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Personal Injury Claims FAQs - Part 3

What Questions Should I Ask Before Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you have been injured in Los Angeles, California because of the reckless, negligent, or intentional acts of others, getting help from a personal injury attorney is important. However, it is equally important for you to make sure that you hire a lawyer who you can work with and who has strong litigation and negotiation skills. Your attorney should also be experienced and have achieved successful results for his or her clients in the past. Many people are unsure about how they might find the right injury lawyer for their cases. Asking these questions can help you to make certain that the attorney that you choose is the right one for you. (NOTE: Some other pertinent personal injury tips)

What Areas of Law do You Practice?

Attorneys who do not practice personal injury law may not have the knowledge that your case requires. It is important for you to ask them whether they practice injury law and how much of their practice is focused on it. Attorneys who focus in the area of tort law may be aware of the most recent case decisions and other changes in the law that might impact your case. They may also be experienced in handling claims with insurance companies and with members of the defense bar.

Have You Tried Other Cases That are Similar to My Case?

In addition to finding attorneys who focus on injury law, it is also smart to choose lawyers who have tried cases with similar facts to yours. For example, if you were injured in a truck accident, it is a good idea to choose a legal representative who has handled other truck collision cases. Attorneys who have tried cases like yours may be more familiar with the types of defenses that might be raised and the necessary investigative process involved with building a strong claim.

Will You Handle my Case?

At some firms, the lawyers hand off cases to junior attorneys. You should ask the lawyers that you interview if they will personally handle your case or if associates will be handling it. If an associate will handle your case, ask who will supervise him or her and ask to meet the associate as well. You should also ask who you will contact for information about your claim. It is important for you to get this information before you sign a representation agreement with a law firm.

Do You Take Cases to Trial?

The vast majority of injury cases are settled before they ever reach trials. However, it is important for you to find lawyers who have taken cases to trial. Some cases do not reach a resolution and must be litigated at trial. If your claim is not settled, you will want to have a litigator who is experienced at taking cases to jury and bench trials. Ask lawyers if they have taken cases to trial in the past, and ask them what their success rate at trial has been. Insurance companies are much likelier to offer fair settlements when they are dealing with attorneys who have reputations as strong litigators.

What Are Your Legal Fees?

Most attorneys who practice in the area of tort law charge their fees on a contingency basis. This means that the lawyers do not receive money for their work until and unless they successfully resolve their clients' cases through settlements or jury verdicts. The fees that may be charged may range from 33 and one-third percent to 40 percent, depending on the stage of your case when it is settled or won. It is important to understand that lawyers who charge low contingent fees may be inexperienced and not qualified to handle your case properly.

Will I Be Responsible to Pay Costs if My Case Is Unsuccessful?

In addition to attorneys' fees, there are expenses that may be associated with injury claims. These may include court filing fees, investigators' expenses, expert witness fees, postage, and other costs. Different law firms handle the expenses that are related to injury cases differently. Some require their clients to pay for the costs as they arise while others collect the expenses out of the settlements or verdicts that they win for their clients. You will want to know how the law firm handles case-related costs. Lawyers should talk to you before they incur costs to get your approval of them. If the law firm waits until cases are settled or won before they collect the case-related costs, you will want to know if you will be billed for them if your case is lost.

What Is the Value of My Claim?

Every injury claim is different, and the amount that your case might be worth will depend on several factors. The extent of your injuries, the likelihood of your recovery, your medical expenses, your income losses, and your other losses will all determine how much your case might be worth. Experienced lawyers should be able to value your claim and provide you with a range of monetary values within which you might expect a settlement to fall.

How Long Have You Been Practicing Law?

It is a good idea to ask prospective attorneys how long they have been practicing law. You do not want someone to learn about how to practice law while they are handling your case. Ask the prospective attorneys how long they have been licensed to practice law. You should also ask them specifically how long they have practiced in the area of injury law.

What are the Strengths and Weaknesses of My Case?

If attorneys tell you that you have a strong case, ask them to explain why they believe so. Good attorneys should be able to point to some specifics about your case that make them believe that they will be able to help you to recover compensation. It is also a good idea to ask attorneys about the weaknesses of your case. Attorneys who are knowledgeable and experienced should be able to identify weak areas that may need some work.

How Many Cases Are You Currently Litigating?

Some attorneys take on too many cases at once, which leaves them with insufficient time to handle the investigatory work that might be needed to build strong claims. You should ask lawyers about how many cases that they are personally handling so that you can get an idea of whether they will have enough time to handle yours properly.

How Long do You Think That My Case Will Take?

It is important to understand that some cases will take longer to resolve than others. For cases involving serious injuries and substantial losses, it may take a few years to resolve them. Other claims may be resolved through settlement negotiations in a few months. You should ask prospective lawyers how long they anticipate your case might take so that you have an idea of what you might expect.

Can I Speak With a Former Client?

While attorneys may have testimonials listed on their websites, you should not rely on those alone. Ask the lawyers if they can provide you with references from one or more past clients. If you are provided with contact information, follow up with the former client about the experience that he or she had with the law firm.

