When your life gets turned upside down by an accident that was not your fault, your world can feel pretty chaotic. Typically, recovering from the physical injuries are your first order of business. However, it is not long before you realize that managing medical bills and the shock that the at-fault party does not immediately cover costs, can overwhelm a lot of victims. It is for that reason that injury victims rush the process of hiring a personal injury attorney. While the need for immediate guidance is understandable, hiring an attorney in haste can result in frustration and a reduced settlement later.
Getting The Max For Our Clients
Recently, I settled an auto accident case for 5x the average for the particular injury. Thankfully, there were two insurance policies to tap into but, in most cases with this type of injury, you would never exhaust the first $25,000 policy. The reason for having such an exceptional outcome was the culmination of strategies I developed over the years that have earned me the nickname “the policy limits lawyer.” These strategies have helped set up our cases for winning resolutions and provided clients with millions in compensation. Those funds have allowed our clients to seek the medical care they needed and helped make them as whole as they could be following traumatic injuries. Our entire team is very proud of this.
A Secret Worth Sharing
While I do not plan to share all of my secrets (I certainly don’t want the insurance companies to know!), it is critical that injured people know some of the early critical steps for finding a firm that can truly help. One “secret” that everyone should know is that the firm you hire needs to dig deep into the facts at the outset of a case. This not only means getting to know my clients personally but also getting deep into the policies available to help my clients heal and move forward. This might seem pretty basic but some firms outsource this task to non-lawyers. In my opinion, that is a big mistake.
The Intake Team
In most injury firms, the first call and most of the follow-up calls will be from an “intake team.” Personal injury firms have to use an intake team to weed out bad cases. Many people call with hopes that they have a case (or they did but they passed the Statute of Limitations). Some calls involve good cases but the potential client has over treated by so much that there will never be enough insurance money to cover it. Therefore, a law firm is never getting paid. Other calls will involve interesting issues but the case does not fall within the the personal injury category. All of these cases have to be weeded out so the lawyers at the firm are not wasting their day on cases they cannot take.
Getting Weeded Out Too Soon
In many ways, an intake team is critical for the efficiency and productivity of a personal injury firm. However, the problem is that those who are answering the phone are not lawyers and, sometimes, they miss key facts about a great case. For example, potential clients will call and say they are severely injured but the responding officer indicated the at-fault driver did not have insurance. With some intake specialists, that will be the end of the call and they will tell you there is nothing they can do. This is a big mistake. Hopefully, the injured person keeps calling around for a firm with more personalized service!
Never trust a report that says the at-fault driver has no insurance. You must keep digging! Sometimes, the “uninsured” driver actually has multiple policies at play! Determining how many insurance policies are potentially available is tricky business and you can never count on an investigating officer to know. Frankly, it is not the job of first responders to figure out the civil side of accidents.
You need experienced personal injury attorneys to investigate and analyze insurance policy options. For example, in many of our cases, we discovered that an “uninsured” driver was covered by another policy. We had an at-fault driver in a rental car that had coverage through his credit card. Additionally, we have had many at-fault drivers who claimed to have no insurance but were driving for work and large commercial policy were available. Insurance investigations take time and experience. Outsourcing this to an “intake specialist” is not something we do and, in my opinion, it has made all the difference in our cases.
What Should You Expect For Your First Call
While “intake specialists” are typically found at the larger “mill” firms, you might find them at smaller firms, too. Often, these call centers are not employees of the firm and they are not even in the same state or country. They will take basic information and try to set up another intake person from the firm to return your call. The next firm representative will do an additional round of questions to assess the value of your case and whether you will “make the cut.”
Larger “Mill” Firms
At large firms (we call them “mills” because the process is very automated and impersonal) it is not uncommon to go through 2-4 intake calls before an appointment is set up with an attorney. Then, unless you have a catastrophic case (value over $500,000), it is not uncommon for you to meet with a lower level associate to evaluate your case. This is just how the “mill” process works. It’s not personal.
Small To Mid-Size Firms
If you go with a smaller firm, expect the intake process to be 1-2 intake calls and most of the attorneys are equal in terms of experience. Small to mid-size firms do not like to “carry” dead weight in terms of partners who do not do any work and just collect dividends. So, no matter where you are located, this size of firm tends to be more personal and specialized. You can also look into the niches of these smaller firms. For example, while a firm might not be considered “big law,” it might be a powerhouse in terms of their specialty (i.e. medical malpractice, catastrophic brain injuries, etc.). For this reason, be realistic that some of these smaller niche firms may not take your case (even if it is “good”) because they prefer to really specialize. If that happens, ask for a referral or just keep calling around.
Find The Best Team
The process of finding an advocate can take time. Do not rush it. When you meet the right lawyer for your needs and personality, it will just click. You should also feel comfortable with the lawyer’s paralegal or legal assistant because a tremendous amount of heavy lifting is done by this person. A great lawyer with inexperienced support staff can result in serious medical billing errors and subrogation issues at the end. So, get a feel for your “team” and whether you can trust sharing your feelings and frustrations with them so you get the proper guidance as the case progresses. Despite all of the rules, laws, and regulations, personal injury law really is more of an art than a science. For that reason, it might take you awhile to find the right fit.
If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence in western Washington, reach out to our highly awarded attorneys. We are here 7 days a week to help. (360) 792-1000
Attorney Jennifer Witt answering FAQs