MOBILE, Ala., Aug. 19, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — When someone gets hurt through no fault of their own, it can be difficult to decide whether they need to hire a lawyer, and if so, which lawyer to choose. Attorney Russ Copeland of Hedge Copeland in Mobile, AL recently shared some insights about what injured individuals should know before hiring a personal injury lawyer:
Question: How does an injured person know if they should take the time to talk to a personal injury lawyer?
Russ: Anyone who suffers a personal injury should talk to a lawyer, and here’s why: it all comes down to money. If you talk to a lawyer about your injury, the consultation is free and all it’s going to cost you is a little bit of your time. That’s the beauty of what I do. We don’t bill our clients by the hour – I only get paid if I’m successful for my clients. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to do that – whether it’s 10 hours or 250 hours – I put whatever amount of time I need into it to get it done. And of course, this includes initially meeting with the client to find out if they have a case. The bottom line is that there is no good reason NOT to meet with a lawyer to at least find out more about your case and what options you have.
Question: When would it be appropriate to hire a personal injury attorney as opposed to handling the claim on their own?
Russ: Every case is different, and not everyone’s case is worth a significant amount of money. For example, let’s say you got hurt and went to the chiropractor a couple of times and now you are feeling better. If the insurance company is already giving you a decent offer, I probably won’t be able to do any better for you.
If I think you are already getting a fair settlement, I’m not going to get involved in a case like that. I would tell you that you are better off just wrapping it up on your own. Still, it never hurts to talk to a lawyer first. So, pick up the phone and call me. Even if you want to handle it yourself, before you sign anything, tell me what they are offering, and if I think it’s fair, I’ll tell you.
All of that said, nine times out of 10, you’re going to need a lawyer involved. If you have any type of significant injury, you are not likely to get the compensation you are entitled to trying to do it by yourself. There are also complicating factors that you might have to deal with, and there are certain things that you might not be aware of that a lawyer who handles these kinds of cases is going to know. You want to make sure to be tapped into all the potential coverage that’s out there, all the theories that might be out there, and that’s where a lawyer’s expertise is invaluable.
Also, with more serious injuries, it’s a lot less likely that you will get a fair offer. If an insurance company knows that they are going to lose on liability, for example, then they will nitpick about the seriousness of your injuries, what really caused them, etc. In fact, we typically don’t like to deal too much with insurance adjusters in cases like these. Oftentimes, it is better to file that lawsuit so we can deal with a lawyer on the other side who will accurately evaluate the case and let the insurer know that they have a problem.
Question: Is it better to work with a larger firm that would presumably have more resources, or a smaller firm that would provide more personalized service and attention?
Russ: There is a common theme with some of the larger «billboard» firms – something like «one call is all» or «we’ll get you a check fast». They know that the attitude of our society is that we want it and we want it NOW. And that can happen, you can get a quick settlement. But typically, when that happens, you are going to end up settling for something that is a lot lower than what your case is really worth.
For example, you might think it’s great if you are settling your case for $50k and getting a check right then and there. The problem is that your case might really be worth $250k, and that’s the risk you run when you deal with a larger firm that always settles their cases.
That type of situation is not going to happen at our shop. Because we don’t deal with that kind of volume, you aren’t going to get lost in the shuffle with us. We approach things a little differently at our firm. Around here, you get mine or Robert’s card, which not only has our email address on it, but also our personal cell phone number. Our clients have access to us whenever they have questions or concerns, and we also have a firm app that our clients can use to get legal assistance 24 hours a day.
There are only two of us, but technology is a wonderful thing for a small firm like ours – it is a great equalizer. We go up against firms all the time that have 200 or 300 lawyers, and we don’t miss a beat. We sue big companies all the time, and we have no problem funding our cases and holding well-funded adversaries like these accountable.
There are no shortfalls when it comes to working with our firm. Resources are not a problem, and they should never be a determining factor in choosing which lawyer you want to go with. The lawyer you choose should be competent, and it should be someone you feel comfortable working with, and you have that relationship with. And I’m confident there, because Robert and I have very good reputations. We’ve been doing this a long time, and we do it the right way.
Question: What would be some of the differences in approach between an attorney who specializes in personal injury law vs. a generalist that does several practice areas? Would you say an injured person would be better off with one or the other?
Russ: If it’s a simple case without a lot of complicating factors, most lawyers could probably walk you through that without a lot of problems. But with many types of cases – premises liability, product liability, and medical malpractice as examples – there are going to be complex issues that will make the case a lot harder, and you will benefit a lot more by going with someone who specializes in it.
It’s usually best to go with a specialist who is equipped to handle these types of issues, but that also depends on the area you are in. In smaller towns and more rural areas, for example, you’re going to find lawyers who do a little bit of everything. And they do a little bit of everything because this is what the community calls for, and this is what works best in their area. We are in a little larger area here in Mobile, so that gives us more of an opportunity to specialize.
I think when you specialize, you gain extra knowledge and extra experience, and this is always beneficial to your client. I would also add that one of the great things about the legal community is that lawyers can refer cases they are not as comfortable with to other lawyers who specialize in that particular area and still share in the compensation. This encourages lawyers to get the clients to the right person to handle the case so the client can be taking care of.
Question: How important is trial experience? What concerns, if any, would you have about a firm that settles every case and never goes to trial?
Russ: The insurance company for the other side knows more about your lawyer than you do. And by that, I mean they know how many cases they have tried, how many they settle, etc. It’s as simple as this – if they know that Lawyer X settles all of his cases and never takes any of them to trial, even though the insurance company might know that the case is worth $100k, they are never going to pay them that, because they don’t have to. They know that at the end of the day, they are going to settle that case. So, maybe they offer them $50k for the case and close them out. I don’t fault the insurance companies for having this mindset. That’s just business.
Now, let’s be clear. Most civil disputes do not make it to trial. But the problem is that if they know you have never tried a case and you’re never going to file a lawsuit, then you won’t be taken seriously, and you’ll never get full value for your claim. In order for the insurance company to take you seriously, they have to know that you are ready to take it to trial. And that’s what Robert and I actually like to do.
Collectively, we have tried hundreds of cases, and we have fun doing it. Now this is not to say that we will automatically try a case if we receive a fair settlement offer before the litigation starts, but just our reputation with the insurance companies tells them that we are serious about pursuing full damages at trial when necessary. This motivates the defendant to give you fair value, because they know they have to or else they are going to be in court. This is why the importance of working with a lawyer that has tried lots of cases in the past and is not afraid to go to trial cannot be understated.
About Hedge Copeland
Hedge Copeland is a Mobile personal injury firm with over 50 years of combined experience serving clients in Alabama and Mississippi. The firm has a strong reputation for taking cases to trial, and they have secured numerous seven-figure settlements on behalf of clients. They have also received several awards and recognitions from their peers for their exceptional work and their commitment to recovering maximum compensation for injured individuals.
For more information about Hedge Copeland, go to https://www.hedgecopeland.com/
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