Following an automobile accident with injuries, getting a highly skilled personal injury lawyer is of utmost importance. Here in Pasco County and throughout Florida, an injured victim counts on his or her attorney to protect important legal rights, and to pursue the best legal remedy possible. However, injured car accident clients should also know what rights they have where their own lawyer is concerned! This blog will address just a few of those rights.
First, here in New Port RIchey, Pasco County (and all of Florida), automobile accident injury cases are handled on a contingency fee basis. (To learn more about how a contingency fee works, please refer to this blog I recently wrote: Contingency Fee Blog) When entering a contingency fee agreement with a Florida law firm, it is mandatory that the attorney provide the new client a “Statement of Client’s Rights for Contingency Fees.” This requirement is found in the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct (4-1.5). Let’s break down a few of the rights that you, the client, have:
The Right to Not Be Charged an Excessive Fee and Costs
A lawyer may not charge an excessive contingency fee percentage of the settlement or verdict amount, an while the rule lists percentage that are presumed to be fair, a lower percentage may be agreed to between an injury client and the lawyer. Please note: The rule also applies to reasonable costs. Frankly, I have seen some attorneys play very loose with this rule, and charge excessive “flat costs” for things like “file storage.” At the end of your case, do not be afraid to scrutinize the closing statement for “soft costs,” and demand receipts or other proof. At Scott M. McPherson, P.A., I will only recover actual expenses in the form of costs advanced.
The Right to Know About the Lawyer’s Experience
Specifically, the Rule states: “Before hiring a lawyer, you, the client, have the right to know about the lawyer’s education, training, and experience. If you ask, the lawyer should tell you specifically about the lawyer’s actual experience dealing with cases similar to yours. If you ask, the lawyer should provide information about special training or knowledge and give you this information in writing if you request it.”
Just because an attorney has multiple billboards does not mean that he or she is a skilled attorney. How many times has that attorney actually been to Court and litigated cases? What have the results been. I am always happy to share this information, and I did a recent blog on the matter, which you can find here: Tips for Finding an Excellent Lawyer.
The Right to Ask Questions and Be Kept Informed
Specifically, the Rule states as follows: “You, the client, have the right to ask your lawyer at reasonable intervals how the case is progressing and to have these questions answered to the best of your lawyer’s ability.” I consider this one of the most important duties to a client, right along with aggressivly doing everything ethically within my power to procure the best result. Clients should be kept informed at all times, and feel free to call their attorney at any time. I encourage new clients to come in for office appointments frequently for updates. Most attorneys take this duty seriously, but I have heard many “horror stories” from others that their attorney never returns phone calls.
The Right to Make the Final Decision Regarding Settlement of a Case
This is very important, and means that you, the client, have the right to decide if your case settles once a top settlement offer is made. It’s not the lawyer’s decision. While a lawyer should explain the risks and potential benefits of settlement vs. litigation, it is the client who makes the decision. A huge “red flag” is present when a settlement offer is clearly insufficient to fairly compensate an car accident victim, but the lawyer is attempting to coerce the client into settlement anyway. This is an indication of an attorney who simply “churns” cases, and does not go to Court when necessary.
At my law office, if a client has been low balled and desires his or her day in Court, then I will file suit and litigate the case (and I have the background and results to prove it). If the insurance company does not offer you a fair settlement, will your lawyer file suit?
Auto accident personal injury attorney billboards, commercials, and other ads are quick to implore you to call quickly to learn your rights in an injury claim. It is also important to know your rights between you and your personal injury attorney. Honest, hard-working attorneys want you to know your rights, because we live up to the obligations we have to our clients.
By Scott McPherson