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What are the usual/average percentage fees? How do I know I'm choosing the right lawyer?

Posted on January 24, 2017 at 3:10 PM

We responded to a question on AVVO.com regarding choosing an attorney, and attorney's fees. See our response below. Choosing the right attorney is an important decision. Here is the question, and some tips for choosing the right attorney for your case. We hope anyone looking for representation finds our blog helpful.

Q: I am looking for a lawyer in the Atlanta area. Many lawyers in that area have great reviews, and all they want is for me to sign a contract. I was in a car accident in Atlanta on 75 heading southbound, traffic was at a complete halt, a man hit the rear end of my 2005 Ford F-150 going 70 mph. The man at fault has insurance, but it seems they are trying to push me around. So how do I choose the best lawyer for me?

A: First, you are most likely being pushed around by the at-fault's insurance company. Keep in mind that they represent their insured, and their goal is to pay you as little as possible. I also recommend that you do not speak with them about your bodily injury, or give any statements. This is especially true when it comes to having your statement recorded. or signing something which may bind you or result in you not receiving a fair settlement or award. I always recommend speaking with an experienced PI attorney, and making sure you understand your rights and the deadlines associated with making a claim before moving forward, or before too much time passes. Missed deadlines can result in no recovery as well. With that said, when looking for an attorney, read their reviews from former and existing clients on Avvo, and other sites. Check out their website. Look at their disciplinary history on the State Bar website. Last, but not least, interview them and their case manager either over the phone or in person. You should feel comfortable while talking with him or her that he or she is qualified, experienced, and understands the law. The case manager is also important, as they will be managing your case and your point of contact on administrative matters. As far as a fee, industry standard is generally between 1/3 of the total settlement recovery and 40% if a lawsuit becomes necessary. Sometimes that can vary, but beware of attorney's who charge very discounted rates, as he or she may not be as qualified or may have lots of cases that aren't properly managed.

An injury attorney generally won't charge you unless you recover a settlement or award. You shouldn't owe any upfront fees or costs. The attorney's fees and costs aren't paid until the case is settled or an award is received. Read the fee contract carefully, and make sure the fee and cost structure is clear and you are agreeable to the terms. Ask questions, and don't sign until you are comfortable doing so. An attorney shouldn't and ethically can't act on your behalf until he or she is retained, and the fee and representation contract is signed.

Hope this helps. Good luck, and hope you are well on your way to recovery. --Stefanie

Any answers on this site are for informational purposes, and should not be construed as legal advice. Answers are for general purposes and do not establish an attorney-client relationship. Answers are not intended nor are they legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such.

Motorcycle Fatalities Declining

Posted on February 24, 2016 at 11:50 AM

According to the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety:

"A total of 4,295 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2014. Motorcyclist deaths had been declining since the early 1980s but began to increase in 1998 and continued to increase through 2008. Motorcyclist deaths decreased by 16 percent in 2009 compared with 2008 and increased slightly in 2010, 2011, and 2012 before declining in 2013 and 2014. Motorcycle deaths accounted for 13 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2014 and were more than double the number of motorcyclist deaths in 1997."

The IIFHS cites the main reasons for the recent decrease as helmet use and anti-lock brakes. This is interesting, and good news, particularly with the number of motorcycles on the road continuing to increase. Even so, riding is nonetheless inherently dangerous. "Motorcycles are less stable and less visible than cars and often have high performance capabilities. When motorcycles crash, their riders lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle, so they're more likely to be injured or killed. The federal government estimates that per mile traveled in 2013, the number of deaths on motorcycles was over 26 times the number in cars."

For more information and facts, and interesting statistics regarding motorcycle safety and riders, visit http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/motorcycles/fatalityfacts/motorcycles/2014.

As always, ride safe!

Stefanie

Question From Lead Car Driver In Three Car Accident

Posted on October 31, 2015 at 12:45 AM

AnswersPowered by Avvo.com

Q: I was in a 3 car collision. I was the lead car of 3.: The last car pushed the second car into my vehicle. I and the second car was already sitting still waiting on another accident to clear. The last car was the only one to receive a violation. As far as responsibility I am guessing it all falls on last car who caused the accident. Including the pain and suffering?

