Attorney Fellerman has a passion for representing victims, whether they are victims of medical malpractice, automobile collisions, insurance bad faith claims, or injured workers.
Experiencing the trauma of a car wreck shouldn’t be further complicated by not knowing what to expect from your attorney. In this article, we’ll summarize how the initial meetings you and your lawyer could pan out, as well as what to expect in terms of milestones, negotiation timetables, and documentation/evidence typically required. Attorney Fellerman originally wrote this article as part of the Scranton Legal News Examiner series on Examiner.com.
Every day, thousands of people are hurt in motor vehicle accidents through no fault of their own. If you are hurt, you should contact an attorney, even if your injury does not become apparent at the time of the accident. Some people may feel fine immediately after the accident, only to have symptoms show up at a later date. Once you have contacted an experienced personal injury lawyer, here’s what to expect.
Initial Interview After Car Wreck
When you are first interviewed, general information regarding the accident is obtained. You will be requested to sign certain authorization forms that will allow your attorney to obtain necessary information. You will also be asked to sign a contingent fee agreement. This fee is usually between one third and 40 percent of the recovery, based on the complexity of your case and other factors specific to your case.
Investigation into Car Wreck
Your attorney will notify the other party’s insurance company that you have retained an attorney.
Letters will be sent to all physicians and hospitals involved in the case, requesting medical information regarding injuries. Any police officers who may have been involved will be interviewed, witnesses will be contacted, and photographs will be taken. Your attorney should also obtain a copy of the police accident report if one was filed.
It is important to know that no case is settled until liability and damages have all been determined and all investigation has been completed. It generally takes several months to gather the necessary information. If a trial becomes necessary, it can take several years to complete the case. You should be patient because an experienced personal injury attorney should not settle your case until he or she has obtained all relevant information.
As soon as the attorney’s investigation is completed and sufficient information obtained, the attorney will make an evaluation of your case, discuss it with you and attempt to arrive at a proper settlement demand figure. No settlement demand figure should ever be submitted without the client’s consent. Likewise, no settlement is ever accepted without the client’s consent.
Starting a Lawsuit
If a settlement cannot be reached with the insurance company, the attorney will consider the advisability of filing a lawsuit. In some cases, however, it is important to start a lawsuit as soon as possible. Generally, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit for personal injury or the claim will be forever barred. This time limit is referred to as the statute of limitations. However, if, for example, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may be a responsible party for your injuries, they need to be put on notice of your claim within six months from the date of the accident. No lawsuit, however, will be started without your permission.
A lawsuit is generally started when the sheriff serves the other party a paper called a complaint, which indicates that he or she is being sued as a result of the accident. The other party is referred to as the defendant and you are referred to as the plaintiff. The defendant takes this paper to his or her insurance company, which delivers it to its lawyers.
Although a lawsuit may have been started, settlement is always possible and is often made just before trial.
If you have any questions or comments about what can be expected from your legal representation during this process, we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve been involved in an accident, remember that injuries do not always manifest themselves right away, so it’s important to pay extra attention to how you’re feeling and to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible after an accident.
References and Resources
- For a recent example of the success we’ve had in representing victims of auto accidents, read about this September 16, 2012 $1.1 million verdict awarded to a man who was struck by a driver later found to be driving while under the influence of heroin.
- For recent national cases/awards, see this useful article (source: “What to Expect in a Court Case: Real-Life Car Accident Jury Verdicts” via allaboutautoaccidents.com) summarizing various “real world examples of jury verdicts” and monetary compensation awarded.
- See original article on examiner.com – Fellerman, Greg. (2011) “What to expect in a motor vehicle accident from your lawyer.” Scranton Legal News Examiner: Examiner.com. Retrieved 19 Sept. 2012 from http://www.examiner.com/article/what-to-expect-a-motor-vehicle-accident-case-from-your-lawyer-part-i
With more than 40 years of combined experience, the personal injury attorneys at Fellerman & Ciarimboli strive to provide the best service to clients in Philadelphia, Northeast Pennsylvania, and throughout the Keystone State.