With over fifty years of combined experience, Bruce Wiener and James Lambka, have covered a lot of questions for a lot of clients!
Most Popular Concerns
While it is important to understand that general information still needs to be applied to your particular legal matter and circumstances, we would like to provide an opportunity to have peoples’ most popular concerns addressed. If you still have questions or concerns about your individual legal matter, please give us a call or email. Our consultations are free and it is far better to act once you are more informed than to ever make an assumption about a legal case.
I’ve been injured and I believe I have a good case – do I need a lawyer?
We talk with many people about their potential cases every day and we do not accept most of the cases presented to us. Sometimes this is because the case is not as “good” as the person believes. Sometimes it is because the case appears to be perfectly fine and an attorney isn’t likely to enhance or do anything more to protect the value of the case. Attorneys should act in a fiduciary capacity with their clients and potential clients and sometimes that means letting them know that they might well be able to get their case taken care of on their own and not need to pay for representation.
There are, however, an awful lot of caveats to letting someone know that they can “go it alone” and here are a couple of the most important:
- First, any lawyer’s advice is only as good as the information given and what is known about the case at that particular time. As time goes on new issues will arise that can significantly alter the value of advice provided earlier. Having an attorney on your side means that a professional will be monitoring the changes in the landscape of your legal matter and altering course as needed to adapt to these changes. The other big problem with not having an attorney is that you don’t know what you don’t know. For example, in Washington, case law indicates that any prior injury to the same part of the body that is injured in an automobile collision, for example, is relevant unless there is a significant time between the prior injury and its treatment and display of symptoms. Insurance companies love when there is a prior injury because they can argue that they should pay less for lighting up something that already existed as opposed to treating the injury as 100% caused by the collision. Understanding the significance of the prior injury from a legal stand point is a crucial issue in many cases. Without an attorney working on your side to help you understand how such an issue will be dealt with can place you at a significant disadvantage in dealing with the insurance company.
- Second, the belief that the insurance company will treat you fairly because you are a straight forward individual who isn’t trying to do anything but be honest and get only what you deserve is probably incorrect. Insurance companies are not particularly interested in treating anyone fairly, because to do so would cost them more money. Their entire system of operation is designed to resolve claims for as little as possible and fairness to the claimant is simply not part of their consideration. While it is certainly true that you do still need to be honest and straight forward, as to do otherwise can completely ruin an otherwise valid claim, it is not going to insure that you are treated in that same manner. Having an attorney is not only about maximizing the value of your claim, but, moreover, to make certain that you are treated fairly and not taken advantage of.
We provide free consultations with no obligation to retain our services. There is nothing to lose by having a discussion with an attorney about your case and, quite possibly, much to gain. Please feel free to contact us to discuss your insurance / injury claim.
Is there a time limit on bringing a personal injury claim?
There are time limits on all types of civil lawsuits that disallow an otherwise viable claim. In Washington, most personal injury cases have a three year statute of limitations. This means that if you have a claim, you must either resolve or properly institute a lawsuit on that claim within three years of the date of the incident underlying the legal claim. Failure to properly file your lawsuit within the three years can result in the court dismissing your claim and you losing all rights to compensation relating to the claim.
Certain types of claims that might be considered within the personal injury field that have shorter statutes of limitations include assault, battery, libel and slander.
If your child was injured then a claim must be brought within three years of that child’s 18th birthday (although prudence might dictate making the claim much earlier).
Different types of claims that would normally fall within the three year statute of limitations in Washington may be subject to a different statute of limitations. For example, if the Federal Government is the negligent party then a two year Federal Statute of Limitations applies to the claim and overrides the more generic State law of three years.
Medical malpractice claims also have a general three year statute of limitations. There are circumstances, however, that will allow for a medical malpractice claim to be brought more than three years after the incident that underlies the legal claim. Strict rules regarding the exceptions must be adhered to in order for the claim to still be viable, including bringing the claim within one year of the discovery of all elements of the claim (if not still within the three year mark from the incident). In all cases, an overall eight year limitation exists regarding medical malpractice claims.
An attorney should be consulted regarding any issue relating to the statute of limitations due to the complexity of the topic as well as the importance of making sure your legal rights are protected and not given up due simply to the passing of time.
How should I work with the insurance adjuster?
Generally, you should treat the adjuster with respect and courtesy, no matter what that person is like toward you. Sometimes adjusters are purposefully pressing people’s buttons to see what reaction they will obtain. The more they get you to react the more they are pleased because your frustration is helpful to them in getting you to accept less money, repairs, medical care, whatever they are guarding for their company. On the other hand, some insurance adjusters are, just like in every profession, people who want to do their job well and fairly. The problem comes in that adjusters are often schooled by their companies, who answer to shareholder’s need for profits, to NOT treat people with insurance claims fairly (thus saving money and thus making more profits).
