FAQs - Part 2

What are the fees?

The fees work on a contingency contract basis. We as attorneys will get a percentage of what the gross recovery in your case actually is. My firm, like most other firms in Louisiana, charge 1/3 % of whatever recovery we receive. We do not work on an hourly basis. Some lawyers charge an hourly fee on the basis of the work they perform for you. Depending on the level of experience, many attorneys charge anywhere between $100.00 and $450.00 per hour. More experienced attorneys will charge the higher rate. Our firm only works on a contingency fee basis. So, if by way of example we recover $3,000.00 as a gross recovery for your claim. Our firm will earn 1/3 of that or $1,000. You will get the remaining $2,000. If the doctors fees for services that have been rendered to you for treating your medical condition were $200 then that $200 comes of out of your $2,000. You would walk away with $1800 tax free, the doctor would get $200 and our firm would get $1000. Conceptually this is how contingency fees work.
If your case requires that a lawsuit be filed then our fees are $40% of the gross recovery. You would get 60% of that recovery. If the case is tried or an appeal is taken then we would get 45% and you would get 55%. In all circumstances we make every effort to settle your case within the1 year Louisiana prescriptive period so that our fees will not go up any higher than 1/3 of the gross recovery. That way we can maximize your recovery and put more money in your pocket.

What is structured settlement?

A structured settlement is a negotiated financial agreement between the insurance company and you as a injured party in a personal injury tort claim.
A settlement of this nature is a settlement that is paid over a period of time rather than in one lump sum. The benefits of a structured settlement are that the recipient, who may not have the best skills at managing money, will not go on a tear spending the settlement wildy as if he got a huge lump sum. The recipient only gets a portion of the recovery on a pre-set periodic basis. The thinking is that done this way the recipient will not be in a position to exhaust all of the settlement funds during a spending spree.
The benefits to the insurance company are that it saves them money in the long run because they are paying money over time. For example, if we were able to negotiate a 3 million dollar structured settlement that doesn’t mean that you get 3 million dollars up front. You would get a portion of that up front. The present day value of 3 million dollars might only be 1 million dollars. Our fees are based on the 1 million dollar present day value and not the 3 million dollar value over the period of the settlement.

If I need surgery or expensive procedures. How do I pay for that?

Many attorneys will either fund the cost of surgery or expensive procedures themselves or they will borrow it from a lender. If the Cardone Law Firm borrows money to fund your case, we will borrow it only from traditional lenders such as banks that are federally insured and federally regulated. Some attorneys use funding companies that charge enormously high legal interest on the money that is borrowed on your behalf. We never use those non-traditional sources of funding for our cases. That sets us apart from many attorneys that handle large personal injury cases. Whenever we use a bank to fund your case expenses, for example, surgery, we always do so with your written consent to the terms and conditions under which we seek financial assistance from a local bank. This is governed by the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.8 and we follow these rules in all circumstances.

Will my case be settled or compromised without me being aware of such action?

The Cardone Law Firm never, settles, compromises, disposes of or in any way discontinues a claim or lawsuit without the permission of our clients. Never.
How are court costs and other expenses such as doctors bills, photocopying expenses, expert fees, paralegal fees, nurse paralegal fees and legal research fees handled by your firm?
The Louisiana State Bar Association regulates the nature and means by which attorneys are permitted to charge our clients. Under Louisiana Professional Rule 1.5 these expenses come out of your share of a settlement or judgment that is achieved in your case. Always remember that we at the Cardone Law firm will never spend excessive amounts of money on your case without your consent and without having good reason. As an aside, we at the Cardone Law Firm pledge we will never take a fee larger than what your net amount of recovery is a in any case unless there are good reasons to do so and unless you approve of such a settlement. Furthermore, we will never charge any fee or seek reimbursement for any expenses that we have spent on your behalf if there is no recovery of money in your case. Said another way, no recovery, no fee.

Do you provide financial assistance to your clients?

As a rule, we do not provide financial assistance to our clients except under necessitous circumstance. The Louisiana Bar Rules of Professional Conduct permit an attorney to provide financial assistance to a client who is in necessitous circumstances. As a result, we will pay all the cost of medical treatment, experts, court costs and other associated cost in advancing your case.

Will a gap in my medical treatment harm my case?

