Thomas Stagemeir's Interview (Car Accidents in New York State)
Interviewer: Well,in what cases would someone need an attorney if they are involved in an auto accident?
Thomas: An attorney should be involved with any serious personal injury case as soon as possible. Immediately after the accident. We have certain ethical restrictions that prohibit us from directly soliciting people for personal injury.
Interviewer: Right. And what will be the case for insurance companies? What will they do in such a case?
Thomas: But the same rule does not apply to insurance companies and those insurance companies are going to be calling you asking you information about your accident. Asking you things that may potentially damage your case and, in my opinion, it's somewhat unfair that that person doesn't have a lawyer to help protect their rights and interests with the insurance company. So for those who are injured and the family and friends that know a lawyer that they trust and who is competent to handle these cases they should reach out to them as soon as possible after the accident
Interviewer: So, which "those insurance companies," are you referring to here? Is it the other driver's insurance company that is calling you or is your insurance or is a third party one that has found out..
Thomas: It's usually both. Typically it's going to be both and there are different rules that apply For one insurance company and for the other. What I mean is you have contractual obligations to cooperate with your own insurance company when they issue you a policy you have the obligation to cooperate with them in any investigations that they have into an accident. You have no obligation to cooperate with someone else's insurance company because you have no contractual duty to them.
…So my advice would be to not answer any questions for somebody else's insurance company and certainly not without a lawyer present for the interview. Even with your own insurance company they will often want to do a recorded statement or they could send someone to do a written statement. Ultimately, you need to do that you need to cooperate but its best to do it after being prepared for the questions by meeting with an attorney beforehand.
Interviewer: So even your insurance company may not be your friend or be 100 percent on your side you got to watch out that you're prepared for what they'll ask you.
Thomas: Nationwide is not always on your side that's correct. Yes, the insurance companies have... you pay them premiums you would think they've always got your back and often they will use whatever policy language they have to exclude your claim and, therefore, potentially preclude you from getting the necessary benefits that you would need to get through the injuries or through the accident and the consequences of the accident.
There could be property damage, could be minor medical bills, but in the case of a serious injury where someone is hospitalized for a broken leg a broken back or serious life threatening injuries we would want to have that client represented by a lawyer from the beginning and even with their own insurance company.
Interviewer: The goal of any insurance company is to pay as little as possible using whatever finagling legally as possible…
Thomas: Insurance companies operate in a business and they make money when they take in more than they pay out. And this is one of your questions but I wanted to add it in here because I think it's really important people understand this.
Thomas: Speaking of your own insurance company most policy holders have what is called supplemental underinsured motorist coverage or what they call SUM coverage. That's protection you have on yourself when another driver hits you creates a serious injury, but doesn't have enough insurance coverage.
For example they're driving around in a 1987 Ford Taurus with minimal policy limits of $25,000 and they hit you in your nice BMW and break your leg and you have 150 or 200,000 worth of damages and they work at Pizza Hut with a nominal minimum wage job. You're never going to get anything out of that other driver than the $25,000 that they have as insurance. So how do you compensate yourself for the remaining $175,000 worth of damages? Right?
...So, some coverage on your own policy if you have enough of it will bridge the gap. One of the biggest mistakes most people make is when shopping for insurance is shopping for the cheapest policy often can save money by forgetting or not selling the SUM coverage but for anybody with any assets to protect and want to protect themselves they should have sufficient SUM coverage to compensate themselves in the situation where another driver is underinsured
Interviewer: What are all the names that could be called it's called supplemental insurance could it be called ...
Thomas: Yeah, supplemental uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage and in industry SUM coverage, capital S, capital U, capital M.
Interviewer: Okay. So, taking accidents into consideration here, what are all the different types of vehicles that you commonly see that get into collisions or accidents?
