A lot of people ask the same question after a car accident. Why would I need a lawyer? Some people make the mistake of asking their insurance representative if they need a lawyer. Often times people will suggest to “do it yourself” or that “you will make less money” if you get a lawyer. Occasionally, a person can get lucky and get a great result with no resistance from the insurance company they are dealing with. But I am yet to see that after ten years of practice. Let’s go over some of the reasons why lawyers are essential to your recovery after a car accident.
You are legally required to buy insurance – It should work for you
Insurance companies have spent unimaginable amounts of money to lobby legislatures in the past in order to make buying their products mandatory. And, it isn’t a terrible idea. It is nice to know that you are covered in the likely event that you are in some type of car accident. But those same insurance companies are making more and more money all the time by selling you the idea of your own safety. Recently, a change in Nevada law raised the minimum policy limit a driver must carry to $25,000 per injured party and $50,000 per incident. This is a good change in law, don’t get me wrong. But insurance companies now have a captive market for people who are legally required to buy more insurance before they can get into their vehicle.
When you get into an accident is when it can get ugly. Insurance companies have teams called “adjusters.” Their job is to investigate and negotiate claims. And everything is on the negotiation table. They pressure body shops and medical providers to reduce their bills. They use software and actuarial tables to create a range. That range is what they believe your case is worth in dollars. And, of course, the adjuster’s job is to make sure the actual payout is at the bottom or even below the bottom number of that range. Then they pressure you to take less money than your case would be worth if you had a quality attorney on your team.
You know those quick response vehicles owned by insurance companies? The ones that can get them to the scene of an accident or directly to your hospital bedside. Fast response is a big part of insurance strategy. A quick and low settlement is key to keeping lawyers out of the equation. In fact, the State Bar of Nevada has barred attorneys from contacting potential accident victims within 45 days of the accident. The victim is free to reach out to attorneys, but if they don’t, they could go up to 45 days without legal counsel. This is more than enough time for an insurance company to swoop in and convince the person to settle without knowing the full value of their case.
And with all due respect. Unless you work in this industry, you do not know the full value of your case.
You will very very very very very very likely get significantly more money
Insurance companies, and even some individuals, will try to tell you that lawyers just take a piece of your money. They assume that the settlement that comes from an insurance company is fixed, and the lawyer does nothing to increase the value.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The first thing a good personal injury attorney will do is get you to the right doctors. Most car accidents result in at least some sprains to the spine. We all use chiropractors and pain management doctors who work together to make your recovery as smooth as possible. The doctors we use are experienced in car accident trauma and the mechanics behind spinal injury. The doctors we use are experienced in writing clear reports that are ready to be presented to insurance companies. And the doctors we use are experienced and ready to testify at deposition or trial if the need arises.
Remember that dollar figure range generated by the insurance company? Once you hire counsel, that number goes up. It goes up based on two things: 1) your attorney’s trial experience and willingness to litigate; and 2) the price they will have to pay to retain a law firm to defend a lawsuit against their insured. Many attorneys, myself included, have won verdicts in injury cases that blindside a large company. It blows away their actuarial tables. Often this drives the insurance company to the negotiations table with real numbers sooner in the game. In fact, the moment an attorney is hired, the insurance company reassigns your case to a different team of adjusters. And, the moment your case begins litigation, even another team of adjusters is assigned.
This brings up a very important issue. Several of my colleagues are scaring people of litigation, promising to keep their clients out of the courtroom. I disagree with that strategy. Your case is yours, not mine. I will explain to you the litigation process and make a recommendation. Every injury case has an offer on the table and a point where a person must choose to either accept a dollar figure to settle their case or go forward to litigation. Every case is different and should be analyzed with the client’s goals in mind. For instance, if the client needs money in the short run, that might change how we look at the timeline. There may be some trade off in the amount of money you will receive, but clients have different priorities. The key is to accurately predict the risk of litigation. Knowing that risk takes experience.
