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Our Frequently Asked Questions

General (9)

How soon should I see a lawyer if I think I need one?

The safe answer is “As soon as possible”. The deadline for filing documents and actions can be as short as ten (10) days, such as for filing some appeals, or as long as fifteen (15) years, such as for some kinds of contractual disputes. The bottom line is, if you miss your deadline, you are probably out of luck. Calling a lawyer immediately is essential to preserve all your claims.

If you are only licensed in Kentucky and Ohio, does that mean you can’t work on cases outside of Kentucky and Ohio?

No, although it does mean that another attorney will have to be brought in to assist with your case. Fortunately, this office has established working relationships with attorneys in Indiana, Texas, Michigan, West Virginia, and Virginia for a variety of cases. Further, some cases can be filed in Kentucky or Ohio, even if you live in a different state.

Will anyone else be working on my case?

Yes, secretaries, paralegals and/or clerks will assist the attorney in working on your case. Further, Lawrence & Associates’ attorneys work in teams so you will always have access to an attorney that is knowledgeable about your case. However, if an attorney who does not work for Lawrence & Associates works on your case, you will be advised and the other attorney will wait on your permission before joining the legal team. If another attorney does work on your case, he will bill separately in the case of the hourly billing. In the case of retainer or contingency fee work, the attorney’s fee will not change, but will be divided among the attorneys.

Will the lawyer recommend another attorney or firm if this one is unable to handle your case?

Yes. Sometimes a specific lawyer is referred, and other times potential clients will be referred to the attorney referral hotline of their local Bar Association.

What kinds of fees and costs will be charged to me?

This depends completely upon the kind of case you intend to pursue. Be sure to ask the attorney about this when you are reviewing the contract. In any event, all fees and expenses will be shown to you at the end of your case. Itemized statements of expenses are also available on request.

Should I “shop around” for the cheapest lawyer I can find?

With legal advice, you get what you pay for. Although you should not expect to get good legal advice without paying for it, you should not pay for anything you can’t actually receive. As with any purchase, be sure to weigh the cost of purchase against the benefit of what you receive.

Is most of a lawyer’s time usually spent arguing cases in court?

No. A lawyer normally spends more time in an office than in a courtroom. The practice of law most often involves researching legal developments, investigating facts, writing and preparing legal documents, giving advice, and settling disputes. Laws change constantly. New law is enacted and prior law is amended and repealed. In addition, judicial decisions in court cases regularly alter what the law currently means, whether the source of law is the United States Constitution or a state constitution; federal or state statues; or federal, state, and local codes and regulations. For these reasons, a lawyer must put much time into knowing how the laws and the changes will affect each circumstance.

How do I find a trustworthy, reputable lawyer?

Lawyers have to follow very stringent ethical rules, especially regarding the handling of money and the representation of clients. Judges’ rules are even more stringent. To check out your potential attorney, search the state Bar Association where the attorney is located to see if they have any ethical complaints or malpractice suits filed against them (use www.kybar.org in Kentucky, or http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/ in Ohio).

Also, check to see how the attorney is rated on www.avvo.com. You can check out our blog post on hiring an attorney for more details.

At the first meeting, can I ask about the possible outcome of the case?

Certainly, but be aware that the answer will probably be that more research of law and investigation of facts is necessary before any accurate prediction can be made. Some types of cases – especially certain criminal charges – are so common that some prediction can be made, but under no circumstances can any lawyer guarantee an outcome. Beware of any lawyer that does so.

Personal Injury (9)

Will my personal injury award be taxed?

Generally, no. Under section 104 of the Internal Revenue Code, a taxpayer’s gross income does not include any damages that are received on account of personal physical injuries or sickness. It does not matter whether the damages have been obtained by a court order or through a negotiated settlement. It also does not matter whether the damages are paid in a lump sum or in accordance with a structured settlement that provides for periodic payments (although in a structured settlement, interest on the settlement will also not be taxed, giving structured settlements an extra benefit). Therefore, any monetary payments to a plaintiff for the plaintiff’s physical injuries are not taxable to the plaintiff. However, you should be sure to mention these proceeds to your accountant at the end of the year in which you receive them. The accountant may have additional information that affects your tax liability.

How much does a personal injury attorney cost?

At Lawrence & Associates, you never have to pay up front for a personal injury case. We know that many injured people have interruptions in employment and higher medical costs than normal, so we always take a contingency fee rather than setting an hourly rate. This kind of fee allows you to hire a great lawyer without having to be rich to afford it. You don’t have to pay our fees unless we win a verdict or settlement for you. However, if you win your case, attorney’s fees, all case expenses – including court costs – will be the responsibility of the client.