Thomas: As a motorcycle driver myself, I'm ever,, cognoscente of motorcycle accidents, and we handle allot of those because there are somewhat different rules that apply.I'm sorry Im using motorcycle accidents as opposed to your typical motor vehicle accidents. You know, as far as your typical car accident it's irrelevant really whether it's a car or a truck or a minivan, the type of motor vehicle is irrelevant for purposes of applying law but certainly if you are a motorcycle driver it's a whole different scenario at hand.
Interviewer: Right because it's more likely I'm sure you'll be injured and people can much more easily be killed.
Thomas: It's not that. The reason is that New York has, what they call, a “no-fault state”, meaning that a no-fault insurance law applies to motor vehicle accidents, but it does not apply to motorcycle accidents. So if you're a motorcycle driver and you get struck by a car the rules that apply in that situation are going to be very different as if it were, as opposed to if it were a car-on-car or car-on-truck accident.
Interviewer: Okay, I was going to ask you that later onbutlet's talk about no-fault. That New York is a no-fault state for auto accidents. So what does that mean? And what does it mean when it's not no-fault?
Thomas: It's almost always no-fault, except in the situations there's a motorcycle involved. So, let's say your typical scenario is a two car accident, let's say.So in that situation, an injured party has the right to no-fault insurance benefits from the outset of the case, from the moment that the accident happens. What that means is they don't have to sue the other driver, in fact they are precluded by law from suing the other driver for minor things like medical bills, property damage, lost wages…
…And they are precluded from suing the other driver for personal injuries unless that is a serious personal injury. Serious injury is defined by statute and by case law as meaning a variety of things including fractures, serious disfigurement, being out of work for 90 out of 180 days after the accident would be an indication that it is a serious injury. Without a threshold level injury there is no recovery for pain and suffering in a typical auto accident.
Interviewer: So for example, a typical accident would be ifI crashed into someone or they crash into me maybe, but nothing terrible has happened, no one's lost a limb or anything like that. And I’m not allowed sue the other driver no matter if it's "my fault" traffic wise and they're not allowed to sue me, as well. Right?
Thomas: That’s Right. As long asit's all a matter of these minor injuries and the rest of the damages that is the out-of-pocket loss for wages medical bills are going to be covered by your own no-fault insurance company. It’s sort of adeal with the devil that the legislature made with these insurance companies because it used to be more in states where there is not a no-fault statute that you're not entitled to the recovery of your medical bills or your lost wages from the other driver unless they are determined to be at fault.
…So you can understand how somebody who is injured and perhaps out of work and has bills pilling up would need to have those bills paid and have income coming in. In a way its s a plus or a benefit for those people who need to have those benefits, but it might also be perceived as a nuisance for those who have minor injuries and are precluded from suing for their pain and suffering.
Interviewer: It sounds like at first glance a benefit,but it’s more of a negative. Is there any kind of balancing factorlet's say you are in an accident you do really feel like you have whiplash you have some pain and all that, what, what recourse do you have?
Thomas: None in the sense of a personal injury action, but all your medical bills will be paid and all your lost wages will be paid. If the injury is such that a doctor feels that you need to be out of work for a substantial period of time and under the law that's 90 out of the 180 days after the accident, then it would classify as a serious injury.
…So typically your whiplashtypes of injuries are not that substantial where a doctor is going to keep you out of work for that period of time.But certainly there are other soft tissues types of injuries that can cause significant pain and suffering and limitations on people that would fit the criteria of a serious injury.
Interviewer: SUM.Okay and this wouldn't be called gap insurance that's something different
Thomas: No gap insurance is between you and your borrower. Gap insurance is when, let's say you have a vehicle that has, that you borrow money on, and you borrow $20,000, then you get into an accident, but the vehicle is only worth 15 so your insurance company is only going to pay you $15,000. Right? They are going to total out your car . . .
. . . and they are going to give you the value of your vehicle. Well, your bank's still going to want an extra five grand because they loaned you 20. Gap insurance can be purchased to cover, to pay that extra $5,000 whatever that gap is between the value of your vehicle and what you still owe on it.
