Seattle Personal Injury Lawyer

Paglialunga & Harris, PS |  Winning Justice

Personal Injury, Accident & Wrongful Death Lawyers Seattle, Washington
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Frequently Asked Questions
FREE CASE EVALUATION
How do I choose an attorney?
How does your firm charge attorneys’ fees?
What happens if there is an appeal?
I can’t afford to pay for costs? Will your law firm pay them?
Do I have a case?
How much is my case worth?
What happens after I sign up?
How does the litigation process work?
Should I talk to the at-fault party’s insurance company?

 
How do I choose an attorney?
The first thing to consider when selecting an attorney is the attorney’s level of success handling difficult and complex personal injury cases. An attorney with a “general practice”, who does a little family law, a little criminal law, a little real estate, and a little personal injury law, cannot master of all these areas. You are best off with a lawyer that devotes his or her practice to representing plaintiffs.

Most personal injury lawyers have practices that focus only on smaller accident cases that are relatively easy to resolve. These lawyers tend to handle a large volume of cases and are uncomfortable devoting significant time and expenses towards a larger more complex case. If your case involves significant damages and complex liability issues, your case will require a great deal of time, energy, and possibly money to bring to court. You should make sure that your attorney is prepared to handle this type of case.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you should feel comfortable with the attorney and the law firm’s staff on a personal level. It is important that you feel that you can trust your lawyer and that your lawyer is the type of person who will listen to you and be available to you when you need him/her. Part of feeling comfortable with your attorney is knowing that your case is as important to your attorney as it is to you. A lawyer that is not committed to your case in his/her heart, or who is simply too busy to take your calls or do the necessary work to handle your case is not going to get you the best result.

 
How does your firm charge attorneys’ fees?
We believe in being up front and honest about our attorneys’ fees, so we explain in detail on our website how we are paid.

If we accept your case, our law firm works on a contingent fee basis, which means you pay no fees unless we successfully resolve your case by settlement or verdict. Our typical fees are 1/3 of any gross recovery we obtain by settlement or verdict. 1/3 is the standard in the industry, although many firms have now increased their fees to a 40% fee structure.

An example may be helpful: If we obtain a verdict in the amount of $1,000,000, our fees would be 1/3 of $1,000,000, or $333,333.33. This leaves $666,666.67 after attorneys’ fees.

 
What happens if there is an appeal?
Approximately 90% of our cases settle prior to even filing a lawsuit. Of those cases where it is necessary to file a lawsuit, approximately 90% settle before trial. Of those cases that have been tried to a jury, only 10% have resulted in an appeal. Although it may seem very unlikely that your case will go through an appeal, providing for it in the fee agreement in advance is a good idea. Most law firms do what we do, which is increase the percentage of the contingent fee to reflect the amount of additional work that will need to be done. Our typical fee agreement states that if an appeal is necessary, our contingent fee percentage increases from 33% to 45%. This is standard in the industry, although some law firms will charge up to 50% in the event there is an appeal.

Example: If we obtained a $1,000,000 verdict at trial and the defendant appealed the case, we would respond to the appeal. If after the appeal we were required to try the case again, and if at the second trial we again obtained a verdict of $1,000,000, our fee would increase from $333,333.33 to 450,000.00.

 
I can’t afford to pay for costs? Will your law firm pay them?
Costs are separate from attorneys’ fees. When we accept your case, we agree to advance all costs necessary to bring your case to a successful conclusion. This includes minor items like copying expenses, medical records, deposition expenses and filing fees. In a larger, more complex case, it may also include expenses for experts such as a doctor, engineer, vocational rehabilitation specialist, or an economist. Our law firm uses some of the most experienced experts to help give our clients the best chance at a successful resolution of their case. These experts are not inexpensive, so we will always discuss with our client before hiring these experts and incurring any major expenses on their behalf.

 
Do I have a case?
This depends on the facts of your case, the witnesses, and the injuries you sustained. If you would like us to evaluate your case, call us or click on the “case evaluations” button above. We are available to review your case online or by telephone.

 
How much is my case worth?
If you have been injured due to the negligence of another, under the law you may be entitled to compensation for past and future out of pocket damages, including medical expenses, wage loss, and loss of earning capacity. In addition, you are entitled to reasonable and fair compensation for what the law calls “general damages.” General damages include such things as pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Assigning a dollar figure to general damages is not an exact science. Factors to be considered are the nature and the extent of the injury, the degree of pain and/or emotional suffering, the degree of disability, and the length of time and extent to which the injury will affect your life.

Our attorneys are experienced at evaluating cases and determining what they are worth. To have your case evaluated by one of our attorneys, call us or click on the “case evaluations” button above.

