- How Much is my Case Worth?
- How much does it Cost?
- Can my Employer stop my Workers Compensation?
- Why not just listen to my Insurance Company?
- What can I do if my Claim has been Denied?
- Are there any Out of Pocket Costs?
- Why should I contact an Attorney?
- How long does it take for a Claim to be Accepted?
- What should I do if I’ve been injured at Work?
- What Makes ZZ&L Different from Other Firms?
- What Should I Do if I’ve Been Injured from a Car Accident?
- What Should I Do if I’ve Been Injured from a Slip and Fall?
- What Should I Expect from My First Consultation?
- What Should I Look for When Hiring an Attorney?
- When Should I Contact a Car Accident Attorney?
How Much is my Case Worth?
One of the number one questions we get, and it’s a very common question, and I understand why people ask this, it’s “how much is my personal injury case worth – such as a car accident or a slip and fall accident?” Truth be told, no attorney that is skilled and competent in handling personal injury attorneys should give you a figure for what your case is worth when you come and just met with them before they had the chance to collect all the evidence, collect all the medical reports, do any interviews they need to, visit the scene, take photographs, talk to any necessary witnesses, collect expert reports. So those are the things that go in to determine what’s the value of a personal injury case?
Each case stands on its own and there are a number of factors that go into affecting what the value is for a personal injury case. A lot of times, one of the factors for a car accident case is how much available insurance is there? In Philadelphia, unfortunately, there are a lot of drivers that have a minimum policy of $15,000 for when they injure somebody in a car accident, if they don’t have any other assets or there is no under-insured motorist coverage with the injured individual then even if it’s a catastrophic injury that could be worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, if there is only $15,000 worth of insurance coverage and there is no personal assets to go after it for the responsible individual then unfortunately that’s a major factor that would affect what’s the value of a case, so it’s not just alone “how severe is your injury?”
Other things need to be taken into count: did you sustain any wage loss? Meaning after the injury where you able to work? Did you have to miss time off work? Did you have to go back to work in a light duty capacity? And make less money? Other factors are if you can’t work, are you able to be going back to work? Will you ever be able to get back to the job that you had? What we call that is a decrease in your earning capacity and that will be a major factor to determining what the value of your potential case is. Other questions that to be answered or what’s the extent of your injuries? Are any of them permanent? Are any of them curable? Do you need surgeries to fix any of those injuries that you sustained? Again those are all big factors that go into what’s a personal injury case worth? So it’s very hard to determine that until the lawyer has an opportunity to gather all the facts, see all the reports, speak with everybody and be able to come up with a clear understanding of what exactly is going on in the case.
People also jump to what the case is worth based on what their injuries are. In every liability case, whether it’s a car accident or slip n fall or products liability case, you need to determine who is at fault? And whether or not there is a comparative fault meaning the person injured or client is to blame for the accident. Sometimes you have a situation where there is a small percentage that can be put on the injured individual and that’s a fact that needs to go into evaluating how much a case is worth.
How much does it Cost?
So how much does it cost to hire a personal injury or worker’s compensation attorney? I’m sure you’ve seen Ads, billboards, television commercials that say we don’t get paid unless you do. That’s because in our business as a personal injury lawyer or a workers’ compensation attorney we take a percentage or a contingent fee of any benefits or monies that we recover from you as how we get paid. So in that way we are a team, we are in this together, we always have your best interest in mind and if we don’t produce for you, we don’t make a fee.
In a personal injury case, for instance, you also pay for what are called costs and depends on how far into the litigation you go, depend on what kind of case it is, to figure out what the costs are – but here at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky we share in the cost and we take what is called a net fee on our personal injury matters meaning we share in the costs by taking those off the top of the total amount of any judgment or settlement and then we take our percentage fee, here at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky our percentage fee is one-third net fee of any proceeds that you are to receive in a settlement.
For instance, say a case was resolved for $100,000, and out of that we spent $10,000 in cost – things such as filing fees for the court, spending money on medical experts to issue a report to testify in your behalf to tell us what your injuries are and what future medical treatment you may need. We take those costs right off the top and then the $10,000 gets reimbursed and then we receive one-third of our contingent fee from the remaining $90,000 and therefore our fee will be $30,000 and the remainder will be $60,000 which will be payable to the client.