Interviewer: All right so probably after someone's been in an accident they are going to be more willing to listen togetting this extra coverage to protect themselves in the future. So now you've shown two ways to look at it, not just go for the cheapest, but go for these extra coverages that will really cover you all around in case X, Y, or Z happens. Right?
Interviewer: Okay. All right. Well, getting back to the insurance companies that are going to call you, just to be clear there is no third party insurance companies that will call you, there is just yours and the other driver's insurance. Right?
…So, would a third party insurance company ever find out about your accident and call or solicit you or is it only your insurance and the other drivers insurance company?
Thomas: If this is a multi car accident with three or four vehicles and everyone is insured by a different insurance company, then sure I think all of those insurance companies are going to try and get a statement from you if possible
Interviewer: No, I mean if it's just you and one other driver would there ever be an instance where a third party insurance would call you for some reason; I just want to clear out on this one…
Thomas: I can't think of any situation where that would happen.
Interviewer: Okay. And when the insurance company calls you what's the name of the person, not the person, the position of the person that will be calling you is it an insurance adjuster, is it a claims specialist?
Thomas: It could be either one. Sometimes initially you're going to talk to a claims representative or a claim specialist whatever that insurance company wants to label their representatives, but they're not HR they're not sales persons they're claims representatives primarily taking in information about the claim; who, what, where, when and how of the accident, and oftentimes especially if there is property damage involved to the motor vehicle they may send out an adjuster, somebody on the road who is going to come they are going to take photographs and they may take a statement and they may value the property damage to the vehicle especially if they are going to total it out or suggest modifications or repairs to the motor vehicle . . . and how much that might cost.
Interviewer: All right. So you're saying people have to be most careful of the opposing party's insurance company because they'll call, they'll try to get what a recorded statement, they'll try to get whatever information they can out of you as fast as possible. And if so, you give them information how could you possibly hurt your case? What kinds of things have people said that have hurt their ability to collect?
Thomas: Well, especially if people are still on medication or nervous they might say something that is not accurate even though they know better. Or if they're nervous, especially, if it's a recorded statement, they may say something that makes it look like they were at fault. Something as innocent as "Well maybe the light was red on my side," when they know it was green.
If they were nervous or they were asked a question in such a way that made it sound like they were just being agreeable with the other person because they don't... people feel like they're in trouble already when they got in an accident, there are police officers there, there are emergency personnel, and some people are just embarrassed by the fact that they were involved in an accident. Those feelings are natural, but when it comes to resolving the legalities of fault in a serious personal injury case you need to be protected sometimes from yourself, from making innocent mistakes.
Interviewer: Okay. When someone gets into an accident they do have pain or they think they have a medical problem even if it's minor, how long should they wait to go to a doctor a chiropractor or should they first talk to the insurance company, an attorney or should they just go immediately to get medical help? What should they do?
Thomas: My advice would be if there is any motor vehicle accident where there is some sign of injury it would be the best to just simply go directly to the emergency room. If there are emergency personnel on the scene of the accident take the ambulance ride to the hospital. To preclude any argument that the person was involved in some other injury between the time of the accident to the time they presented themselves to the emergency room.
For example, they go home after what they think is a minor injury and two days later they're still not feeling any better and they go to the hospital. There could be an argument that perhaps something happened in the intervening time that created the injury and it wasn't the accident at all.
Interviewer: Okay. Well in the spirit of as fast as possible getting help, how about what happened to you personally? Should you journal or diary right now what happened to you in the accident what your feeling will that help you at all?
Thomas: Absolutely. I think that it's therapeutic in one way ,but from my perspective I always advise clients to keep a log of especially their medical appointments There are titles under the no-fault insurance law to be reimbursed for their expenses involved with medical treatment. So for example their mileage to and from their doctor's offices or to the hospital. For minor out of pocket medical expenses such as co-pays for medications or bandages that you buy at the drug store. That kind of information is important for the person to be reimbursed those expenses because, but for the accident they never would have had to pay for those.