 
What happens after I sign up?
One of our goals is to make the process as easy as possible for you. After you sign up, we will immediately take action to preserve evidence and protect your interests from any insurance companies that may be involved.

Immediately after you sign up with us, we will send out letters to any insurance companies indicating that we represent you and that they must now talk to us if they want to talk to you. They will not be allowed to contact you directly and you will therefore be protected from their attempts to obtain recorded statements or obtain irrelevant private information about you and your medical history.

We will also immediately take any steps necessary to preserve evidence in your case from important key witnesses. Doing this early is very important because witnesses may forget significant facts, move, or pass away. Obtaining and preserving evidence early can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful result in a case.
Once the facts of the accident and the nature and extent of your injuries and future damages are thoroughly known to us, we will typically put together what is called a “demand package” and present it to the at-fault party’s insurance company. A demand package is an extensive summary of the evidence that we will present at trial. It includes a summary of the facts of the accident, an analysis of the applicable law, a summary of all past and future out of pocket losses you have incurred, and an analysis of all past and future damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, and disfigurement. Our analysis will be supported by important exhibits including relevant medical records, medical bills, witness statements, and expert opinions. The conclusion of the demand package is an offer for settlement for an amount that you and your attorneys will have agreed to in advance based on the factors in your case.

A thoroughly prepared demand package is the best way to avoid litigation. In fact, approximately 90% of all of our cases settle at this stage, before a lawsuit is ever filed. For those cases where it is necessary to file suit in order to obtain a just result for our clients, the next step is to file a lawsuit.

 
How does the litigation process work?
Litigation begins when the case is filed and defendants are served with a summons and complaint. A complaint is a legal document that summarizes the plaintiff’s (injured person’s) claims against the defendants. Each defendant is then required to file an Answer to the Complaint, wherein the defendant admits or denies the facts alleged in the Complaint.

The next step in the litigation process is called “discovery”. During discovery, both sides use formal Court procedures to obtain information from each other. These procedures include written questions, or interrogatories. Witnesses may also be placed under oath and asked questions before a Court Reporter, who transcribes the interview in what is called a “deposition”.

After both sides have completed their discovery, they are ready to try their case before a jury. Prior to doing this, however, the parties typically engage in a formal attempt to settle the case, called mediation. We find that if a case is well prepared, most cases will settle at this stage without the necessity of proceeding to trial.

 
Should I talk to the at-fault party’s insurance company?
We recommend that you not speak to the at-fault party’s insurance company unless you have first spoken to an attorney. Even if these insurance companies have advertised themselves on TV as being virtuous and kind, and even if the person on the phone sounds friendly, beware. Insurance companies make more money the less they pay in claims. These friendly adjusters are well-trained investigators seeking to obtain information that may be damaging to your case.

Unfortunately, these adjusters often misrepresent the truth and the law to unsuspecting accident victims. One common misrepresentation is that you have to give a recorded statement to them. This is false. It is not recommended that you give any recorded statement without the presence of an attorney.

Another common misrepresentation made by insurance adjusters is that you have to sign a release allowing them to obtain your medical records. While it is true that any insurance company will need to review relevant medical records in order to evaluate your injuries, it is not true that the insurance company is entitled to review irrelevant private medical records. Typically, the release the insurance company will try to get you to sign is overly broad and authorizes them to invade your privacy. Experienced attorneys in our office will know what the insurance company is and is not entitled to, and can modify any release to protect your right to privacy.

Another practice frequently employed by insurance companies is the premature offer of settlement. The adjuster will portray this ploy as providing excellent and prompt customer service, and a willingness to compensate you for your injuries. What is in fact happening is that the adjuster is trying to resolve your case for a small amount and have you sign away your rights before you are fully aware of the nature and extent of your injuries and before you are aware of what you are entitled to under the law.

Beware of any offer of settlement made prior to the completion of your medical treatment. Insurance companies know that a certain percentage of injuries do not fully resolve and that a certain percentage of people end up with permanent problems, sometimes requiring surgery and sometimes preventing them from returning to work. If you settle your case early for an amount you think is reasonable, and later learn that your injuries were worse than you expected, you will not be able to come back to the insurance company for more money. That is why it is never a good idea to settle before you have all the facts about your injuries, an opinion from your doctor about what the future will hold for you, and discussed your case with an experienced attorney.
 
 

Client Spotlights

 
 

Top Settlements

 
$4.5 Million dollar trial damage award in car accident case. - $3.1 Million dollar policy limits settlement for brain injured man, the highest settlement ever in the history of Mason County. - $2.8 Million dollar settlement in car accident case. - $800,000 settlement in car accident case. - $640,000 settlement for shoulder injury of construction worker, one of the highest settlements in the history of Washington for a shoulder injury. - $450,000 settlement in car accident case, settlement amount was nine times the final offer given to client's prior attorney.