Some very smart people have asked themselves that very question. They have believed that there is nothing that an experienced personal injury lawyer can do, that they cannot do just as well. These people have been proved wrong. Their belief that if they did not pay an attorney fee, that they would get more money in their own pockets, has likewise been proven wrong. Insurance carriers do not treat all people equally. Even different attorneys will receive different offers on the same case. When an insurance company sees a person representing himself or herself, they know that this person is no threat to the insurance company and that if the person representing himself or herself is unhappy with the offer, that they do not have the ability to litigate and ultimately try the case before a jury.
Exposure to the insurer is what gets money offered. When an insurance adjuster sees a novice or kid lawyer just starting out or a newbie lawyer who has never tried a case and hit a homerun, they invariably low ball that lawyer because they know that he or she is no proven threat to the carrier. When, however, the insurance carrier deals with a lawyer who is seasoned and has a reputation for hitting homeruns, they know that this attorney can and will go the distance, if they do not pay up and thus, the carriers will invariably offer this type of attorney more to make the exposure-the case go away. We have yet to see a so called "do it yourselfer" get the big result and better than what the right lawyer could have gotten that injured person.
The injured person has no experience evaluating the worth of his or her injuries and has no experience recognizing the problems in a particular case. That person (who decides to do it himself or herself) does not have the means of properly documenting the injuries and losses and likewise does not know how to make the case translate into top value in the eyes of the insurance company. Those insurers are not the friends of the victim. Their job is not to be fair, but rather to get the case out the door for the lowest amount possible.
When we hear people say "all I want is what is fair and I am not trying to get more," we immediately know that they will, soon discover that honesty and good intentions is not a two way street when dealing with an insurance company. We have seen countless examples of real cases where the victim thought he got a good settlement, but we recognized (after the fact and when it was too late to save the case) that he was taken advantage of and settled for far less than he deserved. We know all the right moves to get the right amount for our clients and we know that the insurers know that we pose a threat to them if they do not pay up.
One of the biggest mistakes we have seen people make, is the belief that the lower the percentage they pay, that means the more dollars they will put in their pockets at the end of a case. All lawyers are not created equal and the insurance carriers know it. When we receive inquiries and a victim of an accident is shopping for the lowest percentage of fee, based upon the belief that this will translate to more money in the client's pocket, we explain what we have said and tell them that if they are insistent, then we can and will refer them to a newbie lawyer who will charge a lower percentage. The reality is that the words "you get what you pay for" is so very true.
Whether the lawyer admits it or not, lawyers are in business and have overheads and they are in business to make a profit to pay for their office, their employees, their own insurance, their home mortgage and to provide for their families. When a lawyer has two cases to work on and if both cases will require the same amount of hours of work from beginning to end and if on one case the lawyer will receive (as an example) 10% of a $100,000 settlement or on the other case 25% of the same $100,000 settlement and knowing that there are only so many hours in the day to spend working on any case, which one do you believe the lawyer will spend his time working on? The one where at the end, he will stand to make a $10,000 fee or the one which, at the end, he will make a $25,000 fee? It is human nature. The lawyer needs the economic incentive and sometimes when a client agrees to a 10% fee, that lawyer might ultimately get a $100,000 offer and the more experienced lawyer with the track record and reputation, charging a 25% or 1/3 fee, might get a $1,000,000 offer. The fact that the client agreed to a higher percentage of fee, nevertheless results in a much greater net sum in his or her pocket. The percentage of the fee and the amount the client nets, generally have nothing to do with each other. There is no direct one-to-one relationship that translates to a lower percentage of fee, meaning a greater result for the client. Also, the lawyer with the track record and reputation and experience (that the insurer knows) may be able to get the case settled much sooner than the novice attorney learning on the job.
People who think they do not need the services of the experienced personal injury attorney, invariably find out the hard way that they should have chosen that right lawyer in the very beginning. When we see that despite our explanations, that the potential client has made up his mind to try to do it himself or herself or to try to save money shopping based on percentage (without regard to the things that really make the difference), we always tell that person to not be embarrassed to call us later on when they find out that we had provided them the right direction. Sometimes when that person returns to us, we can still fix all the damage that was done and still make the ultimate result what it should have been. Other times, unfortunately, it is too late and the damage has been done to such a degree, that no matter what we subsequently try to do to fix the problems that have been created, it is too late and once the damage is done, it will ultimately make that optimum result (that could have been had, if we had the case from the beginning) beyond the reach of any lawyer.
Generally the amount that a lawyer can charge for representing a minor (under Age 18), depends in large part, upon the county in which the accident happened, the amount of work that went into the case, whether the case was settled before the filing of a lawsuit or after the filing of a lawsuit-and where a lawsuit has been filed to achieve the result, then the amount of work and effort that went into the case before the resolution. Was it settled before the case was tried before a jury or was it concluded by a jury verdict? Did the lawyer go the distance? Then there are considerations of the amount of out of pocket expenses that the lawyer incurred in getting the case to the end result.
Generally, lawyers will have a lower percentage in their retainer agreement when a minor is the client. To settle the case involving a minor, the Superior Court in the particular California County, will require a petition to be filed and the minor, his or her parent and the lawyer appearing and answering questions that the judge will pose, in order for the judge to determine how much of a fee the lawyer is entitled to. There are yet, other considerations and generally, the reputation of the lawyer as well as the difficulty or ease in which the settlement or other result was obtained, will be factors that guide the judge to his decision.
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