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Frequently Asked Questions

Walter E. Laake, Jr. – Maryland and Washington D.C. Trial Attorney

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How should I go about choosing an attorney?

With hundreds of lawyers advertising on TV, in the Yellow Pages, and on the Internet, it is hard to know who to hire to help you with your case.  In my opinion, the three most important criteria are: Experience, Competence, and your Comfort Level with the lawyer.  You should feel comfortable with the attorney you choose and this will come only after you have personally spoken with him or her.  This is why I try to personally speak with every potential client from the very first contact.

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2. How soon after an accident should I seek representation?

Since you are visiting this website, you are obviously trying to find an attorney for help.  Do NOT delay!  The sooner a lawyer is hired, the sooner he or she can begin to help, and that help includes: investigating and preserving evidence, ensuring that you are receiving appropriate medical care, and preventing you from making mistakes which are too numerous to discuss here.  Under no circumstances should you give an insurance company a signed or recorded statement without first being prepared to do so by an attorney.  If you have already given the insurance representative a statement, just hope that you have not hurt your case.  (Call me and I will explain why.)

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3. How much do you charge for your services?

There is NO CHARGE for me to discuss your case with you and it is only when we are retained by you in writing that we will be owed anything for our services.  When we are hired, we are usually retained on a ⅓ contingency fee basis, but that percentage may vary slightly higher or lower depending on the nature and circumstances of the case.

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4. I was on the job when my accident happened. Can you help with my workers’ compensation claim?

Yes, and it is essential that you retain an attorney familiar with workers’ compensation claims and procedures in addition to your accident case.  I have handled numerous cases with serious personal injuries where the workers’ compensation benefits have far exceeded the benefits available from an automobile motorist’s limited insurance coverage.  An attorney not familiar with workers’ compensation could easily lose your right to workers’ compensation benefits.

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5. How is it determined what I will recover for the injuries that I received in an accident?

Whether your claim is being evaluated by an insurance adjuster, a defense attorney, a judge or a jury, the criteria that is used is essentially the same:

a) What are your “economic damages”?, i.e., What is the total amount of expenses you have incurred and that you can prove such as medical bills, lost wages or leave, loss of services of a parent for a child, etc?

b) What are your “non-economic damages”?, i.e., What is the pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life that you have sustained as a result of an accident?  In this regard, the length of time it takes for you to return to your former state of health and whether you have been left with a serious permanent disability that will affect you for the rest of your life are the most important factors in evaluating a claim.

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6. If I hire a lawyer, does that mean that I will be suing the party responsible for my injuries?

Hopefully not.  My belief is that it is in the client’s best interest to seek a fair and equitable settlement of your claim without the expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally draining experience that a lawsuit can produce.  Most motor vehicle accidents, when properly prepared and presented, can be settled without the necessity of a lawsuit.  Indeed, the case cited in “Verdicts and Settlements” where I was able to recover a $750,000 recovery for the loss of a non-working retired spouse was achieved without the necessity of filing a lawsuit. 

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7. If I think my present attorney is not doing the job, can I hire another attorney to take over the case?

You certainly have the right to hire a second attorney, but the law and the retainer agreement that you entered into with your initial attorney could provide that he or she is entitled to a “reasonable fee” for their services (unless they are terminated for cause).  I have no problem in providing you with a “second opinion” about the services that your attorney is providing.  Further, when circumstances warrant, I have taken over cases in the past.  The case cited in “Verdicts and Settlements” that was resolved in 2004 with a $700,000 recovery against Anthony & Sylvan Pools is a case where the clients had originally retained another attorney and realized that they had made a mistake.  Feel free to give me a call and I will discuss with you whether your current attorney is well known in the personal injury field and will try to determine whether he or she is doing a good job with your case.

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8. What mistakes should I avoid in hiring a lawyer?

There are 3 mistakes you do not want to make in hiring a lawyer.

a) Do not hire a lawyer primarily because they did a good job on a friend’s divorce or will or traffic hearing, etc.  Lawyers who practice in one area of the law may have little or no experience with the problems that your personal injury case presents.

b) Do not hire a lawyer who does everything especially if your case is a serious and substantial one. Just as you would not want your family doctor to do your surgery, you should not ask a lawyer who does not specialize in personal injury work to handle anything of more than a routine nature. IF YOUR CASE HAS SUBSTANTIAL INJURIES AND DAMAGES, YOU HAVE TOO MUCH TO LOSE BY MAKING A WRONG CHOICE.

c) Do not hire a lawyer who requires that you pay for the expenses during the pendency of the case and/or holds you responsible for all expenses even if the case is lost. I will cover the costs of investigation and litigation once the case is accepted and will only be reimbursed those expenses if and when we recover. Our clients deserve the peace of mind knowing that in the rare case where we are unsuccessful that they will not be held liable for often times thousands of dollars in litigation expenses and costs.


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