Asking questions of prospective lawyers is important. When you hire a lawyer, you will be working with him or her for a long period of time. You will want to make certain that you choose someone who is experienced and who you trust to handle your case effectively. Schedule a consultation with the attorneys at our Los Angeles, California law firm by calling the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat today at 310-592-0445 or Toll free (24/7) at our Injury Help Center 866-966-5240

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Why do Some Personal Injury Firms Engage in Blanketed TV and Billboard Advertising?

In Los Angeles, residents are inundated with advertisements on television and on billboards for personal injury attorneys. Some of these ads include slogans and contain material that is designed to have an emotional impact. If you are wondering why so many personal injury lawyers frequently advertise on TV or billboards, the reason that they do is money. The types of firms that have large advertising budgets are focused on getting as many cases through their doors. The advertisements are designed for the law firms to get hundreds of calls each month. These firms often have huge advertising budgets of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

How do Television and Billboard Law Firms Make Their Money Back From Their Ads?

Some personal injury firms have advertising budgets that may cost as much as $1 million or more per year. If you are wondering how these firms are able to pay those large advertising bills, the answer is straightforward. Most simply become what are known as settlement mills. The goal of these firms is to get as many cases in the door as possible and to settle them quickly. In most cases, these types of firms settle claims in a short period of time for much less than the clients may have obtained by choosing a conventional attorney.

What are the Characteristics of a Settlement Mill Law Firm?

According to research by Stanford Law School professor Nora Engstrom that was published in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics in an article titled "Run-of-the-Mill Justice," settlement mill law firms may display 10 different characteristics. Of the 10, all settlement mills have four key characteristics, and the remaining six indicate that a firm might be a settlement mill. The four key characteristics of settlement mills are as follows:

  • The firms are high volume;
  • The firms obtain most of their clients from their aggressive advertising tactics;
  • The firms are treated more like businesses than law firms; and
  • The firms rarely, if ever, take cases to trial.

In addition to these key characteristics, other factors may indicate that a law firm is operating as a settlement mill. Most of these firms charge tiered contingency fees. For example, they might state that they charge a 33 percent contingency fee if a case is settled without filing a formal lawsuit, 40 percent if a lawsuit is filed and higher if it is litigated through trial. These types of tiered fees might encourage clients to want to settle their cases quickly so that they pay lower fees.

These firms also do not conduct rigorous screening of their cases and often accept nearly all cases that come to them, meaning that they accept more low-dollar claims that other firms would not agree to take. Most settlement law firms also do not provide any meaningful interaction between the attorneys and their clients. Instead, paraprofessionals handle a majority of the casework with the lawyers sometimes only seeing the clients when they come in to get their settlement checks. Settlement mills often offer incentives to their negotiators to settle cases quickly or have quotas for settlements that they must meet. Claims at settlement mills are resolved much faster than at other personal injury firms. A majority of the claims are resolved in less than eight months from the dates of the accidents. Finally, settlement mill law firms very rarely file lawsuits, resolving most of their clients' cases outside of the court system.

Why is Hiring a Settlement Mill Personal Injury Lawyer a Bad Idea?

While you might think that getting a settlement within mere months of your accident sounds appealing, it is not a good idea to hire a settlement mill personal injury attorney. These firms do not thoroughly investigate their cases and use the same formulas that insurance companies use to determine the potential ranges of values.

Personal injury attorneys who do not work for settlement mills spend time conducting in-depth investigations of their clients' cases before they send demand letters to the insurance companies. This may allow them to build strong cases for their clients that clearly show the liability of the other party. Insurance companies know the difference between settlement mill attorneys and conventional personal injury lawyers. When there is a settlement mill attorney involved in a case, the insurance companies tend to quickly settle the claims because they can get away with paying out the bottom dollar. When there is an experienced personal injury attorney who is willing to litigate cases to trial and has amassed a successful track record for his or her clients, insurance companies may settle in order to avoid a trial that they might lose. As a consequence, these cases are often settled for much higher amounts than the claims that are handled by settlement mills.

What are Better Ways to Choose Your Personal Injury Lawyer?

Instead of relying on television ads or billboards that you see around Los Angeles, you should do your own personal research about the attorneys whom you are considering. You can research to find out if the attorneys have received any awards. If the attorneys have received awards, you should check the validity fo them. You will want to find out what criteria are used to receive awards such as being named as a Super Lawyer or having a perfect 10.0 rating on Avvo. Check with the California State Bar to see if the lawyer has any disciplinary record. If the attorney does, you might want to steer clear. If the attorney who you are considering has received awards and is in good standing with the state bar, you should investigate what others have said about the experiences that they have had with the lawyer. You can search on the internet for reviews of the lawyer. Finally, you can also ask your friends and family for recommendations, but it is important that you make certain that they were actually represented by the firm.

If your friends or family members recommend their former attorneys whose practice is primarily in a different area of law, you should instead search for a lawyer who is experienced in handling personal injury claims. Finally, when you meet with the lawyer for a consultation, ask him or her about his or her track record. Ask about his or her litigation and trial experience. Even if your case is eventually resolved in a settlement, knowing that your lawyer is willing to go to trial if the insurance company refuses to make a reasonable offer is important for your ability to obtain the maximal recovery amount so that your losses are covered. To learn more, contact Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC to schedule your free consultation.


Run-of-the-Mill Justice

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Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.