How do I select the right lawyer for my case?

Before hiring a lawyer, you should research the firm you are considering. Ask for information about the lawyer's education, training, and experience dealing with cases like yours. Ask the lawyer to discuss the fee contract with you in detail. Be sure you understand your obligations and timeframe for paying the lawyer's fees and costs. Ask about possible adverse consequences in the event your case is lost. Ask whether your lawyer intends to handle your case alone. Find out about fee arrangements if lawyers from outside firms will be assisting.

Once a PLW lawyer takes my case, what guarantees will I have?

We represent all clients to the best of our abilities. There are no guarantees associated with any lawsuit or claim. Our clients can count on thorough preparation and hard work toward gaining a fair settlement — or dogged pursuit of a justified award if a trial is necessary.

How does PLW decide whether to accept a settlement or take a case before a jury?

Deciding when to accept or reject a settlement is seldom an easy decision. PLW lawyers will advise you of the pros and cons of settling your case or moving forward to trial. We do our best to help a client decide whether a settlement offer is fair, but the decision ultimately is the client's.

Who pays for out-of-pocket expenses while a case is pending?

This will depend on the fee and cost agreed upon for the case. When PLW handles a case on a contingency fee basis, we typically advance expenses incurred during our representation. In that situation, our fee will be a percentage of the recovery computed before deducting expenses. If the case reaches a successful conclusion, the costs we have incurred are returned to us out of the recovery. If your case is the type in which we do not advance expenses incurred during our representation, you will be advised of that in your initial meeting. In that situation, we will discuss in detail the projected expenses and the appropriate way to handle the payment of expenses.

Will I have to put up money to get started?

Most cases PLW handles involve a contingent fee contract. That means we do not get paid a fee unless our client makes a recovery. Generally, our fees will be a percentage, with recovery computed before deducting expenses. In some circumstances, we will represent the client on an hourly basis, in which case a retainer agreement may be made. In either instance, the full details of the fee and cost agreement you have with PLW will be explained to you before we begin working on your case.

Is there a time limit on bringing a lawsuit?

South Carolina has various statutes of limitations. Most cases have a 3-year statute of limitations, but you should always seek legal advice as to the specific statute of limitations applicable to your specific case. Generally, claims that involve the government are subject to special rules, including a different, and usually shorter, statute of limitations. If you believe the government might be involved in your case, please notify us immediately.

Will a lawsuit be necessary?

If PLW cannot reach an amicable agreement with the at-fault party and/or with the at-fault party's insurance company, a lawsuit to obtain an adequate recovery might be necessary. This is a legal decision that should be made by your attorney with your advice and consent. Before filing suit in your case, PLW will obtain your permission and explain to you why we believe a lawsuit should be filed.

Although filing a lawsuit might be necessary, settlement is possible at any stage during the lawsuit. Negotiations are ongoing, and only a small percentage of lawsuits go to trial.

How is the value of a case determined?

The facts of a case drive its value, so an understanding of your unique case is essential. In cases of serious injury, the ultimate recovery is often related to the amount of insurance coverage available as well as the nature, extent, and duration of your injuries, with an assessment of liability figured in. As your attorneys, we feel a primary duty to obtain compensation that will fairly and justly compensate you for your injuries. We'll make every effort to discover sources of compensation. We will advise you of our evaluation in this regard.

How long does it take to resolve a case?

The time it takes to resolve your case depends on multiple factors. PLW cannot make your claim until after the doctors have provided us reports stating your present medical condition and your medical condition expected in the future — in other words, details about when and how you'll reach “maximum medical improvement” (MMI). If we try to settle your case before your medical condition is stabilized, you could lose compensation to which you might be entitled. This kind of lost compensation can occur when a medical condition does not show up until after a case is settled.

Important note: Your case will not be settled until damages have been determined and an investigation concerning liability has been completed. Gathering the necessary information generally takes several months. If a trial becomes necessary, completion of a case can take several years. Patience is one of the most difficult requests PLW asks of its clients. We will work as hard and as fast as possible to settle your case.

Are payments made by my health insurance carrier paid back out of settlement proceeds?

If an insurance company pays some of your medical expenses or other expenses related to your injury, the law provides for “subrogation,” which means that the insurance company “stands in your shoes” and can recover from the liable party some or all of the amount paid on your behalf. If this is the case, the insurance company usually is required to pay its proportionate share of the attorneys' fees and costs in connection with the recovery. This is handled on a case-by-case basis.

How are medical bills paid if a client doesn't have health insurance?

Some of PLW's clients are involved in an accident in which there is no applicable medical insurance, workers' compensation insurance, or private health insurance. In such cases, the PLW client's doctor might expect payment while the case is pending or at the conclusion of the case. If your doctor agrees to be paid at the conclusion of the case, often, the doctor will require you to agree, in writing, to have us pay the doctor from the proceeds you receive. State law sometimes permits healthcare providers to file a “lien” that must be paid out of the proceeds of the injured person's case. If your doctor asks you to sign what is often called a “lien letter,” be sure to contact your lawyer's office. In some cases, the request for you to sign such a letter might be inappropriate.

What records should I keep?

You should keep records of the following:

  • Lost time and wages from work
  • Other expenses resulting from your injuries (transportation, home care, etc.)
  • Pain and suffering you've experienced during your recovery
  • Your physical limitations

It is important to continually keep records. Copies of checks and receipts of payment, as well as records pertaining to the aforementioned list, will be helpful if you are asked by the insurance company or an attorney to recall your pain, physical disabilities, and any out-of-pocket expenses, including medication.

What about paying my medical bills before my case is settled?

While your case against the insurance company (of the person who caused your injury) is pending, PLW tries to arrange payment of your medical bills by your own insurance company. This could be from the medical payments provision of your own automobile insurance policy or your own health insurance policy, or, if applicable, from workers' compensation insurance. Please be sure that all medical bills related to your injury are sent to our office so we may forward them to the appropriate insurance company.

Should I sign anything prior to retaining legal representation?

No. PLW will obtain any necessary information from employers, schools, or other persons. You should not sign anything for anyone else until you check with us first.

After I have retained your firm, to whom do I talk about my case?

Do not talk about your case with anyone except this office and your doctors. If people from your own insurance company want to talk about your case or about paying your medical bills, please refer them to us.

What are the first steps in representing me?

During the first interview, PLW will obtain general information regarding your case. We will try to answer every question you have regarding your case. You will be requested to sign authorization forms that permit us to obtain your medical records and other essential information.

We will notify the person who is responsible for your injuries — and/or the responsible person's insurance company — that you have retained us as your attorneys. Requests for your chart and billing information will be sent to physicians and hospitals involved in your care.

What information does PLW need from me to assess my case?

We typically need to:

  • General information about you (your name, contact information, Social Security number, date of birth, etc.)
  • Details of your case (description of what happened, photographs, correspondence, police report if available, etc.)
  • Information about your injuries (names of hospitals, physicians, and other medical providers seen or whom you intend to see)

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