Do I need an attorney for my personal injury claim?

An amateur handling their own personal injury claim is like an amateur working on their own car or fixing their own computer. You might get the job done, but it’s going to be a lot harder and take a lot longer than it would if you have a professional take care of it for you. Like all professionals, attorneys charge fees for their work. Generally, having an attorney on your personal injury claim raises the settlement value of the claim by far more than what the attorney takes as a fee. The insurance industry has concluded that who have hired attorneys settle for an average of fifty percent higher than injured people without an attorney.*

*Richard A. Derrig and Herbert I. Weisberg, Determinants of Total Compensation for Auto Bodily Injury Liability Under No Fault; Investigation, Negotiation and the Suspicion of Fraud, published in Insurance and Risk Management, volume 71, January 2004, at pages 633 through 662.

How long does the negotiation process take for a personal injury case?

That depends on how long you have to treat. Your attorney can’t send a demand to the insurance company until your medical treatment is either done or has reached a plateau. At Lawrence & Associates, once we send out the demand we require insurance adjusters to respond within thirty days. After that, we usually know within a couple of months whether the case will settle or need to be filed.

Once you settle, how long does it take to get your check in?

Usually the check will come to our office within thirty days of settlement. After the check comes in and is signed, it has to pass through an escrow account. It can take three or four days for the check to clear the escrow account. At that point, you get your money.

Is it normal for a lawyer to contact me after a car accident about filing a lawsuit?

In Ohio, this is allowed.  In Kentucky, an attorney is not allowed to contact you in any way within the first thirty days after a car accident.  After thirty days, an attorney may contact you in writing, but not by phone or in person.  As with anytime you hire an attorney, be careful of accidentally hiring a law firm that provides little in the way of expertise or customer service, but instead processes a large number of cases as if they were widgets in a machine.  Be sure to research your choice carefully first, using websites such as Avvo or Justia.  At Lawrence & Associates, we think our clients deserve more than to be processed. We won’t contact you unless you’ve asked us to do so through our website or another person.

Are my case expenses included in my attorney’s fee?

No, case expenses are separate, but usually minimal. All personal injury attorneys charge fees that are separate from expenses. We pay the expenses up front so you don’t have to, but they will be taken out of the settlement.

What does a personal injury attorney do to help my case?

A good personal injury attorney knows what evidence he or she needs to gather and authenticate to prove to the insurance company that you deserve compensation for your injury. The attorney should also know all the kinds of compensation that are available to you, so you don’t leave a category out and get shortchanged as a result. An attorney knows the law and can answer your questions. And a good personal injury attorney is a threat to the insurance company in a way that non-attorneys can never be. We represent a watchful eye for illegal or unethical insurance practices and a strong arm to force insurance companies to pay an honest amount for your claim. Anyone can mail a police report to the insurance adjuster, but only a good attorney can force the insurance company to do what’s right.

Is my injury serious enough to file a personal injury claim?

In Kentucky, you have to have more than $1,000.00 in medical bills before you can file a personal injury claim related to a car wreck. Generally, the amount you get for a personal injury case is determined by the amount of medical treatment necessary to treat you. One doctor’s visit isn’t going to make a large personal injury claim, but multiple visits that cause you to miss time from work certainly will. If you have to have surgery or have to be hospitalized, that almost certainly merits a call to a reputable personal injury attorney. If you have unpaid medical bills or lost time from work, remember that insurance is there for a reason. Let Lawrence & Associates take a look at your case and we will let you know if it is a good idea to move forward.

Workers' Compensation (9)

What is the first thing I should do if I get hurt on the job?

In order, you should: 1) tell your employer what happened; 2) schedule an appointment with a doctor of your choice, and; 3) call an experienced workers’ compensation attorney like Lawrence & Associates. It’s usually unwise to sign anything for the employer or an insurance company before speaking with an attorney, although sometimes the employer has an incident form they will ask you to fill out. Just remember that anything you say or write down can be used against you, so speak (or write) wisely!

What does a nurse case manager do?

A nurse case manager (or field case manager) is someone hired by the insurance company to attend your doctor’s visits and report back to the insurance company about what is going on. The nurse case manager will often try to interrogate your doctor during the appointment; some even try to answer the doctor’s questions for you. A nurse case manager is almost always an advocate for the insurance company rather than for you! If your workers’ compensation adjuster is asking a nurse case manager to follow you to doctor’s appointments that is usually (but not always) a sign that the adjuster is thinking of challenging your doctor’s recommended treatment. Call an attorney right away to make sure this doesn’t happen!

