Tell us why we need a lawyer.
August 1, 2015 12:46 AM   Subscribe

Boyfriend was hit by a car while bicycling. Tell us about getting a lawyer.

Boyfriend was hit by a car while riding his bike in California. It seems like a fairly cut and dry situation (driver was clearly at fault, plenty of witnesses, police report cites driver as being at fault). Boyfriend has broken his arm, which will require at least two surgeries, possibly three, and may result in permanent nerve damage in his dominant hand. Additionally, boyfriend’s main form of transportation is cycling, which he will not be able to do for many months. The broken arm may impact his work, which requires use of his hands. Finally, his very nice bike was damaged.

We have never been in a situation which required negotiating with insurance companies. Based on previous questions, I am strongly in favor of getting a lawyer. Boyfriend is more on the fence. He is wary of losing potential settlement money to lawyer’s fees, and feels like he may be able to negotiate a similar settlement directly with the insurance company. I know, you are not our lawyer. But can you give some insight as to benefits or drawbacks to getting a lawyer? What does this process look like? What will a lawyer do for us that we could not do on our own?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
A lawyer will do all this paperwork, including negotiation, for payment for all the bills, everything goes to that guy's insurance, so you and victim don't have to worry about anything.

The "catch" is lawyer will want 30% of whatever's paid out, but obviously he's going to make sure there's plenty to cover your bills first, THEN his, and if he can get them to pay pain and suffering, he gets 30% too.

I know "personal injury lawyer" sounds almost blood-sucking ambulance chasing, blah blah blah, but yes, you should get one.

Their insurance company would be EAGER to settle with you because you don't know what ELSE may need to be covered. What if you signed away rights to future payment in case you found there's more damage than anticipated? And things like that.

Remember, if they have lawyers and you don't (and insurance companies have lawyers on retainer, in addition to adjusters) you would be at a disadvantage.

TL;DR -- yes, you need one. Don't go yellow pages though. Call the local bar association recommendation line, THEN check Yelp and Avvo reviews, and maybe even Angieslist (if he's on there).
posted by kschang at 1:00 AM on August 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Let me put it to you this way.....

Without a lawyer, your boyfriend will get a fraction of what he needs to come back from this accident. A fraction. PLUS, he will definitely be losing out on physical therapy and other treatments that will get him healed.

I know this from personal experience in California. Also, I appealed part of my insurance settlement not handled by my attorney because it was far less than I was due with the California State Insurance Board (or whatever that dept is called - this was 8 years ago) and lost. My attorney was in disbelief, they said my appeal docs were as good or better than they could have produced for me.

The system is so labyrinth. Get an accident attorney. Do you want to know why they have a bad reputation? Because when you have a good one, you get exact what the insurance company owes you. The insurance company lobby is HUGE and they exist, in part, to encourage folks to adopt the attitude that "suing" is socially wrong. That's how the industry makes exorbitant profits, by not paying out fully on medical claims.

Anyway, there's no way to navigate this without a lawyer on your side explaining things. It took 8 months for me because medical costs could not be paid before treatment was complete and I would sign off for the opposition's insurance company that I was fully healed. Your boyfriend may never be "whole" (a legal term) and he deserves pain and suffering (another legal term) lost wages - all of it.

How will he get that? He won't. But a lawyer will get him as close as possible.

If you're in LA, Memail. The folks I used were in Beverly Hills. They also advised me free of charge years later when my parked car was totaled and I need extra help drafting a letter with the right legal terms to get the claim fully covered.

I'm totally savvy with these things. But I know when I'm out of my depth. When our parked car was totaled my husband was unhappy when I delayed matters to pursue a conviction on the Hit n Run of our parked car (a store cam captured the accident) and pushed for the full amount owed us. Well, he was unhappy until we received the check covering all of our damages + loss of use (another legal term.)

Get a good lawyer. Ask friends. Read YELP reviews with a critical eye.

Your boyfriend has A LOT of medical procedures and rehab and loss of income in his future. Don't make it worse by opting out of getting great legal representation. Totally totally utterly not worth it. Ever.
posted by jbenben at 1:13 AM on August 1, 2015 [22 favorites]


There is zero chance that your boyfriend will be able to personally negotiate a settlement within the 30% margin a lawyer will cost. No way.