Insurance companies pay settlements on the basis of consistent patterns of medical treatment. While we encourage our clients to be consistent with their medical treatment, sometimes due to work, personal matters and life getting in the way, not all clients can subscribe to that protocol. So, in those circumstances we advise our clients to do home care during the gap periods and keep notes and/or journals which memorialize the therapy you have been doing at home, the over the counter medications that you are taking and the heat and ice packs that you use in treating yourself. Additionally, there is no rule that states that a delay or gap in seeking medical treatment creates a conclusive or even a rebuttal presumption that no injury occurred. Many courts have ruled over the years that a gap in treatment is of little significance where it doesn’t worsen your condition due to the gap. Also, there is a well known presumption in Louisiana known as the “Housley Presumption” . This stands for the proposition that if there is no evidence of an intervening cause or worsening of your condition due to outside causes, then it is presumed that the accident caused all of your injuries. So, gaps in treatment do not cause us any concerns at the CARDONE LAW FIRM.

Should I give a statement to the insurance company?

As many of you have probably heard mentioned in TV crime dramas: “ Anything you say, can and will be used against you”. That applies in personal injury cases as well. I advise all of my clients not to give any statements to any insurance company until they have spoken to me and with me being present while you are giving it. Anything you say to an insurance company will in all likelihood be taken out of context and used against you in defeating your claim.

What injuries are related to my accident?

What I try to tell my clients to think about is how they felt the day before the accident and how they feel the day after their accident. Any symptom or pain that arises after the accident which you did not have before the accident will arguably be an injury derived from the accident. We will let the doctor decide as to whether or not the accident truly is the cause of your injury. Some people will suffer psychological changes after an accident such as nightmares, irritability, an inability to sleep or even a fear of driving. If those types of symptoms were not present before the accident and a psychologist or psychiatrist relates those symptoms to the accident then those injuries are the subject of recovery through a personal injury claim.

What is my case worth?

As a general rule, cases will vary in value from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A case that arises in Orleans Parish will have a different value than a case that arises in East Baton Rouge Parish. Typically, the value of a case in Orleans Parish is higher than the value of a case in East Baton Rouge or St. Tammany Parish. Insurance companies pay on the basis of a monthly value that they assign for the treatment you have received in connection with your injuries from an accident. There is no hard and fast rule as to what value will be assigned to your case. It all depends on who the adjuster is and which insurance company is attempting to settle the case. That being said, in Orleans Parish the value of a soft tissue injury case (muscles, tendons bruising, headaches etc.) is worth anywhere between $1500 to $2500 per month. In other parishes it varies. Broken bones are worth more than soft tissue injuries. Herniated discs with treatment and/or recommendations for surgery are worth more than broken bones. Without seeming trite, it is wise to consult an attorney who is familiar with the values of cases arising in the different areas of the state.

What is the meaning of full coverage?

When I ask many of my clients do they have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage there response is: “yes, I have full coverage”. Full coverage doesn’t necessarily mean that you have UM/UIM Coverage . My clients often times are told by insurance sales people that full coverage means you have all the types of coverages. That is clearly not true. Many people reject uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on the faulty advice of their insurance agents telling them they don’t need it because they have hospitalization insurance. Hospitalization coverage and uninsured motorist coverage cover two distinct and separate types of situations. The two are often confused. Even by people in the industry. So be wary of anyone who tells you to reject uninsured motorist coverage or that full coverage means you have uninsured motorist coverage. Once again, you probably would be best advised to speak with the attorney who knows the personal injury field of law before you purchase insurance.

What is diminished value?

Nowadays, cars have become extraordinarily expensive. Additionally, there are services such as Carfax which can track all of the damages and repairs that have been done to any car by virtue of the VIN numbers that are given to the repair shops at the time of the repairs. As a consequence, when you trade in your vehicle that has been previously damaged. All the dealer has to do is a Carfax check and he will become aware that this car has previous damage. Once the automobile dealer finds out the car has had previous damage then it’s value is diminished. So, the damage to the vehicle resulting from an automobile accident will cause the “as is value” of the car to be reduced . We have experts that can can assess the diminished value of a vehicle. We can then obtain that differential loss for you through negotiation and/or the litigation process. That way we can assure you recovery of the full value of all of your loses associated with your vehicle. Not only the cost of repairing the damages, but the diminished value of your automobile . So, if a 2017BMW worth $40,000 on the date of the accident sustains $10,000 worth of property damage and is repaired to look the exact same as before the accident its value has gone down even though it looks as good as the day before the accident. So when you trade the car in, the dealer will know that its had an accident and the value that the dealer is going to offer you is going to be much less than a clean car without any damage. That is the diminished value that we are talking about and that’s what we can establish through the use of experts either in Court or through negotiation.

Is my car a total loss?

Under LA law if it costs greater than 80% of the value of the car to fix the damages, then it will be considered a total loss, so far example if a car is worth $10,000 than 80% of that is $8,000. If it costs $8,000 to fix that $10,000 car then under Louisiana Law it will be considered a total loss.

What amount will I net out of my settlement?