What does a Workers’ Compensation attorney do?

Workers’ Compensation attorneys make sure the insurance company pays you for each of the three types of payments they have to make: medical benefits, lost wage replacement, and permanent impairment compensation. Often, the first two categories will get paid with no problem, leading you to believe you’ll have no problem collecting the permanent impairment compensation as well. But when you hit MMI, the insurance company starts playing hardball, even if they didn’t play hardball before. You need a workers’ compensation attorney to see you through to the end of your claim.

Do I have to attend my Independent Medical Examination (IME)?

Yes, your employer’s insurance company is allowed to schedule an IME and you are required to attend. If you refuse, the workers’ compensation insurance company can cut off your benefits. However, an IME is a sign that the insurance company is trying to get its own, hand-picked doctor to set your impairment rating, rather than allowing your doctor to do it. This affects how much you get paid! If the insurance company schedules an IME, you should call an attorney right away.

What does MMI mean, and how does it affect my Workers’ Compensation benefits?

MMI means Maximum Medical Improvement, and it means the doctors have gotten you to a plateau in treatment. It does not mean you are 100% better or at the same level you were at before your injury. When a doctor declares MMI, the insurance company still has to pay for medical bills but is allowed to cut off wage replacement benefits. The insurance company should also be offering to pay something toward permanent impairment (although they usually try to lowball you if they offer anything at all). Sometimes the insurance company pays its own doctor to declare you at MMI before your doctor thinks it’s appropriate – if that happens, call an attorney immediately to get your lost wage benefits back!

How long does it take to get a Workers’ Compensation settlement?

At Lawrence & Associates, we always work to get you a settlement as soon as you reach MMI. You cannot get a settlement until you reach MMI because your doctor sets an impairment rating for you after MMI that affects the amount of your settlement. For this reason, the amount of medical treatment you need affects how long it takes to get a settlement. Also remember that a settlement isn’t always possible. Sometimes you have to fight to win, and you cannot win this fight without a good attorney at your side.

What do I do if my TTD check is late?

Your TTD check (for lost wage replacement) should come every two weeks like clockwork. Sometimes there are hiccups, though, and you won’t find it in the mail when you expect it. There are a few things you can do. First, call the adjuster and make sure the check has been sent. If the adjuster says it has, give the check another day or two. Often it will show up on its own. If the adjuster says the check isn’t coming, or if it doesn’t show up within two days, call Lawrence & Associates right away and let us force the insurance company to pay you.

Do I have to see the doctor that the employer or insurance company picked to treat me?

No, generally not. You are allowed to pick your own doctor once as a matter of right, and you are usually allowed to switch to a different doctor of your choice after that. There are some exceptions to this rule if a doctor lives exceptionally far away from you when other doctors nearby practice the same type of medicine, or if a doctor is out of network for the Workers’ Compensation provider, but these are relatively rare occurrences. In general, when the employer or insurance company picks your doctor for you, it’s a trap! They don’t try to do that when you have an attorney. If the insurance company is refusing to pay for your chosen doctor, call Lawrence & Associates immediately!

Do I have to go back to work when the insurance company tells me to?

This is a good question with a tough answer. If your doctor returns you to light duty and if your employer offers you a job that is within those light duty restrictions, it is usually wise to go back to work. If you don’t, your benefits can get cut off. However, the employer cannot pay you less than you got in TTD. The employer cannot violate the doctor’s restrictions. And the insurance company cannot use its own IME doctor to arbitrarily say you can go back to work when your own doctor disagrees (but the insurance company often tries it anyway). If you or your doctor think you aren’t ready to go back to work but are being forced into it, call Lawrence & Associates today. We can help!

Bankruptcy (9)

What is exempt from the reach of creditors?

At Lawrence & Associates, we take full advantage of all available property exemptions when we represent clients in bankruptcy proceedings. Our goal in your case will be to enable you to keep as much of your property as possible while obtaining maximum debt relief. In Kentucky, a person filing bankruptcy can choose to use either the Kentucky or federal property exemptions. In most cases, Lawrence & Associates recommends that our Kentucky clients use the more generous federal exemptions. However, Ohio bankruptcy filers are required to use Ohio’s state exemptions.