Also, in any type of personal injury case, at the end of the case when it resolves by settlement or by judgment, you will receive from our office something called the settlement sheet so you get a clear and concise written statement from us that at the end of your case, showing you exactly where every penny on your case went.
Can my Employer stop my Workers Compensation?
An employer is not allowed to simply stop your workers compensation benefit, if they do that it will be a violation of the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation act and therefore they can be penalized upon the found of penalty petition by a workers’ compensation attorney, so they can stop your benefits if they have evidence that you’ve either fully recovered from your work injury or that you are capable of working in some capacity and then make a job offer to you that is within those physical capacities and they still need to file the appropriate forms or file petition with the bureau of workers’ compensation and have a judge determine whether or not you have fully recovered.
Why not just listen to my Insurance Company?
Oftentimes people will not contact an attorney early-on because the insurance company is paying their benefits, paying their medical, the insurance adjusters are the nicest persons in the world to them and they think everything is going along just fine and all of a sudden they send them something called an IME (independent medical examination) we like to refer to them as defense medical examination and what will happen is, in our workers compensation case, the insurance company when they think you’ve had enough treatment or they think that you should be fully recovered and they don’t agree with the opinion of your treating doctor a lot of times your treating doctor told you to go and see, they then send you for this defense medical examination or IME. What that is is they hire a doctor simply to perform a one-time examination most of the times the doctor will tell you upfront “I’m not here to treat you, I’m not here to give you any recommendations, I’m simply here to examine you and provide the insurance company a report regarding your injuries and whether or not you can go back to work”.
Nine times out of ten those doctors will give a report to the insurance companies who have hired them time and time again that you are either fully recovered or you can go back to work or say something contradicting to what your treating doctor has to say and then use that as a basis to either file a termination petition to try and cutoff completely your right to either wage loss and or medical benefit and they will file either a suspension or modification petition based on additional evidence that says that “you can earn more money based on your physical capabilities and the jobs that we’ve offered to you or the jobs that are available in the marketplace.”
What can I do if my Claim has been Denied?
Oftentimes there is a deny claim and in those situations we file a claim petition on behalf of our client in order to get them the benefits they deserve – not just the wage loss benefits but also the medical benefits. They have a doctor that says they are totally disabled and can’t do their job. In those cases, we will file immediately a claim petition, present their doctor’s testimony, bring that individual live to a hearing to testify before the judge and if we are successful, they will receive their wage loss benefit going back to the first day they were disabled up to the time the doctor says they are no longer disabled or if they continue to remain disabled it will go on indefinitely until there’s something else to change, the status of their benefits, from that, the judge will award us 20% fee from the benefits often plus statutory interest on the entire amount given the delay that the insurance company had when ultimately it was determined that they were entitled to workers competition benefits.
Are there any Out of Pocket Costs?
It’s important to remember there’s never any out of pocket cost for a client that’s been injured at work. Any benefits they receive that we receive a fee on will come directly from the insurance company and be mailed directly to us. We will never have to go, get their check book and write a check and hand that to us, it’s always going to come directly from the insurance company
Why should I contact an Attorney?
The choice of whether or not to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney really should be an easy one and that’s because we don’t take a fee from your benefits unless we get you some benefits unless we have to go to court and fight on your behalf whether to get you benefit or stop the insurance company from cutting off your benefits, there is no fee for hiring us, so there’s no downside, there’s only upside to hiring a workers’ compensation attorney to have them in your corner to make sure the workers’ compensation insurance company is dotting all the Is and crossing all the Ts making sure that yes they’ve acknowledged your injury not only are they acknowledging it but they’re acknowledging it properly meaning that on the notice of compensation paper they are supposed to issue within 21 days of being notified of your work accident doesn’t state your injury correctly.
Oftentimes people sustain injuries to say their lower back or their neck when they herniated the disk on their head or their back really serious injury and we’ll see documents indicating lumbar strain or sprain or cervical strain and sprain. That’s not a proper notation of what your injury is and therefore while it may seem that the insurance company is doing everything right, it really helps to have a workers’ compensation attorney in your corner taking a look at the documents, making sure that they are right and forcing the insurance company to do the right thing by filing a petition if they don’t do it correctly the first time.
