There are several questions that I am frequently asked as a personal injury attorney. The most common question is whether a client’s case will be tried or settled. Contrary to what we see on TV, most cases settle before trial. However, even if the case is settled, a lawsuit is often filed and discovery takes place. Your case could go almost to the point of a trial, but there are still many opportunities for settling prior to entering the courtroom. Mediation has become an often used tool and most litigators will consider it as an option. I have heard it said that cases which are prepared for trial are settled, while cases which are prepared for settling are tried. It is important to make sure your lawyer is fully prepared. As the client, you have the right to expect this.
The second most common question that I am asked is how long will the case take to resolve. The primary factor in answering this question is how long the injury will take to resolve. In worker’s compensation cases, the term maximum medical result is used. This refers to the time when we know what will be the client’s long-term prognosis. At that point, a doctor can make reasonable assessments and projections about the injury. This holds true for personal injury cases. They are ripe for resolution (settlement) only after a firm prognosis can be made.
Another question is whether a personal injury attorney will charge on a contingent basis or on an hourly basis. At Feinberg & Alban P.C., we take cases only on a contingent fee basis. This benefits the client because he/she is not expected to pay for the attorney’s time. Additionally, at my firm, we do not expect expenses to be reimbursed as they are incurred. We will pay for those expenses and only upon resolving the case, we will get our fee and be reimbursed for the expenses. We provide you a listing of the expenses that have occurred. They must be reasonable by the terms of the Contingent Fee Agreement. In the very few cases in which there has not been a recovery, we will not ask the client for reimbursement of those expenses.
Clients often ask if their compensation is going to be taxed. In the Internal Revenue Code’s definition of income, personal injury awards and settlements are excluded. Personal injury cases are not taxable, neither by the federal government nor the state. Congress has carved out a few exceptions for some civil cases – mainly in the field of wrongful termination – but settlements or awards for personal injury are not taxable nor should anyone tell you otherwise. As I have written before, this helpful fact has eluded some seasoned attorneys.
Another question is whether a client will get his/her money in one lump sum or if the recovery is to be paid out over time. In some cases, the awards are paid out over time, in what is known as a structured settlement. That takes the form of an annuity payment. I will visit the issue of structured settlements in far more detail in a later blog.
These are some of the most common questions. But, as always, remember that any question deserves a response.
The attorneys serve the entire state of Massachusetts in addition to affiliating with lawyers in other states to handle cases outside of Massachusetts.
Boston Attorneys Win Highest Injury Verdict in Massachusetts in 2011 & 2012.