A: Stefanie's answer: Sorry to hear you were involved in an accident. While receiving a citation is an indication of liability, it is not the only factor to consider. However based upon what you described it sounds like the third car would be mostly at fault. I say mostly just in case the middle car did something wrong, like being too close to you or didn't have proper brake lights for example. Often insurance falls short or someone could be uninsured, and there will likely be claims by you as well as the middle car. You both may have claims for bodily injury as well as property damage. I would recommend contacting an injury attorney as soon as possible. I would also recommend doing so prior to speaking with the insurance company. Hope this helps, and good luck!

Someone turned left in front of me while I was operating my motorcycle. I'm injured. My license was expired. What does this mean for my accident case?

Posted on October 30, 2015 at 12:50 AM

Q: While driving my motorcycle straight through a green light a driver from oncoming traffic turned left in front of me.: I am in Georgia. While driving my motorcycle straight through a green light a driver from oncoming traffic turned left in front of me and hit him. At impact it threw me off my motorcycle and I hit the ground and so did my bike. The other driver was cited for failure to yield right of way. My drivers license were valid but my motorcycle license were expired. Will this hurt me in any way since they were expired? I'm having trouble with the lady's insurance company now and the lady that hit me is also fighting her ticket and put in a not guilty plea today. She was clearly at fault and I even have video of her admitting fault and that she was not paying attention and didn't see me. My only worry is that she is trying to use the fact that my motorcycle license were expired. Will that effect any(thing)?

A: Stefanie's answer: Based on the facts indicated, the fact that your mc license was expired should have no bearing on your settlement or case. It sounds as though the other driver was clearly at fault. Do keep in mind that the insurance company would love to avoid paying you, so make sure you obtain the services of an experienced motorcycle injury attorney to ensure that your rights are protected. In addition, don't panic regarding the traffic citation or initial plea of the at fault driver. People in their situation will often plead not guilty at arraignment, but end up changing their plea at a later time or be found guilty by a Judge. Either way, that is a criminal charge, and while it has some impact on your civil case, the outcome of that case does not make or break your injury case. Hope that helps, and good luck!

I was t-boned by someone who ran a redlight, and I'm injured. How much is my auto accident case worth?

Posted on October 30, 2015 at 12:50 AM

Q: Got T-boned by a guy that ran a red light got a sprained back and totaled truck how much should I ask for in this caseI: The truck I was driving was my mother's I was on her insurance as a driver.

A: Stefanie's answer: Your question is commonly asked by those injured in accidents resulting from actions of a negligent at-fault driver. First, there is no set amount to assign to an injury case, as there are many factors which contribute to the monetary value of a claim. For example, medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of enjoyment of life, future treatment needs, and the extent of injuries all play a part in determining how much a person should expect to receive in settlement or award. Also, the amount of available liability insurance, in addition to medical payments coverage and uninsured motorist policies must be investigated so that all information is available in that regard. With that said, I suggest speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney, who can give you an idea of value. The attorney will need to gather a lot of information, and ask a lot of questions, before making this determination. I would not speak with the insurance company directly, nor would I give any sort of recorded statement. Always remember they represent the insured, not the person injured. Hope this helps, and good luck!

Understanding the Georgia Super Speeder Law

Posted on September 10, 2015 at 1:50 PM

Do you have a lead foot? We all speed at one time or another, well most of us anyway. If you were caught speeding, and have been issued a Uniform Traffic Citation in Georgia for speeding, you may qualify to be designated as a "Super Speeder" should you be convicted of the charge. Paying your "ticket," without appearing in front of the Judge, is the same as being convicted. This means extra penalties from the State, on top of the fines and fees you pay in the Court in which you were charged with speeding. As a part-time Municipal Court prosecutor, I prosecute speeding tickets which result in a "Super Speeder" designation. Here is what you need to know, if you think you have been charged with being a "Super Speeder."

