Expert Advice About Hiring Florida Auto Accidents Lawyers

December 13, 2009

The following is an expert answer given by Florida Premises Liability Lawyer, Joseph M. Maus, and taken from AllExperts.com, a free Q & A service on the internet:

This is going to sound awful! I was rear ended in May of this year. When it gets down to settling, how does one determine that a lawyer has "actually" gotten what the case is worth?

By this I mean I kind of feel like it would just be easier for contingent lawyers to just take the first offer and move on – so how does a client determine if they should reject the settlement and have a lawyer go back and fight for more or if it is really a fair settlement? For a lay person it’s very hard to determine the amount of battle done by an attorney before accepting an offer.

Let’s pretend you are my attorney. You tell me the settlement offer and I refuse it. Can you then dismiss me as a client? Is there a way to determine, in Florida, what is "fair"? I hope this is not offensive but is there a site where you can plug in an impairment rating and see averages for Florida auto accidents lawyers or something like that?!

This is a great question.  It is very difficult for me to know exactly what is going through the client’s mind when, as their Florida accident lawyer, I tell a client about a settlement offer on their accident
claim.  Sometimes, the client will tip you off that the offer "sounds great", or sometimes when the offer is low, you’ll hear the client’s disappointment.  But, your question raises issues that really need to be considered in communicating settlement offers to clients, and are probably taken for granted by the attorney many times.

The short answer to your question is – there is no uniform amount of money that will be paid to a person in a Florida injury or accident claim simply based upon an impairment rating, or even based upon a particular type of injury, i.e. torn ligament in knee requiring surgery; unoperated herniated disc in the neck or back.  The reason is that every case, every client, and the adjusters and insurance companies handling the claims are different. Even the county your claim is being made in, and the time of year you try settling your claim factor into the settlement value on any particular injury case. The primary factors in establishing a value for a Florida accident injury settlement are the nature and extent of any injury(s), the amount of medical bills (past and future), the amount of lost wages or loss of earning capacity (past and future), and the amount of pain and suffering related to the injury (past and future).

Your email asks how you can be certain that the accident lawyer has fought for you to obtain the maximum recovery, instead of just accepting the first offer that is made.  I can only speak from my experience – if I don’t maximize the recovery for each client, and make sure the client is satisfied with the work done on their file, I will never see the client again, nor have them refer another client to my office.  The vast majority of Florida injury accident cases that I work on are referred by former clients, or by attorneys that don’t specialize in accident injury cases.  If the client or referral source is not comfortable with what has been done on the file, and comfortable with the amount of money they receive from their case, my referral well dries up, and I go out of business.  Self preservation is strong motivation to do the best job you can!

Keep in mind that Florida auto accidents lawyers are paid on a contingent basis.  Their attorney fee is a percentage of what they recover for you. Putting aside an attorney’s ethical responsibility of representing the client to the best of their abilities, there is strong incentive to maximize any settlement offer to their client – the more they obtain for the client, the more they make for themselves as attorney’s fees.

One of the things you can do to become more comfortable with the amount of "battle" that has been done on your accident claim, is to ask the accident lawyer to show you the file, and any correspondence that has been sent to or received from the insurance company.  Most offers to settle a Florida injury claim by insurance companies are put in writing and sent to the Florida auto accident lawyers who are handling the case. You’ll see where your lawyer started, what the basis for the demand was, the strengths and weaknesses that have been discussed, and whether the offer you are being asked to consider is the first offer, or maybe the fifth (and last).

As for discharging your attorney, you can do that, and choose to go it alone, or transfer the file to another attorney.  But, the discharged attorney will usually be entitled to a lien against your settlement proceeds for work that has been done on your file.

You also asked about a website to punch in an impairment rating to find out a case value.  I do not know of a website like that.  The closest thing to that is the Florida Jury Verdict Reporter which documents trial verdicts throughout the State.  It details the county a case was tried in, the attorneys and doctors involved in the case, the nature and extent of any injuries, liability issues, the amount of the verdict, and additional details about the case.  I don’t know if the public has access to this Reporter, but most Florida auto accidents lawyers do.

Good luck with your claim.

For more information about your rights in a case, call the Florida auto accidents lawyers of Joseph M. Maus and Associates at 1-866-556-5529, visit their website at mauslawfirm.com or email them today.

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