Q: I am embarrassed to call a lawyer because I might not have a case. What should I do?A: Calling a lawyer is the first, most important step to take. When you call Hurley McKenna & Mertz, we will listen to you and assess your case. Above all, we will provide our honest opinion when you call. If you do have a case, but you wait too long, you may be barred from bringing the case by the statutory deadline, known as the Statute of Limitations. Also, remember: we don't charge for initial consultations so there is no risk or expense in calling us. Waiting to consult a lawyer, however, could harm your case.
Q: I don't believe in suing people, but I've been injured. What should I do?
A: Call a lawyer. Not all claims require a lawsuit to be resolved. Sometimes the guilty party's insurance company will settle without a lawsuit. If a lawsuit is required, you should talk to your own lawyer before giving up your rights. Usually, the party guilty of injuring you has insurance. If you decide not to bring a claim because you "don't believe in it," your decision to give up your rights often hurts you while benefitting the wrongdoer's insurance company. Ultimately, you decide whether to file a suit and your lawyer must always respect that decision.
Q: I've been in an accident and insurance adjusters have called me to discuss the facts. Should I talk to them?
A: Call a lawyer. You should always talk to a lawyer before you discuss your accident with anyone else. While it may be appropriate to discuss your case with an insurance adjuster at some point, you have the right to speak to a lawyer first and even to have a lawyer present when you discuss the accident. Remember insurance adjusters work for their companies, not for you. The adjuster's goal is to save his company as much money as possible, and this can often come at your expense.
Q: How long will it take to settle my claim?
A: This can vary from several weeks to several years. Every case is different, but as a general rule, the more serious and complex the case, the longer it takes. Cases that can be settled without the need for a lawsuit can usually be settled shortly after your medical condition stabilizes. It is generally not a good idea to settle until your medical treatment is finished. Once your medical care is finished, it is easier to analyze your damages and decide on a fair amount of compensation. If the insurance company refuses to make a fair offer, a lawsuit may be necessary.
Q: How much is my claim worth?
A: This is the most commonly asked question. It is impossible to give an accurate answer to this question until all of the facts and the relevant law have been gathered and analyzed. Any lawyer that promises a certain outcome without knowing all of the facts is either not being honest or is too inexperienced to handle your case.
You may be entitled to the following categories of damages if you are injured in an accident:
- Reimbursement for medical expenses.
- Reimbursement for lost income.
- Compensation for pain and suffering.
- Compensation for disability (for example if you are no longer able to lift heavy objects or play sports because of a back injury).
- Compensation for disfigurement (for example if you suffered scarring or a loss of limb).
- Compensation for aggravation of a pre-existing condition (for example if a prior back problem was made worse by the accident).
Survival Damages. The estate of a deceased victim of negligence can recover money damages for conscious pain and suffering and other damages experienced prior to the death.
The amount of money damages you are entitled to depends on your particular case. You make the decision to settle. Your lawyer should not agree to any settlements without your approval.
Q: My lawyer never calls me back. I have called ten times over a period of six months and never get a call back. What should I do?A: Get a new lawyer. Like everyone, lawyers get busy, but there is no excuse for a lawyer to avoid your calls over such a long period of time. If your call is an emergency, your lawyer should have staff members or a message system so that your problem is handled quickly. If your call is routine, then you are entitled to a reasonably prompt response. For such calls, you should be understanding if your lawyer is out of town or on trial. During trials, trial lawyers often have to devote every waking moment to the case at hand. You will want this kind of dedication if your case goes to trial. However, we believe all calls - whether routine or emergency - deserve a prompt response.
Q: What is a statute of limitations?
A: This is a law passed by the legislature that limits the time in which you can bring a lawsuit. If the applicable statute of limitations expires before you file suit, you will be forever barred from bringing a suit. No exceptions.
Q: What is the applicable statute of limitations for my case?
A: Call a lawyer. There is not just one statute of limitations. There are hundreds. The facts of your case may seem simple, but the statutes of limitations for certain cases can vary from six months to many years. You would be foolish to try to figure out your statute of limitations without discussing your case with a qualified lawyer. We would be foolish to give you any advice on your particular statute of limitations other than to tell you to see a lawyer.
Q: What is the typical contingency fee I should agree to?
A: Usually 1/3 of the amount your lawyer recovers for you. If your case is brought under the Workers Compensation Act, the law limits the contingency fee to 20% of the recovery. If your case involves medical malpractice, the law limits the contingency fee to 1/3 of the first $150,000; 1/4 of the next $850,000 and 1/5 of anything over $1,000,000 recovered. However, if extensive work went into your case, then your lawyer has the right to petition the court for an increase in the fee up to 1/3 of the full recovery. The first thing you should decide is whether the lawyer you are interviewing is qualified to handle your case. If he is not qualified, then even a 10% contingency is no bargain. If you are comfortable with your lawyers' qualifications feel free to ask about his fee.
Q: Since my accident, lawyers or their agents have been calling me to ask for my case. What should I do?
A: You should report them to the Attorneys Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) at (312) 565-2600 or (800) 826-8625. Under the Illinois Code of Professional Ethics, an attorney may not directly solicit a case from a person who has been in an accident. Remember, in choosing a personal injury lawyer the most important question to ask is whether the attorney is qualified to handle your particular case. Clever advertisements or salesmanship are not necessarily valid indications of an attorney's qualifications.