Look at it this way, by choosing to forgo legal representation, he's already marked himself as a naive fool before monetary discussions even start. You think the insurance lawyers won't price that in?
posted by ryanrs at 1:22 AM on August 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


And it's not just that a lawyer will be able to drive a harder bargain. There will be all kinds of things your boyfriend can do to irrevocably ruin his own case, and the insurance company will be using every trick in its very thick book to get him to do them. A (good) lawyer will have seen it all before.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:31 AM on August 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


IAAL, IANYBL, TINLA.

Nthing that your boyfriend should get a lawyer. It is not as simple as trading numbers back and forth with an insurance company. The reasons for this are beyond the purview of an internet post; suffice it to say it's likely to be quite a bit more complicated than he thinks.

As far as finding a lawyer, in my own experience, there is a very wide spectrum of quality with personal injury lawyers and I would think a lay person would have a hard time telling the difference between the ones who handle the case properly vs. the ones who will sit on the file, dodge calls, farm out trial work, and half-ass the negotiations (although even in this scenario it is likely to get a better outcome than going it alone). I tend to find that the best ones don't (need to) advertise - although this is not always the case and this is, again, just my observation from a totally different jurisdiction.

If it were me I would ask around for a referral, ideally from another lawyer. It might take some digging and some time on the phone but it will probably be worth it to find someone good.

Wishing your boyfriend a speedy recovery.
posted by AV at 4:47 AM on August 1, 2015


You can search the California State Bar for certified specialists. I'm also going to chime in that not only will the recovery achieved by an attorney likely exceed what your boyfriend would get on his own, even with the 1/3 contingency.
posted by mibo at 5:21 AM on August 1, 2015


When we were in this situation i asked a friend who is a traffic attorney who to call, and he referred me to the a local personal injury firm who ran the cheesiest radio ads. I never would have called that firm on my own, but my friend insisted bad advertising choices aside, they were the firm that we wanted.

He was right. And our case ended up pretty cut and dry, so the firm cut their fee to 25% since they really didn't have to do much.
posted by COD at 5:58 AM on August 1, 2015


I was hit by a truck while cycling. A woman on the next block was as well, and we both have lawyers but mine specializes in cyclists and the differences between what they "do for us" is considerable so get someone like mine. They could likely recommend someone in your area.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:50 AM on August 1, 2015


Reach out to the bike community for lawyers as well. Chicago has at least one that specializes in bike cases, maybe there's one in California.
posted by Bunglegirl at 7:56 AM on August 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ages and ages ago, a friend engaged a personal injury lawyer. After months (years?) of hassle and struggle, time in court, all sorts of back and forth, they ended up settling with the insurance company for a pittance, probably about what the original settlement would have been, except that the lawyer took a third.

Reach out to the bike community and find someone who's well spoken of. Lawyering-up is no guarantee of a payout.
posted by straw at 8:01 AM on August 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yes, definitely get a lawyer, and get one who specializes in or has experience in cycling collision cases. It will make a huge difference - if I ever get hit by a car in Chicago I'm absolutely calling up the one I know handles bike cases exclusively.
posted by misskaz at 8:20 AM on August 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


If this is his first experience with such insurance claims, look up 'subrogation'. Out of the total settlement 1/3 goes to the lawyer,1/3 to you, and 1/3 is subrogated back to insurance co. to pay medical bills. A good lawyer will know how to negotiate the medical 1/3 down and the total up... totally worth it.
posted by TDIpod at 8:28 AM on August 1, 2015


What will a lawyer do for us that we could not do on our own?

A lawyer can get the case ready for trial, both against the insurance company and against the insured for damages that exceed the insurance policy limit. You can learn more about your options by interviewing attorneys directly, and general information and collected AskMes about finding a lawyer are available at the MeFi Wiki Get a lawyer page. At minimum, a lawyer can tell you how much time there is to file a court case before all of the claims are lost - depending on the circumstances of the case, there may be a short statute of limitations that requires relatively fast legal action.
posted by Little Dawn at 8:30 AM on August 1, 2015


I have been hit by a car while riding. Your boyfriend should get a lawyer.

