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124 Lake Street South
Long Prairie, MN 56347

Phone: 320-732-6112
Fax: 320-732-6023


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Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions

In general, it is helpful to contact an attorney as soon after the injury as possible. Remember that the insurance company will have trained investigators who will begin collecting evidence favorable to the insurance company almost immediately after they become aware there might be a claim. Among other things, an experienced plaintiffs personal injury attorney will advise the client to give no statements to an investigator since the investigator's primary purpose is to collect information that will be detrimental to the injured person's claim. An experienced personal injury attorney will also have an investigator begin collecting and preserving evidence favorable to the injured person almost immediately. The claim itself cannot be reasonably resolved until after the injured person has reached the maximum level of medical improvement and the actual settlement of the claim may take 1 to 2 years and sometimes even longer depending upon the injuries. However the collection and preservation of information favorable to support the claim should commence as soon as possible. The availability of witnesses, how much they can remember, the ability to take photographs, and numerous other factors involved in preserving evidence decrease with the passage of time and it becomes more difficult to preserve evidence that will support the claim. It is for this reason that speedy investigation is very important.
Unfortunately, there are many abuses on the part of attorney seeking personal injury clients. It is technically unethical for an attorney with whom you have never had previous dealings to personally contact you on the phone or in person to ask to represent you. It is similarly unethical for an attorney to retain another person to proceed in this fashion. It is not unethical for an attorney to send a letter to a person with whom the attorney has had no prior involvement advising that person of their background and offering to be of assistance to them. If you would not be thrilled about buying something from a door to door salesman or from a telephone solicitation, you would similarly be wise not to retain an attorney with whom you have had no prior experience who shows up at your hospital room or calls you on the phone shortly after you have been injured. Conduct of this sort is unethical and also indicates that the attorney is either motivated by greed or is under employed. The best way to retain a personal injury attorney is to find one based on the recommendation of other clients who have been satisfied with that attorney's work representing them in a personal injury claim or through other people who would be in a position to know the quality of the attorney's work. You also want an attorney who is as experienced as possible representing you. Once you have determined the name of an appropriate attorney, we suggest you interview or talk to that attorney and satisfy yourself that you can work with the attorney on pursuing your claim. We do not recommend you retain any attorney who attempts to pressure you in any way. Competent personal injury attorneys do not resort to any kind of high pressure tactics. We also suggest that you find out if the attorney represents exclusively injured plaintiffs or if the attorney also represents insurance companies. While many attorneys represent both insurance companies and injured plaintiffs, an injured party may very well prefer to have an attorney who only represents injured plaintiffs and not insurance companies.
There are attorneys and non-attorneys who will be happy to offer you an instant opinion on the value of your claim. A conscientious attorney will not be able to give you a very specific evaluation of the value of your claim until the attorney knows the extent of your recovery and also knows the evaluation of your treating doctor as to the nature and extent of future medical problems you may have arising out of your injury. This means that you will not have a realistic evaluation of the value of your claim until you have reached maximum medical improvement which typically takes 1 to 2 years. Every person is different and some people who appear initially to have a serious injury make an excellent or total recovery. Other individuals who have what appears to be a relatively minor injury may wind up making a poor recovery and having chronic pain associated with a permanent injury. Anyone who tells you that they can evaluate your claim immediately after you are injured is engaging in speculation.
All insurance companies have trained investigators who are called adjusters and whenever a potential liability situation arises, the insurance company will very quickly send a trained adjuster to gather evidence which will protect their insured and the insurance company. The adjuster’s job is to collect any evidence which will allow the insurance company to avoid paying the claim or pay as little as possible on the claim. Individuals who are injured invariably do not have at their disposal an investigator to perform a similar function to protect themselves. Frequently one of the first things that an adjuster for an insurance company does is attempt to interview the injured person and take a tape recorded or a written statement from the injured person. Since the adjuster for the insurance company is not a neutral person, the adjuster is interested in preserving any evidence which will help the insurance company avoid paying the claim or paying as little as possible on the claim. In general, adjusters are very amiable people who like to portray themselves as neutral individuals or people who are there to assist the injured person but in fact they are there to insure that as little is paid out by the insurance company as possible. For the insurance company, a potential claim is a business transaction. For the individual that is injured, a claim is of critical personal importance.

Attorneys who do any substantial amount of personal injury work will have either on staff or under contract people who conduct investigations on behalf of injured clients. These investigators will collect evidence which is favorable to the injured person and will generally take away the advantage the insurance company otherwise has when dealing with an unrepresented injured party.

