Being involved in an automobile accident can be a traumatic event. As you start to put the pieces back together, you will likely find yourself bombarded by attorneys assuring that they can get you top dollar for any claims you may have. Having a general understanding of the process can you help you to navigate the minefield of picking the right lawyer to represent you. Below are some common questions that accident victims typically ask:
How long do I have to formally bring my claim and to pick an attorney?
In Ohio you have two years to bring a claim for compensation for bodily injury. ORC §2305.10. This may seem like an eternity following your accident because most people want to get full compensation right away. However, you should not rush to settlement for one important reason: You only get one bite at the apple. Once your case has settled, you cannot go back and seek more compensation if you later discover additional injuries or if your injuries do not heal the way that was originally anticipated. Two years allows you to get a good understanding of what the long term impact of your injuries may be.
In regards to picking an attorney, there is no real deadline other than ensuring that you file your claim prior to the two year statute of limitations if your case is not going to settle. It is important to note that there are great advantages to getting an attorney involved sooner than later. An attorney can help you ensure that you are properly documenting your recovery. Further, an attorney can act as a barrier in dealing with insurance companies and medical providers regarding bills. Involving an attorney as soon as possible following an accident allows you to focus solely on your recovery. Still, do not feel pressured by demanding attorneys following the accident. It is not uncommon to get dozens of calls and letters insisting that you sign up with a particular attorney or law firm. The most important factor when picking an attorney is that you feel comfortable working with them.
What should I do with all the medical bills I am getting?
Do not feel obligated to pay your medical bills right away. Medical providers understand that many times they will not get paid for their services until it is determined who is ultimately responsible for the medical bills. If you were not at fault for the accident, the at-fault party and his or her insurance company are responsible for paying the bills. Therefore, it may take some time before the payments get made. Medical providers understand this. Make sure to keep good records of the medical providers that you visit and the bills that you get so that they can all be taken care of if and when your case is finally settled or a judgment is entered. If you do pay for any medical bills yourself, make sure to document the payments so that you can be reimbursed.
How much is my attorney going to cost me?
Most attorneys handle personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. Typically, accident victims do not want or are unable to advance the money required to pay an attorney prior to their settlement. In those situations, attorneys take on the case with the understanding that the client does not advance any money and the attorney only gets paid for the services at the end of the case if there is a recovery of money for the client. The typical contingent fee arrangement is for 1/3 of the ultimate recovery. In Ohio, an attorney must be upfront with you regarding what the fee agreement is. If you agree to a contingent fee agreement with the attorney, that agreement must be in writing.
Can my attorney advance me money before my case settles?
Following an accident, many people find themselves in need of money. Unfortunately, attorneys are unable to advance their clients money. No matter how much your attorney wants to help you, the law simply does not allow them to advance you money for living expenses. The Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct specifically state that a lawyer shall not provide financial assistance to a client in connection with pending or contemplated litigation except for court costs and expenses of litigation. Rule 1.8(e). Understandably, this can be very frustrating. What your lawyer can do for you is make sure that your case gets resolved for the maximum value in the minimum amount of time.
Being hurt in an automobile accident can be a traumatic event over which you have no control. Working with your attorney following that accident should not be traumatic. Meet with potential attorneys and make sure that you find someone that is competent and that you are comfortable working with. Having a good working relationship with your attorney is crucial to getting your case resolved for the most money in the shortest amount of time.
* This is an advertisement. The information provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. You should consult an attorney for legal advice regarding your particular situation.