How long does it take for a Claim to be Accepted?
So another question we get a lot from our clients that have been injured at work is “how long will it take for the insurance company to accept my claim?” and the reality of that is there are laws of what the insurance company has to do and those laws say that within twenty-one days of being notified of your work injury, you have to issue a document either accepting or denying the claim so it really should take no more than three weeks for you to know whether or not the insurance company is accepting your claim, if they don’t , they have violated the Pennsylvania workers compensation act and because of that, if we take your case we will help you in filing a penalty against them for not doing what they are supposed to do, for not giving you a clear understanding of where you stand and what’s going on, how am I going to be paid? Who’s going to pay for my medical treatment? Along those lines are: will my claim be accepted? Will I get wage loss benefits?
The law provides that if you are out for more than seven days of work, you then can get wage loss benefit beginning on the eighth day. If you are out for fourteen days of work then your wage loss benefit will have to retract to day one and that should all be listed on something called a notice of compensation payable again the document that needs to be issued within twenty-one days of being notified of your injury that the insurance company is accepting your injury also listed in your documents is going to be the exact nature of your injury as well as what they have determined your average weekly wage to be and your workers compensation rate, the calculation average weekly wage could be really complicated at times it really depends on how are you paid? Are you hourly? Are you salary? and for how long have you worked for that employer?
To figure that out you really need to meet with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who knows how to calculate your average weekly wage who knows whether or not the insurance company is paying you the correct rate. Are they taking into account all your overtime? Are they taking into account any bonuses you may have received? All things that we asked or gather information about at our initial consultation with any workers that have been injured on the job.
What should I do if I’ve been injured at Work?
If you’ve been injured at work, there’s a couple of things that are very important to remember to do and we always advise our clients to immediately report your work injury to your employer. One, it’s very important because the law requires that you report your work injury within 120 days to your employer. Two, sometimes people fail to report their work injuries right away and the employers use that as a reason to deny their claims. The reasons that people gave why they don’t report right away: “I thought it was minor, I thought it would go away, I thought it was no big deal” unfortunately those are the types of cases that oftentimes create the biggest problems because it does turn out to be a big deal and because they didn’t report right away a lot of times the employers think they are not being truthful, it didn’t happen at work or it’s something else that caused your injuries so that’s why it’s really important to report right away.
I’ll also suggest where possible, if the employers have a policy of making a written report, make a written report, contact the human resources department and make sure that they document that you were hurt at work, give them the names of all witnesses, if there were any, to the accident. Also its very important to make sure that you document all the injuries you sustained that you know of that’s bothering you and not just the major ones.
Sometimes people will simply report “well, while lifting something, it hurt my back the most” but they also may have hurt their neck in the accident and forget to tell their employer that their neck is also injured and also hurting them because they are just trying to go with the main injury and at times that will come back to become a problem because they will say well you didn’t tell us your neck hurt right away therefore we don’t believe you and we are not going to accept your claim for your neck and pay benefits for that. It’s also important to seek out immediate medical attention. Again, a lot of times people think that they can power through it, I’ve been hurt before, this will go away in just a couple of days and don’t go to the doctor Not doing that is another red flag for the insurance company, they see it as “well, you were not really hurt because you didn’t go to the doctor, you didn’t report your injuries, you didn’t seek out immediate medical attention”.
It’s important to get to the doctor quickly after the accident so that you can let them know what’s bothering you. At worst, you don’t have to follow with them. At best, you do need to go back and you have now established that treatment with the doctor.
I think it’s also important that following work injury, you do contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. The benefit of having a workers’ compensation attorney from the start is to make sure that the insurance company, your employer does what they are supposed to do, that they issue the right forms that they document your injury properly that they pay you if they should be paying you wage loss benefits and there’s no harm in hiring an attorney right away because your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you when you do hire workers compensation attorney or bring your workers compensation claim, that is against the law and not permissible.
What Makes ZZ&L Different from Other Firms?
