Myself or a loved one has been seriously injured. What is the most important thing in selecting an attorney to represent me or my loved one?
Look for an experienced attorney. Determine how often the attorney actually goes to court. Attorneys who prepare cases for trial usually obtain better judgments and settlements for their clients. If your case does go to trial, you need an attorney who has experience with the court system. Also, ask the attorney how many years s/he has handled cases similar to yours, whether s/he has taken cases up on appeal, and what jurisdictions s/he practices in. You should also look for accomplishment. Ask about some of the verdicts and settlements the attorney has obtained. Also, ask about honors and awards s/he has received, and leadership positions s/he has held in the profession. An attorney who is well known for his/her accomplishments, leadership, and activities is more likely to be known and respected by other attorneys and judges.
How long should I wait before contacting an attorney?
The sooner your attorney can get started working for you the better. Remember, you have only a certain amount of time to go to court, and the longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to obtain the evidence you need to support your case. Furthermore, if you have submitted your claim to an insurance company, the insurance adjuster you may be dealing with settled hundreds of cases in the past year alone. He or she is highly trained at negotiations. It is important to be very careful and cautious when talking with an insurance adjuster; you very well may need an attorney to help you through the process.
I’d like to speak with an attorney at Paulson & Nace. What should I do?
Please call us at (202) 463-1999 to schedule a consultation.
Is there a charge for the consultation?
No. Fees are only charged if your case is accepted and a recovery of money damages is accomplished. If, after discussing your case, you decide not to pursue it or to go with another law firm, there is no obligation on your part. Of course, any information you have given us is protected by the attorney-client privilege and will not be disclosed to anyone without your permission.
What can I expect at the first consultation?
Unless you come to a meeting with all of your records and expert reports, your attorney probably cannot tell you if your claim has merit. Generally, the attorney can only tell you if there is enough merit to warrant investigation. That means obtaining medical records, analyzing them, and discussing the case with experts, if necessary. An attorney cannot represent you without a written retainer agreement. Once that agreement is in effect, your attorney should start gathering the information he or she will need to try your case. No competent attorney should tell you what your case is worth at the first visit. To arrive at a figure for damages, your attorney will need to determine the extent of your injuries, including pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, the cost of medical treatment, and lost wages.
What is the next step in preparing my case?
Your attorney will provide an estimate of your damages to the other party’s insurer. If the insurer considers it a valid claim, the case is likely to be resolved early on and won’t have to be tried in court. At Paulson & Nace, we always assume that the case will be tried, and we begin every case by preparing it for trial. Being ready and willing to go to court, and having the reputation of being successful in the courtroom, is the only way to get top dollar in settlement negotiations.
What does it mean to settle a case?
Settling a case means that you agree to accept money in return for dismissing your claim against the person who injured you. You’ll actually sign documents releasing the other side of any further liability. To help you decide whether to accept the settlement offer, your attorney will be able to provide a realistic assessment of whether a lawsuit based on your claim will be successful, a range of possible verdict amounts, and how long it will take to get through trial. Settlement also can take place at any point in a lawsuit once it is filed, including before trial or even after a case has been tried but before a jury reaches a verdict and after trial while the case is on appeal.
What are punitive damages, and when are such damages awarded?
In addition to compensating victims for injuries, lost wages, and future considerations, punitive damages can be awarded to penalize a defendant whose conduct is deemed to be particularly outrageous. In cases of negligence, punitive damages are typically awarded only when the defendant’s conduct proved to be “reckless” or “willful and wanton”.
I am not happy with the attorney handling my case and want to replace him or her, can I simply fire the attorney and retain another lawyer?
Yes, you have a right to replace your attorney at any time. As a client, you are entitled to be treated with courtesy and consideration at all times, to have your questions and concerns addressed in a prompt manner, and to have telephone calls returned promptly. If you are dissatisfied with the legal representation you are currently receiving, you can withdraw from the attorney-client relationship at any time.