Frequently Asked Questions For Personal Injury Cases
Hiring a lawyer/paying a lawyer/making a recovery
How much do I have to pay to retain you?
Nothing. We don’t charge our clients anything. Attorneys fees are made from the proceeds of the case. If we don’t recover anything, we don’t get paid. This is called a contingency fee. Our fees are contingent upon making a recovery on your case.
What does total amount of the recovery mean?
This means that if your case settles before we file a law suit for $100,000.00, the attorney fees are $33,333.33. If your case settles for $100,000.00, or if a jury awards $100,000.00 on your case, the attorney’s fees would be $40,000.00
What about my medical bills?
Our goal is always to take care of all the medical bills. Often, we are required to pay back health insurers, hospitals and other providers out of the recovery. This can be due to your contractual obligation to your insurer, various laws put in to place to protect emergency medical providers and Medicare, and/or an agreement to pay back medical providers who provide treatment.
What about expenses?
We will spend money on your case. From collecting medical bills and records before suit (and during), to filing fees, process servers, deposition costs and expert fees. None of this cost you anything. We reimburse that from the recovery in your case after the attorney’s fees are deducted. If we make no recovery, you don’t owe us anything. Using the example of a $100,000 settlement with $10,000 in medical expenses and $2,000 in attorney expenses, funds are typically disbursed as follows:
- Total: $100,000
- Less Attorney Fees ( 33,333)
- Less Hospital Bill ( 10,000)
- Less Attorney expenses ( 2,000)
- Net to Client $ 54,667(EXAMPLE ONLY)
What if we go to trial and the jury doesn’t give us enough to pay everyone?
Fortunately, that doesn’t happen often. We work hard on our trials and put on the best case we can. But if it does, we will work with all the medical providers to try and reduce the amounts they are owed to try and reach an equitable recovery for everyone. Sometimes a jury may only award medical bills or less. Jury trials have an inherent risk to them as they are unpredictable. That is why we do our best to present you with your best-case guaranteed scenario through settlement before taking that risk. If we are awarded nothing, your attorneys don’t receive any fee’s nor do they get reimbursed for their expenses. We don’t want that any more than you do! If there was an error at trial, we can also investigate appealing your case to a higher court.
How much do you charge?
Our contingency fee is a percentage of the overall recovery. Our standard agreement is for 1/3rd (33.33%) of the total amount of the settlement if we resolve the case before filing suit and 40% after filing suit.
Why do the attorney fees go up after filing suit?
Simply put, we spend more time and effort working on your case once a lawsuit is filed. This can include drafting pleadings (the law suit), conducting discovery, deposition, mediation, working on any potential motions that come up during the case, and preparing for and conducting the trial.
Are your attorney fees taken out before or after the medical bills are paid?
Before. The fees are based on the total amount recovered, not the total amount recovered after paying the medical bills.
What if my medical bills and your attorney fees and expenses leave nothing left of the recovery?
If we are recommending that you settle a case, we won’t recommend you settle if this is going to happen. Also, we can’t settle your case without your permission, so if we tried to convince you to settle for no benefit to you, tell us no!
Medical Bills/Health Insurance/Treatment
If my health insurance or Medicare pays my bills, do I have to pay them back?
Yes. But only if we make a recovery from the at fault party. They have what is called a right of subrogation, which means they have a right to be paid back any amount they spent on your behalf. This is part of your agreement with your health insurer when you signed up for the health insurance. We will try and work with them when necessary to get them to agree to reduce that amount. The idea being that if we do all the work to make their money back, maybe they should cut us a little slack. One precaution, if you have an ERISA health plan, they will likely not reduce the amount they are owed and can not be required to.
Do I have to pay the hospital bills out of the recovery?
Yes. Most of the time any provider, including ambulances, ER doctors, hospitals and radiologists who saw you within 72 hours of your accident have a right to be paid back out of the claim by law. They can file a lien against the claim that protects their right to be paid that we will have to pay back. We will also work with them to try and negotiate a lower payout if possible.
My normal doctor won’t see me because I was in a car accident, what do I do?
Unfortunately, many doctors do not want to get involved with your care after an accident because they do not want to be brought into the litigation. This is understandable but can make things difficult. There are, however, doctors and clinics that will see you and provide treatment following an accident and many who specialize in seeing people who have been involved in an accident.
Does a Letter Of Protection mean I do not have to pay for the treatment?
No. It means that payment will be made from the recovery on your case. If there is no recovery in your case, you will still be personally obligated to pay for the treatment.
What about the bills being sent to me?
You may be receiving bills from hospitals, ambulances, ER doctors and others. We can not prevent them from billing you for your co-pay or for the total amount if you are uninsured. We can make requests that they cease collection efforts, but they are not obligated to stop trying to collect and are not prevented from reporting it on your credit if they go unpaid. We recommend setting up a payment plan for even a nominal amount with the provider to keep it from going to collections.
Where do I go to get follow up treatment after I receive emergency care?
The short answer, anywhere you want. We do not direct your medical care, we do no select medical providers for you, and we do not have any agreement with any medical provider to send them business or vice versa. We want you to select the doctors and facilities you want.