But on an emotional level I like people to take careful note of the things they are no longer able to do as a result of the accident. Something as simple as not being able to pick up your grandchildren or kneel down in the garden to do your gardening. In the more serious cases the obvious which is I can't walk, I can't clean my house, I can't vacuum my floors, I can't go grocery shopping because these are the real life experiences that the injury creates in peoples lives.
When we talk to the insurance company or ultimately to a jury the common person or the adjuster in the insurance company's case needs to appreciate how horrible the injury is to my client and to you if you're my client.
Interviewer: Do you ever represent, I mean, I guess you would represent what you'd term as victims but do you ever represent the person that is being... well, I guess there is no-fault so it doesn't matter .
Thomas: Yeah. We're a plaintiff personal injury firm and we don't represent insurance companies. I think that's an important point actually, because our loyalty is to people who have been injured and our experience allows us to be 100 percent committed to fighting insurance companies. We don't have to worry about are we going to be pissing off our other client insurance companies by representing plaintiffs in personal injury accidents we have no divided loyalty that way.
Interviewer: Okay. All right, got you. So I know we started to talk about it, but what are some of the other misconceptions people have commonly when they come into see you and they've been in an accident?
Thomas: I think the biggest one is about this issue of injury and the no-fault law. We talked about it a bit already, but I think that most people believe that their pain and suffering will automatically result in some form of lawsuit or settlement. And the reality is that people who do have pain and suffering, but do not have a threshold serious injury matter are going to leave feeling well disappointed at best.
…That's probably the most difficult thing to tell a client that they don't have a case. So we go, so we really try to be creative in the way that we approach our cases so that we can maximize our client recovery, financial recovery.
Interviewer: In the commercials they say, "get the money you deserve," but sometimes there may be no money because, again, their injuries aren't that serious.
Thomas: Well that type of slogan is misleading because what you deserve is what the law will provide you to have. You deserve what the law will allow. So those types of jingles and slogans can be misleading.
Interviewer: Okay. Fair enough. Any other misconceptions that are pretty common that come into your office?
Thomas: People often want the other persons insurance company to pay for their expenses the ones that are covered by the no-fault insurance. It is simply not the way it works. You pay a premium to your own insurance company for your no-fault and the purpose of that policy is to pay you those benefits that we've discussed.
Most people are afraid that they're going to experience a bump in their premium because of the accident when it wasn't their fault. and I would say if this is a first time accident it's not likely to cause an increase in premiums although we could never guarantee that.
…What we can guarantee is that the insurance company the insurance companies amongst themselves are going to argue about fault and they're going to engage in something called subrogation. And subrogation is basically when one insurance company either sues or negotiates with another insurance company to pay out for the benefits they paid out to their own insured. So in the situation where your insurance company pays you $10,000 in benefits and it was 100 percent the other guy's fault . . .
. . . you bet your insurance agency is going to get reimbursed the other drivers insurance company. So in that situation your insurance company is not out any money and they are not likely to increase your premiums. And sometimes it's not always that clear and fault might not always be 100%, it might be 60/40, it might be 50/50. These are some of the things that go on between insurance companies behind the scenes.
Interviewer: Okay. On average, how long can these cases take if there's substantial injury?
Thomas: Every case is different and the more serious and complicated the injury, the longer the recovery time is. Typically, we're not looking to resolve any cases until we know what our clients long-term prognosis is. You don't want to settle a case in the first month when someone is still recovering, someone is still treating or in physical therapy because it's not going to adequately compensate them for their injuries.
…Certainly there are exceptions to that. If, for example, the person has a minimum policy and there's no way to get more than that money anyway, we might suggest settlement so that the client can have that money to bank now as opposed to waiting for a month to get it. Generally speaking, a case is going to take between two months and 24 months.