The insurance company's first (and second, and third…) offer will stink. In my case, the first offer would have actually left me with considerable out of pocket expenses. The lawyer will be able to do the research on equivalent cases and figure out how much they can realistically get out of the insurance company, at what point they should pursue legal action (at which point you really do need a lawyer anyhow), all that. Even allowing for the 30% the lawyers took, I came away with more money.

Your boyfriend shouldn't talk to the driver's insurance company at all (although I'm guessing they've already called). It should all go through lawyers.

Feel free to e-mail me if you want to follow up.
posted by adamrice at 8:57 AM on August 1, 2015


Was the driver criminally charged? If so, your boyfriend has crime victim rights that apply. Learn more here: https://oag.ca.gov/victimservices/content/bill_of_rights . Memail me if you want to talk about more specific referrals/info in the area of crime victims' rights.
posted by Tiye at 10:04 AM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I should have included - identifying other areas of law that apply to your situation (like crime victim rights) is another thing a lawyer can do for you that you probably would not know on your own.
posted by Tiye at 10:08 AM on August 1, 2015


There are lawyers who specialize in exactly this. Nth-ing that they can negotiate him more than he'd otherwise get. Without a lawyer, he just looks defenseless, and they'll take him less seriously.

Even if your boyfriend is like "the money doesn't matter that much to me," please do it so that insurance companies, drivers, etc. do more to take cyclists' safety seriously and keep others from going through this kind of pain.
posted by salvia at 10:13 AM on August 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Your boyfriend is wrong -- he needs a lawyer. This happened to a loved one of mine who can't go back to work and is now unable to do most physical activities. Insurance companies want to pay the bare minimum. My loved one's life has been ruined by this -- she is in pain all the time and can barely walk, and she will never be able to sit at a desk and work in an office ever again -- and yet the opposing side is questioning everything, fighting over every medical bill and accusing her of faking it. She's lost so many wages due to what happened and it's cost her so much. The only recourse is lawyering up. Your situation sounds less dire, but I doubt your boyfriend will get everything he is entitled to without a lawyer.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:49 PM on August 1, 2015


My husband was in a bad bike accident a few years back and the LA-based mefites were a dream team for helping out with shopping, cleaning, transit, etc.. You never realize how much stuff you do with your arm until you can't anymore. If you happen to be in LA too and need any help, please memail me or klangklangston-- we want to pay it forward. (Search MetaTalk for his username to see some posts to verify my story.)

As for lawyers-- his accident was bike v. bad personal choice so there was no car involved. But whenever we mentioned that a bike was involved, everyone from the hospital & outpatient docs office were really surprised that we didn't have a lawyer to whom we wanted medical records sent. So I gather that lawyers & bike accidents are pretty common bedfellows, so it may be a better move to get one.
posted by holyrood at 1:06 PM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Great words above. I know it's a confusing time and you feel like you need to make a decision one way out the other pretty quickly - that is how I felt, and it was hard on top of the injuries and all - and having gone through it I can reiterate: no-brainer, definitely lawyer. Find the local cycling lawyer, and call. Best wishes healing.
posted by Dashy at 2:33 PM on August 1, 2015


Talk to a local cycling advocacy group for lawyer recommendations. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is a decent place to start. They have a list of law firms who support their org (which is different than a recommendation though).
posted by ryanrs at 4:24 PM on August 1, 2015


You could also see if Ray Thomas (portland oregon bike lawyer association) has any recommendations. They're always doing outreach here in Portland, I bet they'd be happy to refer you to someone if they know of anyone in your area.
posted by aniola at 8:16 PM on August 1, 2015


I am a paralegal who used to work for a personal injury law firm.

This is a DREAM case for any attorney. You should easily be able to have 5 or 6 attorneys in your town fight over you.

They will in all likelihood do a good job on your case because it's so winnable and they'll want their cut.
posted by quincunx at 8:43 PM on August 1, 2015


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