I don’t have health insurance, how am I going to see a doctor?
Many doctors, chiropractors, specialists and clinics will provide treatment to you with a Letter or Protection from your attorney. This is a letter that guarantees they will receive payment of their bills out of the recovery of your case. Ask your preferred provider if they will accept one of these letters. Many of the doctors and providers who specialize in accident care accept these.
How will I know what my health insurer has spent on my care?
They will most likely send you a letter stating that they understand you were in an accident and asking you to describe your injuries so they can determine if they have provided benefits related to the accident. We will also contact them and ask that we be sent documents showing what they spent on your care along with a list of providers.
General questions about my case
Can we sue the insurance company for the person that caused the accident?
No. The law prevents us from suing the insurance company. We must sue the person who is at fault in the accident and potentially the owner of the vehicle . If they are insured, the insurance company will provide them with a lawyer and defend them.
What are my damage claims?
Typically, the claims we can make in a personal injury case are for Medical Bills, Lost Wages, Loss of Earning Capacity, Pain and Suffering and Mental Anguish. We may also need to address your property damage if it is unresolved and make claims for the amount to replace or repair property, tow and storage fees, loss of use of the property (typically the cost of a rental for the time you are without a vehicle), and the diminished value of the vehicle (the difference of the value it was worth before being wrecked and what it is worth after being repaired). Attorneys fees are not recoverable in a personal injury case in Texas.
Can I collect the insurance money and still sue the person?
Generally, the insurance company will require you to release your claims before they will pay out money on their policy for your injury. Most people in Texas do not have sufficient assets to collect a judgment against them above and beyond their insurance policy money. We perform an asset search of the at fault party to try and determine if they could pay a judgment in excess of the insurance policy.
How much can we sue for?
There is no cap on what we can technically ask for. But we will not make an outrageous claim on your behalf. We base demands and amounts on what the case supports.
Where does the money come from if I can’t sue the insurance company, and how much is available?
If the driver is insured, the money comes from the insurance company who has complete control over the claim. If a driver is insured in Texas, the least amount of coverage they have is $30,000 per person and $60,000.00 per accident. The next step up from there are generally $50,000 and $100,000. Most people will have the minimum and few will have $100,000 or more.
How long will this take?
Claims can be resolved as fast as 6-9 months, or they can take several years. It often depends on the complexity of your case and the severity of your injuries. There is no clear way to tell you how long it will take. The first step is to get you the treatment you need and get you better, as good as you can get, or know with some certainty what it will cost to get you better. We do not want to resolve your case too early for fear of you having problems later that we can no longer seek recovery for. After you are done receiving care, we must collect bills and records and make a demand for settlement. That process alone can take several months. If we can not resolve your case without filing suit, it can take at best year from the date of filing but most likely will take longer to work through the courts.
What if the person at fault for the accident doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough?
If the person who caused the accident is uninsured, that will typically imply that they do not have any assets to go after either. We will perform a search. If they are uninsured and have no assets, we will have to look to your Uninsured Motorist Coverage to make a claim for your damages against. Likewise, If they have insufficient coverage for your claims, we will look to make a claim on your Under insured Motorist Coverage.
What if I don’t have Uninsured Motorist or Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
If the person who caused the accident has coverage, but not enough, we will work with all the providers and health insurers involved to try and make a recovery for you an pay off all the bills with the amount that is available. Unfortunately, we do this all the time. If the person who hit you is uninsured and has no assets, the sad fact is there will be very little, if anything, that can be done to make you whole.
I don’t want to use my insurance, it doesn’t seem fair, do I have to?
While it doesn’t seem fair this scenario is exactly what you have been paying that premium for all this time. You paid for the insurance, don’t be afraid to get what you paid for.
What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP)?
This is a type of coverage that you may have under your car insurance policy if you elected to have it at the time you signed up for insurance. Typically, a Texas policy will have $2,500-$5,000 per person. This is no fault insurance (meaning it gets paid regardless of who caused the accident) and is meant to help pay for your out of pocket medical expenses or lost wages. You can make an application with your insurance company for these benefits.
Getting back on the Road
I want my car fixed or replaced as fast as possible, how do I do that?
Generally, the insurance company for the person who caused the accident will pay to fix or replace your car, pay storage and towing, as well as loss of use (rental fees) and diminished value. However, the insurance company for the person at fault will want to conduct and investigation into the facts and may take weeks to finally decide to repair or replace your vehicle. Often, the fastest way to get back on the road is to take advantage of your own car insurance coverage to repair or replace the vehicle and provide the rental and cover the other costs. Your insurance will generally pay out your claim much faster, though you may have to pay or reduce the payment they make by your deductible. Often, when this is done, your insurance company will work independently to get paid back by the other persons insurance company and get your deductible back.
Do you take a percentage of the payment for the vehicle?
No. Our attorney’s fees will only come out of the payment for the injury part of your claim. However, we will assist you in recovering your property damage claim. Often, your property damage claims are resolved long before your injury claims.