How to Choose the Right Lawyer After Your Accident in a Pandemic World

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

Let’s assume you were injured in an accident just before the Pandemic and the corresponding shutdown. Your priority was to get prompt medical treatment and tend to immediate affairs like obtaining an accident report, filing for workers’ compensation benefits, putting your automobile or health insurance carrier on notice of an accident, and the need for treatment. Weeks later you come to accept that you have an injury that is likely to impair your ability to recover quickly or cause financial loss beyond what the society shutdown is costing. You need a lawyer and you need one now to protect your rights, preserve evidence of your accident, put the wrongdoer on notice, and expedite a claim for immediate benefits the law entitles you even during this virus crisis.

You google “accident lawyer” or “motor vehicle accident lawyer” or any other search term or combination that you think best describes your need. Multiple websites spit out all their fantastic accomplishments stating “click for help”, “call now for a free consultation” or best yet “no recovery, no fee”. It all can be overwhelming for the injured person or assisting family member who simply wants someone they can trust, has a track record of success and is available during this crisis to do everything and anything to protect, preserve and prosecute their claim.

The truth of the matter is that all firms that handle the type of case you have work on a “contingency fee” basis. That means if the firm accepts your case it will not charge you now, out of your pocket for “upfront” costs associated with investigating the case and then costs associated with moving forward. The “ forward” costs include filing a case in court, associated filing fees, deposition fees, expert fees, mediation fees, etc. Your recovery is then reduced by these expenses that the law firm has “ fronted” and then further reduced by the attorneys collecting as their “ legal” fee a portion of the remaining proceeds, usually anywhere from 33.33% – 40.00% of the balance after the litigation expenses are paid back to the firm. This fee is in most cases well earned because if you were to try to negotiate a resolution on your own you are likely to net less than if you hire an attorney to handle the case for you. A qualified, highly regarded attorney is likely to obtain such an enhanced recovery that even after reimbursing them for their expenses, you will get a greater amount than if you took on the legal approach yourself. A short example will explain. Assume the insurance carrier offers you 5 dollars to settle your case. Without hiring an attorney, you will get the full 5 dollars. But, if you hire a qualified attorney, that firm may get an offer of 30 dollars to settle after they paid 6 dollars to fund the case. From the 30 dollars, the firm receives 6 dollars back to repay their expenses, then one-third of the 24 dollars remaining. Your competent lawyer collects 8 dollars in legal fees and redeems the 6 dollars in expenses. Your net is 16 dollars, more than 3 times what you likely could get on your own! All firms who work on accident cases are compensated this way but who stands head and shoulders above all the advertisements and fanfare especially now while the legal economy and economy, in general, is in a shutdown?

So how do you find the best firm now, during the shutdown? First, you should call the firm and see if your call is forwarded to a live person. If your inquiry is by email to the firm email box, see how long it takes for an attorney to reach out to you for further information. Don’t hesitate to ask if the law firm has continued to employ its entire workforce during the pandemic. This will speak volumes about the success and financial strength of the firm.

Here at Rheingold, Guiffra, Ruffo, and Plotkin, we have remained fully operational during the shutdown on a remote basis. During the past ten weeks, we have retained 100% of our legal and non-legal staff and successfully resolved millions of dollars resolutions AND retained highly significant new accident matters. We have taken this time to bring every existing matter that has yet to be resolved up to date so that upon reopening it is ripe for resolution. Additionally, we have already established a return-to-office plan with temperature monitoring, constant sanitation, video conferencing, staggered start times, and elevator and office common area policies that will reduce the risk of re-infection. Until then, we are proud to herald our 50-year tradition of accident litigation and combined 200 years of legal experience in the field of accidents, malpractice, wrongful death, and mass tort litigation. Please visit our website and you will find contact information for all of our pre-pandemic employees who remain ready able and willing to help you during these trying times. On behalf of all of us at Rheingold, Giuffra, Ruffo, and Plotkin we wish you a safe return to the new normal and we look forward to providing you exemplary legal representation for months and years to come.

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