I think what differentiates our firm from the other law firms in Philadelphia who handle accident cases and injury cases is that we’re a family firm. We were started by Howard Zavodnick and his wife, Sandra Zavodnick. My wife, Jamie Zavodnick-Lasky, used to work here. My brother-in-law is now my partner, Ryan Zavodnick. I say that because we work together, we obviously spend a great deal of time out of work together discussing cases (which our spouses don’t always appreciate when we’re not at work), but we are very much a team and we’re a family. That’s not just an expression, that’s the reality.
That’s who we are and what we are, and we try to carry that over in how we deal with our clients and try to treat our clients like they are part of the family. We take great pride in getting to know our clients, getting to know the names of their spouses, the names of their children, knowing what football teams they like, what other sports teams they like, what they like to do for fun. We really try to make sure we’re developing relationships with our clients, and it’s not just a case to us where we’re just focused solely on the facts of the case and the outcome.
We take a hands-on approach, we are individually handling the cases; which isn’t to say that every now and then we don’t have to pinch it and cover something for one another. But when we do that, we are thoroughly prepared and we discussed the matter at great length, but by-and-large, if you hire me, or Ryan, or Howard to handle your case, that’s who’s going to handle your case. We don’t form the cases out, we don’t have associates who you’ll never meet. We’ll be looking for you in court and calling out your name, having never met you before. If you hire us, we are what you get.
We take a holistic approach to the case as well, which is something that differentiates us. So it’s easy enough for a good attorney, and I think we are good attorneys, to obtain a settlement of any case: whether it be a work injury case, or whether it be a motor vehicle accident case or any other personal injury case. What we try to do is, before we get the settlement, we bring the clients in and say, “what are you going to do now? What are you going to do if we sell your workers’ compensation claim? What’s your plan? Are you going to be able to go back to work? Are you going to get a lot of money, but then blow through it because you haven’t set out a plan? You’re not going to be able to go to work in the future, you’re not going to be able to retrain to enter a different occupation.” So we try to make sure that we’re not just putting money in our client’s pockets, that we’re advising them, we’re counseling them.
We’re not just litigators; we advise, we consult, we give our recommendations. Ultimately, the decisions are always our client’s, but we try to really make sure we’re looking at the bigger picture and not just the value of the case in a vacuum.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been Injured from a Car Accident?
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, the first thing you want to do is contact the police and make sure that you wait at the scene of the accident, and that the police come out to the scene of the accident. The reason you want to do that is that the police will obtain information from you, from the other driver, along with insurance information, and will generate a police report indicating who was at fault. Equally as important, providing the insurance information so that once you retain an attorney, that attorney can contact the appropriate insurance company who’s involved in the case.
The next thing you want to do is to take photographs of your vehicle, the other vehicle, and the scene of the accident. Nowadays, pretty much everyone has a smartphone, or some type of phone with a camera on it, so that’s pretty easy to do; you don’t have to drive around with an actual camera in your car. You want to take as many pictures as you can of the accident.
Once you’ve done that, the next thing you want to do is, if you’re injured, make sure you make an appointment to go see your family doctor. If the pain is severe, or your don’t have a family doctor, make sure you go see a doctor at the emergency room closest to you.
The next thing you’re going to want to do, is make sure you make an appointment with an attorney. You want to hire an experienced car accident attorney who’s going to be able to help you deal with the insurance company, is going to be able to advise you and tell you what your rights are. Make sure you submit the proper forms to your insurance companies so that your medical treatment is paid for through your motor vehicle insurance, as opposed to billing health insurance, and then having to deal with the health insurances trying to get their money back because they shouldn’t have paid it, and they want the car insurance to pay for the treatment. So we do that right away, and we also put the other driver and their insurance company on notice that you have been injured, and if they are at fault and that you will be pursuing a claim.
Additionally, when you meet with an attorney following a car accident, we’ll help you to make sure that you’re seen by a doctor in your area that has experience handling car accident cases and is going to take good care of you.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been Injured from a Slip and Fall?
If you’ve been involved in a slip-and-fall injury, the first thing you want to do, assuming you are not in need of emergency medical treatment (in other words, you don’t need to be rushed to the emergency room), is take pictures of where you fell and what caused the fall.
Things disappear over time. For example, if you slip and fall in a supermarket on something slippery, they’re going to clean that up eventually, and they may not take pictures of that. So it becomes difficult to prove what you slipped on and what caused your injuries down the line if you haven’t taken pictures and we don’t have photographic evidence of what caused the fall.