Interviewer: Okay. Well, should people expect that it's pretty easy to win money if they're hurt in a collision or is it going to be a battle to get money?
Thomas: I think it's always a battle and you have to come to the site with someone who's capable of fighting the fight. It's not suggested that you do it on your own because the people you're up against are trained, are skilled and they have an objective, which is to save their client or their insurance company money.
Some lawyers dabble in personal injury and, while most are competent, they may not be able to dedicate the resources that are required to properly move a case to conclusion. We have on staff assistants, paralegals who are dedicated to moving the case forward. Some solo practitioners, while competent lawyers, are overwhelmed and often put these kind of cases on the floor of their office and only move them when they run out of other things that generate immediate dollars. The danger in that is that the client's case takes two or three times as long to resolve and it's probably because the client received their settlement funds or their verdict amount well in advance of two or three years later down the road.
Interviewer: Okay. So what are some things that people do unintentionallythat can hurt their ability to be able to win money on a case when they have been involved in an accident?
Thomas: Most of this sort of thing occurs after the accident, after they've had some time to recover. We may be fighting a serious personal injury case and believe that our client is significantly disabled and then he's out playing tennis every Saturday. And the insurance companies are going to have private investigators. They are going to sometimes take photographs of you in a public place doing aerobics or engaged in a sporting activity that you claim that you are no longer able to engage in and that could certainly be damaging.
Interviewer: So if the paparazzi saw us the insurance company could actually surveil you when you're in public they'll watch what you're doing?
Thomas: Right. They are certainly not going to be able to spy on you in your home in a private place but I you're in a public place engaged in an activity that is inconsistent with your injury that could certainly be damaging. We want to represent people that are really injured. We're not interested in the charade. I'm not suggesting that. I'm suggesting that people who will make claims, should document them, they should journal them like we discussed and behave in a manor consistent with their injury.
Interviewer: Okay. So is there anything else people can do to mess up their case?
Thomas: Some people have an overestimated value of their case. They might hear from one person or another person, who may not even be a lawyer, that their case is worth a certain amount of money. And if they come to the negotiation table with an unrealistic expectation of the value of their case they may actually be seriously jeopardizing the proper settlement of their case and force additional expenses that maybe didn't need to be incurred because the case proceeds towards trial and wasn't settled.
Interviewer: Okay. I got you. To circle back a little bit, you talked about not having any obligation to other person or person's insurance companies to talk to them, but if they're calling and asking you for statements, I don't know if they harass your or not, I mean, what do you do? Do you just say, "Go away," or do you say, "Talk to my lawyer. I'm not talking to you," or what do you do?
Thomas: One of the best reasons to have a lawyer is to deflect the phone call attempts to communicate directly because once the other insurance company is notified that you are represented by counsel, they are not permitted to contact you directly.One of the other things that people are bombarded with paperwork to fill out; Motor vehicle accident forms, no-fault claims forms, hospital forms. One of the services we provide in like a serious injury case is the preparation or assistance in preparing all these documents and giving advise on what information to include in the forms, what information you may properly exclude from the forms and where to properly serve, file it and make sure it's done in a timely manner.
Interviewer: So it might be that people are looking for an accident attorney, and in that case what should they look for when they talk to the person. What signs tell them this would good attorney to work with or what signs tell them I don't think . . .
Thomas: If an attorney, unsolicited, shows up on their doorstep, run away. That person is violating ethical rules and if they're willing to do that for their own financial benefit, I question their ability to properly represent the client in their best interests. And I think that's a red flag. However, because, as I said it right before, that it's important to have an attorney involved in the beginning. There's certainly nothing wrong with a person or their family reaching immediately to a lawyer they trust.
Interviewer: Well, if they don't have one on hand that they trust, again, they're searching, what things could you tell them to help them search so that they end up with a better person than not.