Before you pay a ticket, discuss your case with the Court prosecutor. He or she may negotiate a deal with you involving a safety course, and in exchange reduce your speed below the Super Speeder designated limit. Each Court is different, however, but this is one possibility. I also recommend seeking the advice of an experienced criminal or traffic defense attorney, since he or she will be trained in the law and may provide defenses, explain penalties and the applicable laws, or may be able to negotiate a better deal with the prosecuting attorney.

Here is some information, courtesy of the DDS.

So, what is the "Super Speeder Law?"

Georgia's 'Super Speeder Law' defines a Super Speeder as a driver convicted of speeding at 75 mph or more on a two-lane road or at 85 mph and above on any road or highway in the State of Georgia.

In addition to the fines and fees paid to the jurisdiction where the speeding offense took place, a $200 Super Speeder state fee is to be paid by the convicted driver to the State. Failure to pay the Super Speeder fee within 120 days of official notice will result in the suspension of the offender's license or driving privileges. Payment of a $50 reinstatement fee in addition to the $200 Super Speeder fee will then be required to reinstate their license or driving privileges.

How will I be notified that I owe the Super Speeder fee?

If the DDS receives notification of your conviction for speeding at 75 mph or more on a two-lane road or highway, or at 85 mph and above on any road or highway in the State of Georgia, you will be notified by first class mail of the $200 Super Speeder fee. You will have 120 days from the date of the notice to pay the fee to DDS.

Will my license be suspended?

Failure to pay the Super Speeder fee to DDS within 120 days of the notice date will result in the suspension of your license, permit, or driving privilege in Georgia. If your license, permit, or driving privilege is suspended in Georgia due to non-payment of the Super Speeder fee, you must pay a $50 reinstatement fee in addition to the $200 Super Speeder fee in order to reinstate your license, permit, or driving privilege.

I am an out of state driver, How does this affect my driving privileges?

Out of state drivers are subject to the same requirements as Georgia drivers. If you do not pay the Super Speeder fee, the DDS will impose a suspension of your non-resident driving privilege in Georgia. The DDS will then report the suspension to your home state's licensing authority which would then decide to take additional action, if any.

Are additional points added to my record for being declared a Super Speeder or being suspended for non-payment of Super Speeder fees?

No.

Will a separate Super Speeder fee be required for each speeding conviction?

Yes, and if suspended, a separate $50 reinstatement fee will be required for non-payment of each individual Super Speeder fee.

What methods are available for reinstating a Super Speeder suspension?

Payment of Super Speeder fees and reinstatement fees can be made in-person, by mail, and through the DDS website.

Why didn't the Court collect the $200 Super Speeder fee when I paid my fine and other costs?

Under the provisions of the 'Super Speeder Law', the Department of Driver Services (DDS) is responsible for the administration and collection of the $200 Super Speeder fee. Payment of the Super Speeder fee can be made at the DDS website, by mail, or in-person at a DDS Customer Service Center. FMI visit the DDS website at http://www.dds.ga.gov/.

I've been injured in an accident that wasn't my fault. How much is my case worth?

Posted on August 12, 2015 at 11:15 AM

Georgia law allows recovery when a driver or passenger, or even a bicycle rider, pedestrian, boater, or other third party, is injured as a result of another person's negligent act or omission. You may be compensated, for example, for medical bills and expenses, pain and suffering, future treatment needs, lost wages, and property damage, just to name a few.

Georgia law also allows for monetary recovery by an injured party, even if they were partially at fault in the accident. The amount of compensation received, however, depends upon how much insurance is available, as well as other monetary sources.

An experienced and knowledgeable injury attorney can analyze all available insurance and monetary sources, and should understand the law on how to obtain other sources of compensation and insurance. It is possible under certain circumstances to utilize the insurance policy of others who had nothing to do with the accident, and stack together multiple policies; an experienced attorney will be able to explain what is available, and maximize your recovery.