It is the same thing if you slip and fall on snow and ice; you want to make sure you take photos because the snow and ice will melt over time. We don’t want to get in a situation where it’s simply your word against the property owner’s word. We want to make sure we have photographic evidence and can demonstrate in court, if necessary, what the condition of the property was.
You also want to look around, see if there are any witnesses. They may be friends of yours, in which case you’ll know the names and phone numbers, or they may be disinterested observers, in which case you want to ask them, “is it OK if I take down your information since you saw what happened.” You want to make sure you get names, phone numbers, addresses, if possible.
The next thing you want to do, is make sure you report your injury to the property owner so that there’s a record of it. There may be specific forms in certain instances, in certain types of cases, that you’ll have to fill out. In others, you may just want to take a name and number and follow it up with a letter to to the property owner advising them of your injuries and confirming the conversation you had on the date of your injury.
Then, you want to make sure you are attended to medically. If you’re in need of treatment, you want to make sure you get to an emergency room, family doctor, whomever you choose to see. You want to make sure you do that and have your injuries documented and looked at.
Lastly, and most importantly, you want to call an attorney. You want to make sure that you find out what your rights are, who’s at fault, and that attorney can assist you in making sure you put all the property owners on notice. There are certain legal requirements. For example, if you’re injured on property owned by a township or municipality, there are certain laws that implicated and there’s notice provisions in those laws (meaning that you have to give notice to the township or municipality within a certain amount of time), otherwise you won’t be able to bring a claim in the future.
What Should I Expect from My First Consultation?
The first thing you should expect, is that we’re going to take a look at your documents and we are going to explain everything to you, because oftentimes, our clients come in and they’ve gotten documents from a workers’ compensation insurance company, and they don’t have any idea what they mean. So we’re going to make sure that you understand, whether you hire us or not, what those documents mean and what your status is.
The second we’re going to do, is we’re going to obtain information from you about how the accident or injury occurred. We’re going to get all the details that you have to offer, and we have some paperwork that we have you fill out, and then we go over that with you and make sure that everything is covered. We want to make sure we know if you’ve had any prior accidents or injuries, we want to make sure we know every doctor that you’ve seen so that we can go ahead and send away for medical records, and make sure we have a complete medical history that we can communicate to the insurance company involved in the case.
After we do that, I’m going to put my pen down, and so will every other attorney here, and we’re going to explain things to you. We’re not going to then present you with forms to sign and a fee agreement and send you on your way, we’re going to sit down and we’re going to say, “OK, this is the type of case you have , and this is how things are likely to play out, this is the liability situation (if it’s a personal injury case).” If it’s a work injury case, we’re going to explain where thing stand with your workers’ compensation claim at that time, and we’re going to make sure that you have an understanding role on the same page as to what we need to do, what we will do, and how long all of that will take, and what the expected outcome is.
Once we do that, and if you’re satisfied, we will then ask you if you’d like to retain our firm. Assuming the answer is “yes”, you’ll sign the fee agreement, you’ll sign some medical authorizations, and then we would get started on your case and check back in with you as things start to develop.
What Should I Look for When Hiring an Attorney?
What you should look for when hiring an attorney, I think first and foremost, is a recommendation or referral. That’s and old-fashioned way of doing things and it used to be when somebody needed an attorney, they asked a friend, a co-worker, a family member for a recommendation, and that’s how they select an attorney; based on a recommendation from someone they trust as to an individual attorney who had done a good job for that person in the past.
Nowadays, you can’t really drive anywhere or go anywhere without seeing billboards, advertisements, television commercials, all telling you how great the attorneys are on the billboard or in the commercial. People, I think, make the mistake of relying on those advertisements to choose attorneys, and then they’re often disappointed in the result because once they get there and they’d hire that attorney, they find that they’re just a number, they’re just one of many clients who the attorney really isn’t interested in representing or paying attention to.
You won’t see our firm on billboards, we don’t advertise, we do things the way it used to be done in the way we prefer to have it done, which is word-of-mouth. We get our clients from other clients who we’ve done a good job for in the past.
