If you know that the policy limits are $15,000.00, should you just go ahead and take the case to small claims without an attorney. Most attorneys are interested in cases involving low policy limits, so maybe I should just settle for trying for 10,000 in small claims, and forget trying to go up against an attorney by myself. Or, are there attorneys who will work for you as a bulk attorney?
Even if you go to small claims court and win, you may end up going against an attorney eventually. The small claims rules allow for attorney representation on an appeal from the small claims judgment. When I used to practice insurance defense, the insurance company would instruct us to appeal small claims judgments quite often.
Without completely understanding what you mean by "bulk attorney," let me try to answer your question...
First, let's address some of the reasons why an attorney might decline representation -
There are a number of factors for an attorney to consider prior to accepting a case for legal representation. In a typical car accident case involving a simple cause of action for negligence, the attorney must make sure that there are facts/evidence to establish a claim (i.e. duty, breach, causation, damages). If there aren't facts/evidence for even one of these elements, then this would raise a red flag and could result in an attorney declining your case.
Beyond that, there's also the issue of insurance coverage as you've referenced in your question. Sometimes a lack of insurance coverage could be a reason to decline representation. But, a lack of coverage is relative to case value:
Case A: a case valued at $100,000 with $15,000 in insurance coverage is seriously deficient.
Case B: a case valued at $20,000 with $15,000 in insurance coverage is only slightly deficient.
An attorney is more likely to handle Case B than Case A. So, it depends on the underlying facts of your case to really determine what level of insurance coverage deficiency we're talking about.
While industry standard for personal injury cases operates on a contingency fee (i.e. attorney's fee is based on a percentage of the recovery), there may be an attorney out there that's willing to work on a fixed fee. A fixed fee is an agreed-upon flat rate that you pay regardless of the outcome of the case.
This fixed/flat fee could alleviate your concerns regarding the attorney "eating up" a considerable portion of the recovery. The challenge is finding an attorney willing to do so and arriving at a reasonable fee that an attorney would be willing to work with.
Another alternative is to consider limited scope representation. This is where the attorney's task(s) are something less than complete handling of your case. This would give you more leeway to discuss a lower flat fee. What the attorney is not tasked with, you are responsible to handle on your own.
I hope this response helps address some of your lingering questions. Best of luck to you!
Studies have found that claimants with an attorney receive much higher settlements when an attorney is retained - as in 3-4 times higher. http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/hiring-an-.... Consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction to receive maximum compensation.
Many personal injury attorneys will handle cases with minimum policy limits. You are likely to get a better result if competent counsel is handling your case than if you attempt to take on an insurance company by yourself.
Just because the adjuster comes to small claims court alone doesn't mean there isn't a lawyer back in the home office providing legal advice. The insurance company is getting quality legal advice; you should too.
Most lawyers will offer a free initial consultation. At least avail yourself of the information that will be provided in that meeting before you decide whether to hire a lawyer.
Only an attorney can determine if your recovery is only $15k. For instance, unless you are legally trained, you do not know whether you can sue your own insurance Uninsured/Underinsured policy. Or whether the defendant has an excess liability policy or whether he was on his way to work, or on a company car in the course of business, or whether the defendant is a minor living at his parents home and that might open another can of worms. Do you still want to go to small claims court? Best of luck.
The first thing to keep in mind is that at present time in California you are limited to a recovery of $7,500 in small claims court for claims of bodily injury arising from a car accident, if the Defendant is insured and the insured's policy includes a duty to defend, which in most cases it does. Therefore, by bring the case in small claims court you will be limiting your potential recovery for your bodily injury to $7,500.
An attorney can help you recover more than the $7,500 you are limited to in small claims court and can potentially help you recover in excess of the other driver's $15,000 policy limits. An attorney will know what to look for to determine if there are additional avenues through which to pursue compensation for your injuries to avoid leaving money on the table.
Keep in mind that it is possible to settle your claim without filing a lawsuit and you can try to negotiate directly with the insurance company. However, insurance companies are always looking for a reason not to pay you, so communicating directly with the insurance company, without the assistance of a lawyer, may have pitfalls.
It is worth consulting with an attorney before you move forward. Most attorneys will provide a free consultation which could help you determine if hiring a lawyer is right for you.
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