Your Insurance Limits Why an Attorney Might Do You a Favor By Saying No To Your Case
You might think, “Why does every attorney want to know about my insurance policy?” Well, the question has a definitive answer, which you will read shortly. Most personal injury attorneys, those that litigate car accident cases, don't get paid up front; they are paid on a contingent basis. Contingent payment means that when your claim is resolved, be it via a settlement or through a trial, the attorney earns a portion of your final settlement. If you received a final settlement check for $10, most attorneys will be paid between $3 and $4 from your settlement check, depending on whether the case went to trial or not.
So an attorney asks about your insurance policy because they need to know the amount of potential money available in the case. A severe injury can result in a serious settlement. Let's say your injuries resulted in $100k of medical bills and you have a minimum limits policy (in Virginia, minimum limits are $25k bodily injury; $50k property damage; $20k uninsured motorist). With injuries that severe, and that small a sum of money available, an attorney already may have issues helping you. While that information alone won't mean an attorney can't help you, it is an important indicator.
You will, of course, be thinking that if you aren't responsible for an accident, your insurance shouldn't be the first place that a settlement is drawn from. And you're absolutely correct. If another driver was liable for the accident, their insurance is the first place from which you will get paid. Finding out the other liable driver's insurance limits isn't as simple as an attorney asking you what the limits are. We won't discuss that process in detail here, but it takes a bit more time and requires a few documents and proofs to obtain the other driver's insurance limits.
The larger point here is that an attorney must invest her/his time and financial resources to resolve a client's case. It's not that an attorney is greedy, it's that the attorney needs to believe they can add value to your claim. If you have $100k of injuries, but only $20k is recoverable from both drivers' policies and/or assets, then an attorney will serve your interests best by declining your claim. That may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes the way an attorney can help you best is by saying no to your case it can be the true sign of a good attorney.
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