If an adjuster is not being responsive or polite then it is sometimes a good strategy to ask them to keep all communications with you into email form. In this way, you will have evidence of what was said and avoid a “he said / she said” situation later on. Also, it forces anyone not being honest into the predicament of having their words in writing, inalterable when viewed later.
Beware of the adjuster that is forcing you into corners – unreasonable time frames for approving a property damage estimate / return of rental car / need for recorded statement / need for a doctor to review your care / need to review your medical records. While all of these examples can be reasonable requests, these are the areas where most of the pressure to try to eliminate or lessen the value of claims tends to occur.
If you believe that you are getting the run around then you likely are. Moreover, it isn’t likely to get better because you have now entered a new type of game, one that they will attempt to tell you the rules of, and often to the insurance company’s advantage. If dealing with another person’s insurance company there are not even legal requirements that the company be truthful with you about your rights; in fact the other person’s company is simply adverse to your best interests.
If you have questions or concerns about this process and how you are being treated, then please contact experienced personal injury lawyers and talk about it with them. At Wiener & Lambka, PS, the partners have over 50 years of experience just between two people, and our consultations are free, with no obligation to retain our services. You can avoid mistakes that are difficult to fix (if not impossible) in your insurance claim by talking with an experienced Washington personal injury lawyer free of cost. With nothing to lose, we encourage you to make that call early in your case.
How does a contingency fee work?
Lawyers typically work on an hourly basis or on a contingency fee basis. A client can pay an attorney an hourly rate to handle their legal matter, including a personal injury case, but, as this rate would require a large amount of up front cash to retain the attorney, almost all personal injury attorneys are retained on a contingent basis. This means simply that the attorney’s fee is dependent upon obtaining a recovery and is then calculated based upon a percentage of the total recovery obtained for the client.
The amount that attorneys charge in contingency fee matters varies depending upon the attorney involved the type of case at issue, and where the case ends up being resolved. For example, many personal injury attorneys charge a flat 40% contingency fee for all matters. Many attorneys charge more than 40% if the case is a medical malpractice matter. Some attorneys will charge only 33 1/3 % for typical personal injury cases such as an automobile collision or a premises liability case. A newer attorney might charge less than a more established attorney. A more established attorney might, even though they are charging a higher fee, provide better services than a newer attorney and therefore the higher fee might result in a higher award and therefore be good financial decision by the client.
At Wiener & Lambka, PS , we offer a sliding scale fee for our mainstream personal injury clients whereby we charge a lower amount (33 1/3%) on cases that resolve without having to file a lawsuit. On cases that require litigation, our fee bumps up to 39%. This increase is reflective of the increased legal work needed to be performed in the litigated setting. We resolve about 85% of our cases without needing to file a lawsuit, although we prepare each case as if litigation will be necessary. This preparedness is what keeps most of our clients from having to jump through the hoops of a lawsuit as well as allowing them to enjoy the savings of a lower attorney fee.
Your attorney should properly explain the basis for their fees and also the role of costs in a personal injury matter. One large advantage of the contingency fee is that the client is not required to pay anything out of their own pocket in order to obtain quality legal representation. Another advantage is that the client will usually not have to fund the costs of advancing their case out of pocket either. Costs are a very important topic and your attorney should take care to properly explain how costs work in contingency fee matters.
At Wiener and Lambka, PS, we advance the costs of our clients’ cases on their behalf. In Washington, as in most states, attorneys are allowed to advance client’s costs, but only with the specific clear understanding that the client is always ultimately responsible for those costs. In other words, if nothing is recovered on the client’s behalf, the client has the legal responsibility to reimburse their attorney for the costs advanced in furtherance of their case. No attorney can make a different promise to clients in Washington regarding costs.
Typically, costs are not of great importance to a case as long as the case resolves without the need to go through a lawsuit. While costs are always incurred (e.g. obtaining medical records typically has a cost associated with it that is funded by the attorney and then reimbursed at the close of the case), as long as the costs are not too high, they do not take away too much from a client’s total recovery. In litigated matters, however, costs can escalate quickly. Simply filing and serving a lawsuit typically costs $400.00 – $500.00. Once expert witnesses are involved, another necessity for personal injury suits, it is easily possible to spend over $10,000.00 taking a basic automobile accident case to trial. Medical malpractice or other more complex cases can have costs that approach or exceed $100,000.00.
Your attorney should have a long and careful conversation with you about the fees and costs involved in your legal matter. This conversation should be had before you sign the representation agreement and then be covered again when appropriate changes have occurred or will be occurring in the case. Attorneys have a duty to their clients to make sure that they are well informed so that the client can make good decisions about their case. At Wiener & Lambka, PS, we put our clients first and take steps to make sure that they are well informed and knowledgeable about all aspects of their cases, but especially those parts that involve our fee and the role of costs in their unique legal matter.