Thomas: I think the attorney-client relationship, as with any relationship, is a personal one and there's nothing wrong with interviewing lawyers. You can't assume that every lawyer with a law license is equally competent to not just handle the law, but handle the client, handle the personalities involved in the relationship.
…Communication is the most important part of any relationship whether it be intimate and personal relationship or whether it be a relationship with an attorney and a client. So, meeting that person face-to-face, establishing rapport and being able to feel comfortable and confident with the attorney is the most important thing that any person can do to advance their own interests in their personal injury cases.
Interviewer: Okay. So, what are some of the things that you guys are doing that's either visible to the client or behind the scenes to work on the case. What kind of [inaudible 37:08] information do you gather, what processes do you go through?
Thomas: I think that the most important thing that we've done to assist our clients is hiring a full-time case administrator.Her entire job is to review on a daily basis each case to obtain medical records, to communicate with the client, with physicians, with insurance companies, and make sure that our clients are getting the best service that they can get at any law firm. So, while the attorneys are working legal documents or preparing a case for deposition or trial, other clients are ignored during that process.
Interviewer: So what are some of the major events that a client will experience once they start working with you..
Thomas: Well, the most important is the initial consultation. And, again, that's when we get to establish rapport. We get evaluate them and their case and they get to evaluate us. I think a successful consultation results in us being hired and then having the trust in us that they need to feel comfortable that we're going to do the right job for them.
Immediately after that, obtain all the documents necessary such as medical records, accident reports, statements from witnesses, we often engage a private investigator to assist us with those matters. There are certain steps along the way of the litigation that are much more complicated than that and I don't know if you want me to get into that now.Most people don't want their case to go to trial.
Interviewer: Right. I'm sure it's very stressful.
Thomas: Most people want their case to be settled and while there might be some benefit to taking cases to trial, nine times out of ten everyone's interests are best served by resolving the case amicably and you need a lawyer who knows the difference between a good case and a bad case so that a bad case doesn't go to trial and the client gets no money.
Interviewer: Also, [inaudible 39:42] since most people settle on that, so that's what most people's goal is. So, we'll talk about that process, which I'm sure is shorter. So, what are the main elements after someone hires your firm, for instance? What are the main elements that the client goes through? So for settlements, which is happens most of the time, what are the main things that a client has to do is go through and experience. What [inaudible 40:21].
Thomas: Mostly to help us and assist us in gathering all the necessary documentation. To be available to discuss the status of their injury so that we can prepare a settlement demand. That demand is going to be a compilation of the medical records, bills, and a description of how this injury has affected our client's life.
That demand will go out. Typically, that is the start of a settlement negotiation between our firm and the insurance company.
Sometimes the insurance company will want what is called an independent medical examination or an IME. So, a client should be prepared at any time, especially where they claim their injury has prevented them from working, to be subjected to an independent medical examination from a doctor that's not their primary physician.
Interviewer: So they have to go out for an exam from the insurance company's doctor. Are those examinations usually very stressful for people? Are they like hostile? What's the tone?
Thomas: Correct. Now, remember, it's called independent medical examiner. So, in theory the doctor is independent, but let's not kid anybody, they're paid for by the insurance company.The primary pitfall in the independent medical examination is discussing with that doctor facts and circumstances of the accident that are not related to the injury. Sometimes the doctors will include in their reports because they obtain the information from the patient stuff that's not relative to treatment and diagnosis, but maybe very relevant to issues of liability. The doctor shouldn't be asking you what color was the traffic light when you went through it? That's not relevant to the doctor's diagnosis. So there's a pitfall and we try to [inaudible 42:39] for that.
Interviewer: Yeah. That sounds important. I mean, okay, so what are few common things that doctors that may do that will lead you into a territory where you're discussing stuff you shouldn't with them?
Thomas: Well, it's usually in the initial part of the interview where the doctor is asking questions about why you are there and I'm always suggesting that they're doing it intentionally, but they're soliciting information from the client that helps them understand why the client or patient is being treated, what their symptoms are.
