I was involved in an automobile accident that injured both my son and myself which totaled my car and has cost me many dollars for medical attention. The insurance company of the other driver offered a settlement of $1,587.20 which it rejected. The auto accident occurred in Oct. 2009. My lawyer has advised that he will not move forward with my case until I have paid him has the cost of filing the suit. Please advise, thank you
Well, if the case hasn't been filed then perhaps you need to find a another lawyer.
I will say, a few things strike me here. Saying a car is "totaled" doesn't mean much unless the actual "damage" to the car was huge, i.e. big impact and big visible crush damage. For example, a beat up 1998 car with 150,000 miles can be "totaled" with only $500 bumper damage. That's because the value of the car is less than the cost of repairs.
The nature of your injuries drive the value of the case. If you racked up big bills for small injuries, i.e. strain/sprain, "whiplash," etc., then don't expect a big check to come your way. Big bills don't mean big settlements. Only big injuries = big settlements.
Lawsuits cost money. Your attorney may be reluctant to file a lawsuit because your claim just might not warrant one. If your case is worth a few grand, for example, filing the lawsuit will only reduce what you put in your pocket (if anything).
Talk it out with your lawyer. If that doesn't work, then consult another one and be honest about the realities of your case and injuries.
Whether you have to pay the case costs associated with pursuing your case will depend upon whatever agreeement you have with your attorney. In my experience handling personal injury cases in Florida for almost 20 years, MOST firms that primarly handle personal injury cases will front case costs, and seek to recover them once a recovery is made from the at-fault party. However, there is not REQUIREMENT that a law firm do things this way. I would look at the Authority to Represent that you signed with your attorney's office and see what it says about how case costs will be handled.
No, it is not common. Most attorneys who handle injury cases, my firm included, advance filing fees as a general practice and recoup the filing fee as part of the costs taken out of any recovery. This suggests that the attorney or firm likely doesn't have the cash reserves necessary to advance the ~$400 filing fee to file a negligence lawsuit.
Whether you cough up the filing fee or hire a new lawyer, you need to move forward quickly, as your statute of limitations for an October 2009 car accident will expire in October 2013.
If however, your retention agreement ("Authority to Represent and Contingency Fee Agreement") indicates that you are to some extent responsible for costs, then you have agreed to this. Your attorney should have discussed this when you hired the attorney. The Statement of Client's Rights your attorney was supposed to also give you also requires that you discuss this when you retain the attorney.
Bear in mind however, that if you fire your attorney, they will likely assert a lien for the work they have done, which (depending on the amount of work they've actually done) could present a problem if you sought a new attorney.
There are different laws that govern different states. Most attorneys I know require a retainer up front. however some personal injury attorneys require nothing up front so you really need to find out what the laws are that govern this in your state and move forward with that knowledge.
It sounds like the attorney may not think the case is worth much money. If they only offered $1,587.20, they do not take the injuries very serious. The attorney may be making sure he at least does not get stuck with a lot of costs for a small case. Filing fees are probably 1/3 of what they offered you.
No, it is not common , but the risk your lawyer may see in filing a lawsuit in your case may warrant you being responsible for at least the initial costs. Check the contract you signed at the beginning of your case to check to see if there was a provision that you pay court costs in the event of a lawsuit. Be clear with your lawyer about moving forward and if there are other costs you would be responsible for. Whatever you do, don't wait, as it appears the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit in your case expires in October 2013 (there is a four-year statute of limitations from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit).
Discuss your concerns with your lawyer. If you are not satisfied with his/her answer, then you are allowed to hire a different lawyer. Also, reread the contract that you signed with your lawyer; there may be a clause in it that entitles him/her to reasonable attorney fees for the work that he/she completed on your case. Regardless of what you decide, watch your STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS.
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