MISCONCEPTION #1: I can settle my case without hiring a lawyer.
True. If in car accident cases you’re happy just with the amount of money the insurance company offers for your car — and if you’re happy to have your medical bills paid — then you’re right. You don’t need to hire a lawyer.
Still, it’s important that you understand what you’re entitled to. In most cases, you are entitled not only to recover your medical bills and repairs to your property, such as a car, but also to any additional damages you suffer, such as physical pain and suffering. That’s why I urge you to at least talk with a lawyer over the telephone before you accept an insurance company’s offer.
Your lawyer takes the hassle out of dealing with the insurance company. And, in my office, I provide all these services for my clients, usually at no charge. In other words, I usually don’t take one penny of the money I collect for damages to your property or car. My fee is limited to one third of what I recover for your physical and psychological injuries and damages — nothing more.
MISCONCEPTION #2: An attorney requires a down payment to accept my injury claim.
False. In my office, all accident cases are handled on a contingency fee. This means I get paid out of the money I recover for you. If you collect nothing, you pay no attorney’s fee. To start, you can talk with me for free. And if you hire my services, you pay no fee until your case settles and I recover money for you. I will be happy to talk with you about this at our initial meeting.
MISCONCEPTION #3: I’ll have to go to court to get what my case is worth.
False. Most injury cases are settled before the case goes to court. Often, when the insurance company realizes you and your lawyer are ready and willing to go to court, the insurance company starts making reasonable offers for your injury claim. If we don’t like the first offer, we make a counteroffer. Negotiations may continue until both sides agree on a certain amount. In most cases, injury claims don’t require a court trial.
MISCONCEPTION #4: I have to accept what my lawyer tells me.
False. Anytime you feel confused — anytime you don’t understand what’s going on — you’re entitled to and should get a second opinion. In the field of medicine, if your doctor suggests major surgery, you know it’s wise to get a second opinion. Likewise, anytime you speak with one lawyer, you’re perfectly free to confirm his advice by seeking a second opinion from another lawyer. I will be happy to review your case and provide a second opinion, even if you already have a lawyer.
MISCONCEPTION #5: Once I settle my claim, I can get more money in the future if I have additional medical bills.
False. Once your claim is settled, it is over — forever! No more money for bodily injury, pain and suffering, no matter what. The only exception is for actual medical bills in certain cases like car accidents and this, too, is limited and complicated.
MISCONCEPTION #6: I have only one year to file a lawsuit.
False. This can be a difficult question to answer. In New York, in most personal injuries cases, you have three years to file a lawsuit to protect your rights. However, in some instances, you may have only one year. If your claim is against a governmental entity (such as a city, county or state or their employees), you may have only 90 days to protect your rights to make a claim. And in New York car accidents, to be certain your medical bills and lost wages are paid, you must file your claim within 30 days.
It is important that you know your rights. Otherwise, you may lose your right to bring a claim for your injuries and damages. Ask me and I’ll help you determine the proper time frames.
MISCONCEPTION #7: If I am partly at fault for causing the accident, I am not entitled to any money.
False. Both sides may cause an accident and still you may be entitled to recover money. This is known as comparative negligence. In New York State, even if you are, say, 75% at fault, you can recover 25% from the defendant who also caused your injuries.
“If you have been injured — or if a family member has died — as a result of any type of accidental injury, please don’t hesitate to call. I will gladly speak with you over the telephone or in person, whichever you prefer. And your initial visit is always free. You’re welcome to call me anytime. I promise I’ll do everything I can to help you.” JH