one is made. In the final analysis, both the payment of the contingency fee and the expenses are the client’s responsibility, and typically will be deducted from the settlement at the conclusion of the claim.
Q How much is my case worth?
A. This is a question many clients ask at their initial visit to my office. If I had the ability to see into the future clearly, I certainly would be happy to answer this question. Frankly, I think that any attorney who tries to evaluate a client’s case upon his or her initial visit is doing a disservice to the client. To do this would be just like a doctor who gives a diagnosis to a patient merely upon learning that the patient has leg pain. Without conducting a full investigation and running tests, the doctor cannot give a valid opinion as to the diagnosis. Likewise, until I am able to conduct a full investigation of the case, personally review the clients medical records, calculate all the bills and lost wages, and conduct a full investigation into the facts of the case, I am absolutely unable to give a professional opinion of the value of a certain case.
Typically, I will wait until the client has achieved a high degree of medical healing and, hopefully, his or her condition is stabilized before I give an evaluation of the case. Until the doctors release the client, it is really impossible to know the extent of the client’s damages. Accordingly, I try to reserve my opinion of the cases value until I have all the facts. I think this is the professional approach, and my clients seem to understand and appreciate this approach.
Q. Will I be able to recover monetary compensation even if I am partly at fault at the accident?
A. Under either Louisiana or federal maritime law, the fault of all parties involved in an accident is weighed and given a certain percentage of responsibility. Accordingly, even a client who is partially at fault may still have a very substantial claim of recovery. This is true in both motor vehicle accidents and offshore and vessel accidents.
Q. Do you charge for an initial consultation?
A. There is never a charge for an initial consultation. Part of my work with clients and prospective clients is to talk to clients in person and over the telephone about their prospective cases during the initial phases of an accident claim. I frequently speak with clients over the phone and am able to direct them to other agencies or other attorneys in other fields of law to help them with their legal problems. There is never a charge for any of this work. It is simply a part of the initial screening process for any personal injury claim.
Q. How will my medical bills be paid?
A. There are a number of sources and funding to help someone pay for his or her medical bills. For those workers and employees who are injured on the job, we first seek to take care of their financial needs by filing claims under the applicable workers’ compensation law. If a worker is injured while a member of the crew of a vessel, then the employer is obligated under the federal law of maintenance and cure to pay for the medical expenses of the injured employee. Both of these avenues will be vigorously pursued.
Many working clients have employers who furnish group health insurance. If a particular individual is lucky enough to be provided health coverage through his or her work, then I always attempt to use this avenue to pay for the medical bills arising from the accident. Likewise, many automobile policies and some homeowner policies have coverage called “medical payments” coverage providing for payment of medical bills arising from the accident, regardless of the fault of the party. Additionally, some clients are provided coverage through government agencies such as Medicare or Medicaid.
The sad truth about our medical system in the United States today is that there are almost 50,000,000 Americans are without insurance of any type to cover their medical expenses. In such a case, and after a basic evaluation and investigation of the facts of the case, the Louisiana Supreme Court and the Louisiana State Bar Association have allowed lawyers to make financial arrangements to help clients who have been injured in accidents and have no way to pay their medical expenses. In such a case, I will fully discuss the proper procedures which need to be followed in order to arrange for this assistance, and then my office will make arrangements with various medical care providers to pay the ongoing medical expenses arising from an accident. It must be clearly stated that each case is different in terms of my firm’s ability to do this for a client. My ability to do this for a client would depend upon the basic facts of the case, the potential for recovering the client’s damages from the at-fault party’s insurer, and the extent and nature of the client’s proposed medical treatment. All of these things have to be taken into account when making this decision, and it is made after careful consultation and full disclosure to the client.
Q. Generally, how long does it take to resolve or settle a personal injury claim?
A. The length of a personal injury claim would depend primarily upon two things – (1) the length and complexity of the client’s medical treatment; and (2) the complexity of the underlying facts of the accident, itself. The primary factor in determining the length of a personal injury claim is how long it takes the client to either heal from the injury or to at least achieve maximum medical improvement. No case is really ready to be settled before the medical treatment has ended, and sometimes this can take months or even years. The second factor concerns the complexity of the occurrence of the accident itself. If, for example, the case involves a complicated explosion on an offshore oil platform involving many companies and many factors leading to the accident, the case is going to take longer to resolve. In the case of a rear-end collision which is well-documented, the investigation and establishment of fault is going to take very little time. In such a case, the main factor would concern the medical condition of the client. There is no “rule of thumb” which can be truthfully stated to tell someone how long his or her personal injury claim may take to resolve. Generally, injuries arising from modest automobile accidents can be resolved in a matter of a few months. More permanently disabling injuries typically take one year or more.
Q. What occurs in the case of an the case of an at-fault party who does not have sufficient insurance to pay the claim or who has no insurance at all?
A. In the United States, personal injury attorneys essentially attempt to translate their clients’ injuries into monetary compensation. Obviously, there is no way an attorney can wipe out the occurrence of the accident or its effects upon his client’s body or mind. Accordingly, if there is fundamentally insufficient insurance or insufficient assets to satisfy a claim, the attorney must first advise his client of this fact and the reality this presents.
In the case of automobile coverage, Louisiana and every other state requires automobile insurers to sell “uninsured/underinsured coverage.” This coverage is an optional coverage which is highly advisable for every driver. It will pay its insured damages over and above the insurance limits of the uninsured or underinsured driver. In other words, if your claim is worth $50,000, and the underlying insurance of the at-fault party is only $25,000, the uninsured motorist insurance carrier will pay its insured the remaining $25,000. This coverage is highly advisable and should be included in every automobile insurance policy, if at all possible.