Another thing you want to make sure, is that when you make it to the attorney’s office and sit down and have the initial consultation, that you actually like the attorney. That’s an important issue, an important factor, that is often overlooked. Many times, people hire an attorney simply because they think that attorney is the best in his or her profession, and they don’t really like the attorney, and the attorney may not like them. And that’s critical because you’re going to be spending a lot of time, and having many conversations with the attorney throughout the course of your case, and you want make sure that you like that person, that you relate to that person, and that you trust that person. It cuts both ways. The attorney has to make sure that you’re the right fit for the firm and that you’re somebody that he or she can trust to be honest and forthcoming with information.
The third thing that’s important to keep in mind, is you want to make sure when you hire an attorney, that attorney is going to handle your case. You wouldn’t go to a doctor’s office and schedule a surgery only to find out that the surgeon you selected is not going to actually perform your surgery, it’s going to be somebody else you’ve never met. I realize that does happen, unfortunately, in the medical profession as well, but with attorneys, you can make sure that when you speak to an attorney, that that person’s going to handle your case. You should ask that question: are you personally going to be handling my case? So that you know, whether you got to that office through word of mouth recommendation or by responding to a billboard or other advertisement, that the person you hire is going to handle your case. A sign that that person may not handle your case, is when you’re meeting with intake coordinators or non-attorneys initially following your injury or accident that should be a clear indication that the attorney doesn’t have enough time to meet with you and doesn’t intend to handle your case personally. If that’s not something you’re OK with, you should thank that attorney or intake coordinator for his or her time and move on and keep looking.
You want to make sure that when you meet with an attorney, that they don’t make promises of dollar values and settlements during the initial consultation. It’s not possible for an attorney, during the initial consultation, to estimate the value of a case without seeing medical records, without having a clear picture of who’s at fault, or what happened at work, or whatever the case may be. So when an attorney starts promising you big settlements from the get-go, you should pack your stuff up, and run the other way.
Lastly, you want to make sure that when you meet with an attorney, that they explain the process to you. Many attorneys are so busy, that they simply sit down and say “sign here, sign there, OK we’ll take it from here.” Well, this is your case, and this is your life, and this hopefully will be the first and only time you have to hire an attorney to represent you in an accident case. You want to make sure that you understand what’s going to happen, how long it’s going to take, and obviously there are estimates and ranges, but you want to make sure that you know what’s going to happen from the time you hire the attorney until the time the case is resolved by a settlement or a trial. Otherwise, you’re going to be in the dark and you’re going to have questions throughout that should have been answered initially.
Lastly, you want to make sure that when you meet with the attorney, and you discuss the case with him or her and talk to any staff, secretaries, paralegals, legal assistants, that everyone seems happy. Because if you look around and people don’t seem happy to be there, and the staff isn’t happy to be there, that’s probably a good indication that you may wind up not liking this attorney or law firm as well.
When Should I Contact a Car Accident Attorney?
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, the right time to call an attorney is immediately after the accident. The reason you want to call an attorney right away is, that attorney is going to be able to help you in dealing with both your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company. That attorney is going to be able to come out to the scene of the accident, if appropriate, to take photographs, or send somebody out to take photographs. And that attorney is also going to be able to obtain a copy of the police report and make sure that the police have all the information they need to generate a proper police report that’s accurate and has all the information that you need.
People are surprised by that, when we say you should get an attorney right after a car accident. They say, “Well nothing’s going on and my insurance company’s taking care of me, and the other insurance company is paying for the damage to my vehicle. What do I need an attorney for?” The answer is: you need an attorney because the other insurance company isn’t going to offer you fair value for your case if you don’t have one. The other insurance company isn’t going to explain your rights to you if you don’t know what your rights are, and the other insurance company really has no interest in making sure that you have the best possible outcome for your case.
There’s no fee to meet with an attorney up front, there are no out-of-pocket expenses, so there really is no reason not to contact a car accident lawyer if you’ve been involved in a car accident and find out what you need to do, what your rights are. And as we tell our clients when they come in, “Look, this may be nothing.” You may go to the doctor once or twice, and then the case may resolve, or maybe we will pursue a case because it turns out that you haven’t really been injured seriously. But you’re better off from the get-go making sure you have competent attorneys representing you, so that if this injury does prove to be severe and you’re seeking recovery in the future, you’re protected