But I think it's easy to get into a dialogue with a doctor about the circumstances of the accident, especially, if you're upset about it still.
Interviewer: Yeah. Did the doctors try to give like their own opinion and diagnosis to sway your opinion? Like, "You're fine."
Thomas: What does the so-called independent medical examiner will issue a report back to the insurance company and will say, "Yeah, there's nothing wrong with this person, in my opinion, that would preclude them from working," and those types of reports will end up with the insurance company and stop benefit payments such as lost wages.
Interviewer: So before a person goes into this possible hornet's nest, you're talking to them and advising them what to watch for, what to do, what to say, what not to say. That kind of stuff?
Thomas: Absolutely. They need to be properly prepared and that's one of the best reasons to have a lawyer.
Interviewer: Okay. Any other major things that will happen in the settlements that people need to be [inaudible 44:41]?
Thomas: People need to be prepared for the ultimate discussion about resolution and settlement. They need to have an open mind about what their case is worth today and I say that because their case may have a full value of X, but if you could get the money today as opposed to three years from now, that might be X minus something of value.Would you rather have $80,000 today or $100,000 five years from now?
Interviewer: I got you. Now I'm sure you're able to frame that properly because you'll know, all right, typically, if they're this now, [inaudible 45:35] get that much later and it may or may not be worth it to ride it out or not settle.
Thomas: It all depends on our assessment of liability in a case because if there's some factual dispute about what would create false or liability, then there's always a risk. You're always taking a gamble on whether or not a jury is going to side with you at trial. So, you could walk away with significant time and money invested and walk away with zero or little in a case. That's something you have to take into consideration when you're thinking to settle a case. What is the risk and reward analysis.
Interviewer: Well, that tells me something that you might want to watch out for when you're interviewing attorneys of vetting that some of them more settlement prone and some are more like let's go to trial and fight it. Then, obviously, you don't want pressure to do what you don't want to do, but you also want someone that knows what should be done in your situation. I mean how do you resolve that? Do you feel pressure to settle cases or do you feel pressure to take them to trial? What should people be aware of?
Thomas: I don't typically feel the pressure to take cases to trial because I don't feel that clients in general look forward to or enjoy the process. Lawyers might enjoy the process because we like the show or we were trained in evidence rules and we enjoy speaking to a jury. But that's not taking the client's best interest necessarily at heart. In some cases it is. You firmly believe that their offer is so nominal, so unfair that your client deserves more and should take the case to trial. So you have to know the difference between a good case and a bad case or a mediocre case and be able to assess the risk as opposed to the reward in going through the file process. Especially when it comes to expenses because during the settlement process there are often no expert fees. Sometimes there is, but once the case goes to trial, the cost of the litigation [inaudible 48:14] increases a hundred fold and those expenses the client ultimately has to pay for, whether [inaudible 48:27].
Interviewer: Oh, okay. Well, that's another question. I've seen you pay nothing unless we recover that kind of stuff. Is that true in New York? How does that work?
Thomas: Well, it's somewhat misleading in the way that you stated it. The rule is that we, and the way we structure our fee arrangement which is typical in the industry, is that we obtain no fee unless we get recovery for you, but our fee is our time. I explain to people if you hire a carpenter to come and do an addition on your home, he's going to give you a quote of time and materials or labor and materials. We are offering our labor at no cost until there's a recovery and then it's a third of the net recovery.
But the disbursements or the costs of the litigation are the responsibility of the client. So, if we have to order medical records, if we have depositions, if we have to hire an expert, those costs add up and are ultimately the cost of the client's. We'll typically pay for them along the way and keep a tally, but we reserve the right to request to be reimbursed at any time and certainly at the end of the case, whether it's at trial or a settlement, those disbursements come off the top. We get reimbursed first and then the fee is split.Most people want that, they don't want to pay us by the hour.The client is usually out of work.