Insurance claims are usually resolved by agreement but if no agreement can be reached between the injured person and the individual or company that negligently caused the injury, then the claims are resolved through a judicial proceeding. Attorneys will generally represent injured parties on a contingent fee basis. That is they charge a percentage of whatever is collected. In appropriate cases, attorneys will also take all out of pocket expenses, including investigation expenses also on a contingency which means that if nothing is recovered the injured person pays nothing at all. The typical contingent fee in a personal injury matter is one-third of whatever is collected for attorney's fees plus the out of pocket costs incurred in resolving the claim. Since the insurance company is in the business of settling claims, they know that if you retain an attorney you would normally have to pay one-third of the settlement proceeds as attorney's fees. Since the insurance company has highly trained people who negotiate and settle claims, they will generally only offer you two-thirds or less of what the claim is worth if you do not have an attorney. It has been the experience of this office that they usually offer you about one-half of the value of the claim if you do not have an attorney. The most common exception to this practice is if there is a very serious injury and low limits of insurance coverage. Under those circumstances where the damages are very much in excess of the policy limits, the insurance company may offer the policy limits even if you do not have an attorney representing you. Under most circumstances, the insurance company will offer you no more than the net amount you would have had if you had an attorney to settle a claim and they frequently will offer you less than the net amount you would receive if you had an attorney. Remember, the insurance company is in the business of settling claims and has professionally trained adjusters who will settle the claim for the least amount possible.

The insurance company has highly trained adjusters who have had years of experience in evaluating claims and in negotiating the settlement of those claims for the lowest possible amount of money. The adjusters are also familiar with the legal process and the expert witnesses, including doctors, who can evaluate different aspects of any claim and present through the court process a different view on the extent of the injuries or the degree of negligence of their insured. The average person has little knowledge of the process, what experts might be available to prove their claim, and have typically had very little involvement with the judicial system. One of the most difficult aspects of any injured person's claim is the realistic evaluation of the value of the claim. It has been our office's experience that most people not professionally involved with the settlement of claims have very little idea of the actual value of their claim and further have very little idea of what the critical factors are in determining the value of the claim. An experienced personal injury attorney is usually essential in settling a claim for its full value and has the training and background to fairly negotiate with the insurance company to settle the claim.
Evaluation of a personal injury claim is one of the more difficult aspects for both the person who is injured and the attorney representing that person. The reason it is difficult is that there is not a precise gauge which determines the ultimate value of the claim. If the matter cannot be resolved and settled (95% of more of personal injury claims are resolved through settlement) the matter is ultimately submitted to a jury of six people. If the same evidence were submitted to ten different juries, it is almost certain that none of the ten would come back with precisely the same determination of the value of the claim. However, there are factors which are presented to the jury as evidence which are important in determining the value of a personal injury claim. These factors include the doctor's opinion as to the permanency and severity of the injury; the amount of out of pocket medical expenses incurred in treating the injury; the amount of income loss resulting from the injury because of a temporary or permanent period of disability; in the case of a car accident, the extent and severity of the property damages caused by the collision; the extent of the negligence of the person who caused the injury; the extent of the injured party's own negligence; the opinion and evaluation of experts such as accident re-constructionists, engineers, and medical professionals who have been involved in evaluating different aspects of the claim; the age of the injured person; the amount of insurance coverage that is available to cover the claim; and the appearance, honesty, integrity, and likeability of the injured person and others who will be testifying on the part of the injured person. Other factors such as the venue of where the action is brought and the experience and competency of different attorneys involved in settling the claim will also bear on the value of the claim.

If you would like copies of this material please contact us at 800-450-6112 and we will be happy to provide you with as many copies of this information as you request. You may also reproduce these materials so long as they are reproduced exactly and totally, including our logo and address and phone number. We follow the practice of other personal injury attorneys in having no charge for a consultation regarding a personal injury claim or speaking with you on the phone about any personal injury matter without charge.
Attorneys generally do not charge clients for an initial consultation in representing them in a personal injury matter. If the attorney agrees to represent you, the representation is very commonly done on a contingent fee basis where the attorney receives no fee unless there is a recovery made. In appropriate cases many attorney's will also take any out of pocket expenses on a contingency but attorney's who indicate they will take expenses on a contingency on all cases they undertake will typically be more selective in which clients they will represent.
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