Common Questions about Personal Injury Cases
Interviewer: When you meet with a new client, what are some common questions you hear from them?
Bill Levinson: Most of them want to know what it is going to cost them to have me. The next is they want to know how much their case is worth. That is followed by then how long it is going to take. What they can recover.
My answers are: Number one, I’m paid on a contingency basis. If I don’t produce, I don’t get paid. The generally the rule is a third of the award, so if I recover nine dollars for you, you get six, I get three. Next question is how long will it take. I ask them how long it is going to take for them to get better. If they don’t know the answer, I don’t know the answer.
I tell them when they are better we will sit down and discuss the elements that will go into a claim. If there is contested liability that the claim is denied and I believe that the insurance company is wrong, then we may file suit at that time or even earlier if it is a substantial injury. As I mentioned, it takes a year and half to take into court. After they ask how long does it take—they ask about the amount of money and every case is unique.
It Is Impossible to Estimate How Much Compensation an Injured Party Will Receive until the Process Has begun and Your Attorney Has Been in Contact with the Insurance Company
We have jury verdicts and arbitration of words that we can look at for comparison and we can look at similar kinds of injuries. That is really one dimensional. You don’t know the people. You don’t know the lawyers. You don’t know the judge or the arbitrator.
I am reluctant to quote figures because if I’m too high and we get a lower result, my clients aren’t happy. What I do now is that I put in the medical bills or any other kinds or finite damages. They are called special damages to cover a car, clothes or any other personal possessions. Then I will ask in my demand for a fair amount.
Your Attorney Will Submit an Initial Demand; Typically, the Insurance Company Will Make a Counter Offer
The reason I do that first of all the insurance companies don’t pay any attention to what I demand. Second of all, I like to see how much they are going to come back with, which is their first offer. At that point, I can generally figure which cases are going to settle or does the client have to decide to litigate or not.
I do make my clients a promise that I will get the insurance company to make their top dollar offer and I will make them put it in writing. The insurance companies won’t put it in writing unless it is their top offer. If they try and play a game, they make a serious mistake if they’ve underbid the case. This is because insurance company adjustors are rewarded on cases they settle, not cases that are filed under them.
Litigation: The Current Trend Is for Insurance Companies to Make a Low Offer, Which Results in Personal Injury Attorneys Filing More Suits against Them
Everybody has an incentive to settle, although we are seeing a trend right now. Insurance companies are very prone to lowball their offers and stay low. As a result, I’m filing a substantial percentage, probably 33% more cases than I used to.
Your Attorney May Counsel You on Verbalizing Your Feelings about Your Injury during Litigation
Interviewer: What are some of the ways that you help remove the emotional aspects of the situation when you are working with a client?
Bill Levinson: I deal more with communication. I don’t have a problem with my clients really being upset. But I want them to be able to communicate that anger effectively, especially if I’m litigating.
To Help Accident Victims Remember Important Details, They May Be Asked to Keep a Journal
It is okay to be angry but they have to be able to verbalize it. That’s one of my major functions in preparing for trial. Most folks are manageable. We have them do a diary from the day they walk in here because they tend to not want to remember pain and they don’t want to remember suffering.
A year and half from now they are not going to remember anecdotal events that would indicate the degree of pain and suffering that they went through.
Someone spends four months trying to wash their back in a shower but was unable to because they can’t move their arms sufficiently. It seems like a trivial thing but that kind of things folks aren’t going to remember or don’t want to remember. People are entitled to be angry. They are entitled to be emotional and they should be allowed to be in a way that’s helpful and not harmful.
A Bicyclist Injured by a Car Is Also Considered a Pedestrian Vehicle Collision
Interviewer: You mentioned bicycle accidents, are those considered pedestrian accidents as well?
Bill Levinson: Yes, a bicycle is not a vehicle under the definition in the state of Washington nor is a motorized bicycle. That’s a bicycle with a little engine on it that self-propelled. They are both considered as a pedestrian.
Motorcycle Accidents Are on the Rise in Washington State
Interviewer: Are you seeing more and more bicycle injuries happening in Washington?
Bill Levinson: Not so much bicycle but more accidents involving motorcycles and cars. It seems like people in cars are having a very tough time seeing or paying attention to motorcycle riders.
It Is Beneficial to Have Photographs of the Accident Scene and Your Injuries
Interviewer: Should I take photos of the accident scene?
Interviewer: I ask that immediately before they even come in. Most folks are pretty savvy and it is convenient because cellphones take really good pictures. I will ask them to get pictures first of whatever injuries they have if they are visible.
I will ask them to take pictures of bicycles because bicycles usually get really mangled and maybe the area. Once they come in, either I go out to the area or they will bring in pictures so I can become familiar with the scene.
Photos are extremely important because the more you can visualize, the more you can help the jury or judge visualize, the better presentation you are able to make.
Exchange of Information Form
In Washington, after an accident the police will supply what’s called an exchange of information form. The officer prints it right there, if they are unable to, the officers are very good about going to the hospital and giving it to them or giving it to a family member.
That is another important document because it identifies the person at fault and lists their insurance carrier. It also includes the at-fault party’s personal information, phone number, license number, all of which are needed to locate them.
You may contact us at 253-854-7440.