Some of the federal exemptions include…

  • Personal home – $23,675 for a single filer/$47,350 for a married couple
  • Vehicle – $3,775 for a single filer/$7,550 for a married couple
  • Household goods and furnishings – $12,625 for a single filer/$25,250 for a married couple

Some of the Ohio state exemptions include…

  • Personal home – $136,925 for a single filer/$273,850 for a married couple
  • Vehicle – $3,775 for a single filer/$7,550 for a married couple (if both spouses are on the title)
  • Household goods and furnishings – $12,625 for a single filer/$25,250 for a married couple

Many other items are exempt as well, such as tools of a trade. There is even a “wild card”, miscellaneous exemption that can be applied to any asset you want to protect. All qualified retirement accounts such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s and IRA accounts are exempt, as are 529 and Coverdell ESA contributions made more than two years before filing. You can also keep most unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation benefits and Social Security income.

If I file bankruptcy, can I keep my property?

The answer in most cases is yes. A lawyer at our firm can provide you with specific details about the exemptions that are available to you. At Lawrence & Associates will create a personalized debt relief plan for you, one that suits your needs. It will be designed to help you retain as much of your property as possible while providing you with debt relief.

Can I file bankruptcy more than once?

People can have many misconceptions about bankruptcy, including the number of times you can file. The truth is, you can indeed declare bankruptcy more than once, and many individuals take advantage of this as part of a complete debt reduction plan. While you can only pursue a Chapter 7 bankruptcy claim once every eight years, you can file Chapter 13 almost an unlimited number of times. However, there are certain court-mandated time restrictions if you want to receive a discharge in Chapter 13 more than once.

Check out our videos on this subject for more details.

What Is chapter 20 bankruptcy?

In some cases, simply filing a one-time Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy cannot completely solve your financial problems. For example, if you have a great deal of both unsecured debt (such as credit card debt) and secured debt (such as a mortgage or a car loan), you may benefit from a Chapter 20 strategy. While there is no official “Chapter 20,” this concept involves first filing a Chapter 7 to eliminate your unsecured debt, and afterwards pursuing a Chapter 13 in order to lengthen the amount of time you have to pay off secured debt. Using this method allows you to return to a positive cash flow so you can protect assets such as your home and your car. While Chapter 20 has helped a lot of people secure a better financial future, it is not right for everyone. Your best move is to contact our firm for a free initial consultation where we can discuss the specifics of your unique circumstances. Regardless of your position, our firm can help you find the best debt reduction strategy for your needs.

What are the benefits of bankruptcy

Bankruptcy can have an extremely positive impact on your life and give you…

  • A fresh financial start
  • Complete freedom from debt through Chapter 7 bankruptcy
  • A manageable payment plan through Chapter 13 bankruptcy
  • A positive cash flow
  • An end to creditor harassment
  • An end to stress and anxiety over your finances

What will I need to work on after bankruptcy?

While a person’s credit score will drop initially after bankruptcy, in some cases the drop is not as drastic as you may think. Check out our videos on this subject for more details.

The advantage of filing is that there are realistic ways to rebuild your credit afterward — and with no debt, or lowered debt, you are in a better position to do so. Although bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years, with smart choices, many people will be eligible for a mortgage again before that time. In addition, most individuals can secure credit cards and car loans immediately after discharge, albeit with higher interest rates. After your bankruptcy is finalized, your attorney will give you some tips on rebuilding your credit and dealing with credit reporting agencies.

Can I file for bankruptcy without affecting my spouse’s credit?

Absolutely. If you choose to file for bankruptcy without including your spouse then your spouse’s social security number will not appear on the bankruptcy and there will be no effect on your spouse’s credit. Bear in mind that whichever spouse chooses not to file will not have any of their debts affected.

Can a married couple file a divorce and a bankruptcy at the same time?

For couples, bankruptcy and divorce sometimes go hand in hand. Both offer a fresh start after other solutions have failed. At Lawrence & Associates, our attorneys can refer you to a Kentucky divorce attorney, and we have an Ohio divorce attorney in house.  A bankruptcy will not affect spousal support or child support, but a jointly planned bankruptcy between divorcing spouses will often be the best way for a couple to resolve joint debts apportioned in the divorce decree. At Lawrence & Associates, our attorneys can advise you on the best order in which to pursue divorce and bankruptcy, as well as whether you and your spouse should file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Not everyone will combine a divorce and a bankruptcy in the same way.

Can same sex couples file jointly for bankruptcy?

Yes, now that the Supreme Court has guaranteed marriage equality for all U.S. citizens, same sex couples can file a joint bankruptcy as long as they are legally married prior to the date they file bankruptcy.