Let me attach what we call a settlement sheet so you can see a mock up of what you would net out as a result of a $10,000 settlement:

SETTLEMENT STATEMENT

SETTLEMENT:$10,000.00
ATTORNEY'S FEES (33 1/3 %):$3,333.33
CLIENT’S PORTION:$6,666.67

LESS EXPENSES PAID:SUB-TOTALS:
MEDICAL:$0
COURT COSTS:$0
MISCELLANEOUS:$0
OUTSTANDING EXPENSES:
Medical Bills $500.00$500.00
TOTAL EXPENSES:$500.00

CLIENT'S PORTION:$6,666.67
LESS EXPENSES:$500.00
BALANCE DUE TO CLIENT:$6,166.67

What is the prescriptive period in Louisiana?

The prescriptive period is the same as the statute of limitations in other states. It’s the time by which a lawsuit must be brought against a liable party, otherwise you will lose your remedies of recovery. In Louisiana, the prescriptive period is one year from the date of the loss for most injury cases. In the medical malpractice field the prescriptive period is one year from the date of loss or one year from the date of discovery of the loss, but no more than 3 years from the date of the actual malpractice. This can get complicated and it might be wise to consult with us before you miscalculate the date by which a claim must be filed.

Do I have to pay the full amount of the medical bills?

Not neccesairly. Typically, where your health insurance company pays for your medical bills they would be entitled to a lien on your case out of the recovery that you receive from your case. We have been very successful in obtaining reductions of the lien amounts that must be paid back to your health insurance companies. As a result, we have been able to put more money in your pocket that way. It is important also to work with doctors that are familiar with the personal injury litigation practice. In many instances, we can also obtain reductions of the medical bills charged by health care professionals that perform medical services in treating your injuries.

Should I go to my own healthcare provider or should I go to a healthcare provider recommended by my attorney?

I think it’s important to follow the advise of your attorney in all respects. Typically your attorney will have relationship with a doctor who is well versed and equipped to treat you, write reports, testify at depositions and trial in language that insurance companies understand. Many healthcare professionals that are not familiar with this process are not sure of how to connect an injury to a specific accident. Doctors who historically work with personal injury lawyers are much better equipped in dealing with these issues, I have found that over the years in my practice when clients use their own personal physicians, those physicians are not geared up to give us their medical bills or their chart entry timely. Doctors not familiar with litigation have difficulty connecting up the injuries with the accident. It is much more efficient to use doctors that are friendly with the trial lawyer.

What do I do if I notice that the police report wrong?

In most instances it might not be material to the outcome of your case that the police report is incorrect or inaccurate . Most times we can smooth out any inconsistences in a police report; however, there are times where it might become important for the police report to be changed or amended. In those instances, I often times ask my clients to visit with the police officer who wrote the report to see if additional information that you can give him could persuade him to change or amend his report. I think it’s better if you do it because you have a relationship with that police officer. Once the police officer finds out an attorney is involved red flags are raised and the officer generally shuts down.

I had an accident and the other driver begged me not to call the police because he said his insurance premiums will increase, what should I do?

Well, I think the best thing to do is call the police and wait for the police . I know it’s inconvenient, but at least you will have a documented version of what happened from a disinterested witness, namely, the police officer. Often times when there is no police report, stories change, memories fade and cooperation is minimal. That’s why I think it is great idea to call the police and wait until they get to the scene.

An insurance company offered me money at the scene of the accident, what should I do?

Lately, Progressive Insurance Company has been known to have one of its adjusters go to the scene of an accident and actually offer money to the person who their insured hit in a motor vehicle accident for a final settlement. I have heard of instances where they have offered at much as $3,500.00 to settle a case then and there. Caution is the better part of valor in this instance. You never know what tomorrow will bring. If it brings on symptoms such as headaches, muscular pain radiating pain down your leg or arm burning sensations or just generalized acheness or weakness, that’s a good reason not to accept the money offered at the scene. Treatment at a doctors office until all these symptoms are resolved would be the best course of action. In that instance the value of the case will be far greater than the money they have offered you at the scene.

What should I do if an at fault driver wants to leave the scene of an accident?.

This brings up 2 questions. First, has the at fault driver given you any insurance information or identification? If he has not given either of those pieces of information and he leaves the scene, then it could be considered a hit and run. Second, if the at fault driver gives both pieces of information, identification and insurance, he may leave the scene without the accident being considered hit and run. Police officers typically in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and the outlying areas will not issue tickets to a driver who leaves the scene after giving the information reflected above. I would suggest that if a driver tells you he is going to leave the scene that you get him or her to write a simple statement that he or she was at fault in the accident and that he or she needs to leave the scene for whatever the reason. Take pictures of all cars the location, damage as well as a picture of the individual who wants to leave the scene before he actually leaves the scene.