Attorneys are greedy and will lie to you – a partial truth
The first part of this statement is true. Good attorneys are known for flashy suits, expensive watches, European sports cars, etc. But being a good attorney requires a certain type of personality. Usually the best attorneys are naturally aggressive and competitive. And it is natural to love making a lot of money. After seven years of higher education and years of perfecting a practice and building a business, there should be a great payout. I will never apologize for being successful. But you want a successful attorney. We make money when you make money.
That being said, fairness to our clients is very important. Keep in mind that the more money you make in an injury case, the more money I make. Personal injury attorneys are paid with something called a contingent fee. That means we take a percentage of the ultimate settlement or verdict when the case is complete. The State Bar of Nevada regulates what attorneys can charge, but most personal injury contingent fees are between 25% and 40%, depending on the skill of the attorney and the type of case.
But a good attorney should also deeply analyze a case before they choose to sign up the client. Frankly, if I do not think I can improve your position and pay myself on top of that, I will not take your case. In ten years of practice I am yet to be proven wrong in this analysis. I have had many people come in with an offer from the insurance company. I have always managed to get those people more money and pay my fees on top of that. Is it possible for a case to go poorly? Absolutely. But I can tell you my experience.
Some attorneys lie. Often, making an argument in certain types of cases requires embellishing the truth. But, it depends on what kind of attorney you have met in the past. Here are two examples of situations where attorneys do not tell the truth and it becomes very frustrating for non-attorneys:
- Criminal defense lawyers are allowed to present hypotheticals to create reasonable doubt. If you are found intoxicated, but standing next to your vehicle after a crash and the police arrest you for DUI, your lawyer is entitled to present a hypothetical that you might not have been driving. In that situation, it is your lawyer’s job to create any doubt they possible can to protect you from prosecution. This frustrates some people. Personally, I have represented thousands of criminal defendants, and this is an important part of our justice system.
- Divorce and child custody attorneys are entitled to believe their clients. If a divorce client tells an embellished truth to their attorney, that attorney will likely assert it to be true in court pleadings. In fact, many family law attorneys have no way to know the truth, because there are so many half truths in family law. Family law cases are ugly, and many people grow to hate their ex’s attorney. This creates mistrust of attorneys in general. I do not and will not practice in the area of family law.
In fact, attorneys are obligated to be honest with their clients. And in the personal injury world, there are few times that hiding the truth will actually help a case.
At Boley & AlDabbagh we pride ourselves on being accurate in our analysis and honest with our clients. Sometimes, that even costs us a client to another lawyer who will tell a person what they want to hear. I am comfortable with losing those clients so that I may better serve the ones who have been accurately counseled.
“You may have to pay the opposing party’s attorney fees and costs in the event of a loss”
You may have seen this phrase on an attorney advertisement in the past. In fact, the State Bar of Nevada requires that we write this phrase on attorney advertisements where it might be true.
And it is quite accurate. It is always a possibility that losing a case could result in a judgment of attorney fees and/or costs against you. It is important to have a frank conversation about this at the beginning of your case. At my firm, I do not take cases I think will lose. Not only could that person be hit with a judgment, but it also isn’t profitable for anyone involved. If you have a clear liability case, like a rear-end collision situation, it is unlikely that you will lose your case. In that scenario, realistic planning is key. You can still over-pursue a case with unrealistic expectations and end up in a situation where you have to pay. There are also cases that are in the middle. There is a genuine risk to going to trial, but there is also a chance of winning. Opposing attorney fees and costs must be considered in every case.
As your attorney, it is my job to tell you if going down a certain road will lead to a judgment for fees and costs against you. It is also my job to prevent that if I possibly can. Also, this type of loss is rare in the personal injury world. A good lawyer can minimize that risk.
Nevada has some of the most generous juries in the United States. That is a double-edged sword. It does make insurance more expensive. But, if you have already paid into an insurance system, you should maximize the payout when you get into an accident.
We understand that you have choices when it comes to representation in a personal injury case. At Boley & AlDabbagh, we understand that there are other good law firms in Las Vegas. But we pride ourselves on transparency and measured risk taking when it comes to litigation. Our clients reap the rewards of that pride and experience.
If you are in a car accident or injured due to the fault of another, call us for a free consultation 702-435-3333.