Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Five Things You Should Know About Car Accident Settlement Agreements

A settlement agreement is an agreement between you and the at-fault driver’s insurance company to accept a certain amount of money in full satisfaction of your claim. The decision about whether or not to accept a pending settlement offer and enter into a settlement agreement is a very personal one. The knowledgeable Clearwater car accident lawyers at Dolman Law Group can help you decide whether or not you should accept a settlement offer and enter into a binding settlement agreement, as opposed to litigating your case or taking it to trial.

In Order to Settle a Car Accident Case, You will be Asked to Sign a Release of all Claims

Once you decide to accept a pending settlement offer, the at-fault party’s insurance company will typically ask you to sign a release of all claims. By signing a release contract, you affirm that you will not file another claim or lawsuit arising out of the same car accident. Moreover, you agree that your personal injury case will be closed and that you will not be proceeding forward to trial.

Negotiating a Favorable Settlement Agreement Can Take a Long Time

In order to be able to successfully negotiate a settlement in a car accident case, your lawyer will first need to obtain copies of all of your medical records and bills from the health care providers who treated you following your accident. Once all of the medical records and bills have been received, your attorney can make an initial settlement demand – sometimes for the at-fault party’s insurance policy limits.

Once the insurance company’s adjuster reviews the settlement demand package, the adjuster may place an initial settlement offer on the table. These initial settlement offers are usually very low and are far less than what your personal injury case is actually worth. The main purpose of an initial settlement offer is to get the ball rolling. In order to get a better offer on the table, your attorney may need to file a lawsuit and begin the litigation process. However, just because a legal complaint is filed with the court does not necessarily mean that your case will proceed all the way to trial. In fact, a car accident case can be settled right up until the day of trial – and sometimes even on the day of trial.

The Gross Settlement Award is not what You Will Actually be Able to Pocket

If you decide to settle your case for a certain amount of money, that amount is the gross recovery in your case – before attorney’s fees and outstanding medical bills are subtracted. The attorney’s fee will come out of your recovery based upon the contingency fee agreement which you signed at the beginning of your case. Moreover, any outstanding medical or physical therapy bills will need to be satisfied from your gross settlement award. If your private health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid paid for some or all of your medical treatment, those entities can assert a lien against a portion of your settlement. Your car accident attorney will be able to let you know your approximate net recovery before you decide to settle so that you can make an informed decision.

Personal Injury Lawyers are Paid on a Contingency Fee Basis

A contingency fee to your attorney is paid out of the gross settlement proceeds in a personal injury car accident case. Fortunately, under a contingency fee arrangement, you need not worry about paying your attorney an hourly fee or making payments while your case is being litigated through the court system.

Prior to beginning representation in a case, your attorney will ask you to sign a contingency fee agreement – or CFA. This agreement will establish the percentage fee amount that will be subtracted from the gross settlement that you recover at the end of your case. Prior to signing this agreement, you should make sure that you understand everything that is contained in it. If you have any questions about the contents of the agreement, you should contact your attorney.

The Amount of the Contingency Fee Depends upon a Variety of Factors

The amount (or percentage) of a personal injury attorney’s contingency fee depends largely upon several factors, including the following:

  • The complexity of the car accident personal injury case
  • The skill and experience of the attorney handling the case
  • The nature and extent of your personal injuries and damages
  • The need to file a lawsuit and litigate your case

Many lawyers will charge a 1/3 (or 33 1/3% contingency fee) if your personal injury case settles before a lawsuit is filed. However, once a lawsuit is filed, a 40% contingency fee may be charged. The Florida Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit personal injury lawyers from charging an unreasonable or excessive contingency fee in a case. In addition to the attorney’s fee, you may also have to pay back any file expenses your attorney incurred for obtaining medical records and bills from healthcare providers, deposition transcript costs, etc. Prior to accepting a pending settlement offer, your attorney will be able to let you know the exact amount of his or her fee and will also be able to let you know how much money you will net if you decide to accept the pending settlement offer in your case.

Contact a Knowledgeable Clearwater Car Accident Lawyer Today for a Free Initial Consultation and Case Evaluation

The knowledgeable car accident lawyers at Dolman Law Group can make a recommendation about whether or not you should enter into a binding settlement agreement in your case. If you have sustained personal injuries and damages as a result of someone else’s negligence, our attorneys will also work with you to craft a fee agreement that is workable for everyone involved. Our experienced attorneys will take the time to address all of your legal questions and concerns about settlement and litigation. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a Clearwater car accident lawyer, please call us or contact us online today.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756

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