The actual value of your case, or how much money you can expect to recover after you are injured in an accident, depends on many factors. For example; the severity and type of injury, amount of medical expenses incurred, pain and suffering, past and future lost wages, disability, future medical treatment needs, expected recovery time and level of recovery, and more. A factor in the amount of recovery is always available insurance and sources of funds, which is why we always encourage you to have a UM insurance policy in place. An experienced injury attorney will be able to discuss this with you, and give an estimate of case value and what to expect in your particular situation.

For more info, contact us at 844-STEF-LAW or check out our website at http://www.STEF-LAW.com. Thanks for reading our blog, and if you ever need us, we are here to help.

Why Do You Need Uninsured Motorist Insurance On Your Auto Policy?

Posted on July 21, 2015 at 4:15 PM

If you read my article in Born To Ride Magazine, you know how strongly I feel about uninsured motorist coverage. I believe it is a must have for every Georgia driver and motorcycle operator.

Over the last few years, I've seen too many hard working people lose everything after a motorcycle accident, auto accident, or trucking accident. While an accident is a terrible tragedy, and can alter your life forever, purchasing a UM policy is simple and less expensive than you think, and can compensate you and provide you with some financial protection.

The amount of coverage I recommend is as much as you can reasonably afford. The more you have, the better, and the more protection you will have in the event an uninsured, or more likely underinsured driver, hits you. UM insurance may be used in either situation. When obtaining UM insurance, I recommend "added-on" or "additional" coverage, which means your limits are added on to the insurance amount available from the at-fault driver.

While this is important for all motorists, I feel it is particularly important for motorcycle riders. We all love the freedom of the open road, and our bikes, but with being a biker comes certain risk that may or may not exist in a cage. Simply speaking, most people involved in a motorcycle accident have exceeded the liability limits of the at-fault drivers insurance company before they leave the hospital. If someone is injured and needs Life Flight, the helicopter ride costs more than an at-fault driver may have in limits, which is $25,000. The last bill I saw for a Life Flight ride for a critical patient was $35,000. Georgia only requires $25k in liability coverage, which is more often than not the case. I often see a correlation between low liability limits and a poor driving record as well. These are the people who will often be at fault in an accident.

So, when you go beyond their policy limits, or they have no insurance coverage at all, the only remaining resource on an auto policy is UM coverage. That applies regardless of how badly you are hurt, how much treatment you need, how many days of work you miss, and how much pain you must endure before you recover. It is possible that you could be left with nothing but unpaid hospital bills if you don't have UM insurance coverage.

If you have been in an accident, and you aren't sure what is available to you, contact an experienced personal injury attorney like myself. The law allows possible access to UM policies belonging to you, a driver of a vehicle in which you are a passenger, as well as certain relatives living in your household at the time of the accident. Policies can be often stacked together, depending on the type of policy. If you have separate policies with UM insurance, they can be stacked together as well. Just make sure to always select added on or additional coverage, never reduced or take away.

Contact your agent and make sure you are protected. If you have questions regarding coverage and what your policy declarations cover, feel free to call me anytime at 7707483601 or email me at stef@stef-law.com. Read more about Stefanie Drake Burford at www.STEF-LAW.com.

Ride safe everyone!

Stefanie

Motor Vehicle Fatalities On The Rise Due To Distracted Drivers

Posted on July 16, 2015 at 10:05 AM

In Georgia, traffic fatalities are on the rise since the beginning of 2015, and we could see the first increase in nine years. Many of these fatalities are the result of distracted driving. DriveAlert ArriveAlive asks motorists to buckle up, stay off the phone/no texting, and drive alert. Visit www.dot.ga.gov/DS/SafetyOperation/DAAA. #ArriveAliveGA.

This is important for all drivers, whether operating a car, motorcycle or other vehicle. Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable on the road as well. If you ride a motorcycle, I also encourage everyone to take a safety class. This doesn't affect the behavior of distracted drivers necessarily, but does provide education and useable knowledge on how to avoid accidents caused by distracted drivers.

Be safe everyone, and always remember to look twice for motorcycles.

Stefanie