FAQ: Bad Faith Insurance, Wrongful Death & Personal Injury

Frequently Asked Questions
Regarding California Lawyers, Case Selection and Fees

10. Why did you turn down my case?

A. Viau & Kwasniewski does not turn down insurance, personal injury and wrongful death cases lightly at this law firm.  We wish we could help everyone who comes to us with an insurance, serious personal injury or wrongful death matter, but we cannot for a number of reasons.  First, we have to be convinced that after some initial investigation, we can help.  In other words, we have to be as sure as we can that your case has merit under the applicable law in California.  Secondly, we only take a select number of insurance, personal injury and wrongful death cases so we can devote our full attention to each case that we take.  This means that we only take cases that are serious enough to justify the time and resources that will be necessary to litigate the case aggressively, to increase the odds of obtaining a satisfactory result.  Lastly, we cannot escape the reality that this is a business.  If we take insurance, personal injury and wrongful death cases that are too small to justify our time and effort, we will be forced out of business, and will be unable to help anyone.

11. If an attorney is willing to take my case on a contingency fee basis what does that mean?

A. It generally means that you only have to pay the attorney after there is a settlement, after a judgment is paid or some other monetary resolution.  The attorney’s fee is usually based on an agreed to percentage of the settlement, judgment or other proceeds from a resolution.

12. What are litigation costs in California?

A. Litigation costs refer to the costs necessary to litigate a case through trial and appeal if necessary.  These costs do not include attorney fees, which are separate.  Litigation costs include such costs as: complaint filing fees, the costs for court reporters for depositions, expert fees, copying costs, witness fees, costs for subpoenaing documents, etc.  These costs can be significant, especially if an insurance, personal injury and wrongful death case goes through a jury trial.

13. Who is ultimately responsible for litigation costs?

A. Each person who files an lawsuit is ultimately responsible for litigation costs.  However, generally when an attorney takes a case on a contingency fee basis, the attorney also agrees to pay for litigation costs until there is a resolution.  Then the attorney has the right to get reimbursed for the litigation costs paid for and on behalf of the client in addition to the contingency fee pursuant to prior agreement.

14. What should I look for if I need a California insurance lawyer in a bad faith case against my insurance company? 

A. It can be difficult to find an insurance lawyer in these types of cases who will handle your case with the attention and skill that everyone who has a meritorious case deserves.  You need insurance lawyers who are experienced, tough, and resilient, who know their stuff, work hard, and care about your interests.  You will want to find insurance lawyers who know what they are doing and with whom you are comfortable with. You also have to be able to trust their judgment.

If you have a friend or relative who has had a case in litigation, and had a good experience with a particular lawyer, you may want to talk to that lawyer.  Personal references are the best way to find a reputable insurance lawyer.  If you do not know who to talk to about finding an insurance lawyer, there are California State Bar Certified Referral Services that have pre-screened insurance lawyers on their panels.  You can also look for an insurance attorney on the internet.

If you find an insurance lawyer or law firm on the internet that looks like they could help you, study their website. Does it appear that their website is just about how good they claim they are, or does it offer information that is useful regarding your legal problem?  Does it appear that the insurance law firm is a professional group who takes their responsibilities seriously, or are they just looking to sign up a bunch of cases that will be assigned to some inexperienced associate or assistant?

If you are interested in talking to an insurance lawyer after you have looked at their website, or gotten their name by a referral or other means, call them by telephone to discuss your insurance case.  Ask to speak to a partner in your initial telephone call about your case.  Does the insurance lawyer seem knowledgeable about insurance law?  Does he or she ask important questions in an attempt to get a handle on your problem right away?  Does the insurance lawyer tell you what he or she needs to further evaluate your case?

If the lawyer is interested in your insurance case, he or she should ask you to send a complete copy of your insurance policy, copies of all correspondence between you and your insurance company, cost estimates to repair your property if it is a property damage claim, and any other documentation relevant to your type of claim.  Most qualified insurance lawyers want to study your case a little further by reviewing such documentation.  Then he or she will suggest an appointment to meet you if they believe your insurance case has merit.

At the appointment you may be asked to retain the insurance lawyer.  You may be asked to sign a legal services agreement.  Before you sign, be sure you want to hire this lawyer or law firm.  Find out about their experience.  Find out how long they have been practicing in California.  Are they capable of taking an insurance case to trial?  What kinds of insurance cases have they handled, and what kind of results have they achieved?  Are you comfortable with this insurance lawyer or lawyers?  Who will actually work on your case?  Is it the insurance lawyer that you have met or someone else at the firm?  Do the partners work together as a team or will your insurance case be assigned to associates or assistants?  Ask them for names and telephone numbers of their other clients so you can talk to other people who have hired this law firm.

If you are interested in hiring the insurance law firm, ask lots of questions about the legal services agreement.  Take it home and read it, and then call the insurance lawyer with your questions. Make sure you understand all aspects of the legal agreement, including the financial terms of the agreement and your and the law firm’s obligations under the agreement before you sign.

15. What are some of the characteristics of a good lawyer?

A. A good lawyer gets good results, provides excellent legal representation and is able to do demanding and difficult work.

To be good in a particular field of law takes years of practice.  If you have an insurance case, you want insurance lawyers who have handled a number of insurance cases in California.  If you have a personal injury or wrongful death case, you want personal injury lawyers who have substantial experience handling those types of cases.

  • A good lawyer cares about the profession and his or her clients.
  • A good lawyer works hard.
  • A good lawyer only takes cases he or she believes are meritorious.
  • Contrary to popular belief, a good and effective lawyer is honest and ethical.
  • A good lawyer knows that his or her stock in trade is credibility.  If a lawyer loses credibility with opposing counsel, you the client, the judge or the jury, that lawyer loses everything.
  • A good lawyer knows when it is time to be realistic about the value and the risks in a case.
  • A good lawyer knows that the day after a lawsuit is filed and discovery begins the case will never be the same again.  Through the legal process called discovery, the evidence is revealed – and ultimately the true character of the case.
  • A good lawyer knows that his or her job is to help those who are being oppressed and cheated by those who are powerful.  This sometimes means cutting fees and doing work without pay.
  • A good lawyer believes that each one of us in this society has value, and the laws are the means to ensure that our individual rights are protected regardless of our wealth, power or social standing.
  • A good lawyer is tenacious and has a philosophy that every problem has a solution.
  • A good lawyer advocates the truth.
  • A good lawyer is prepared and knows the case.
  • A good lawyer knows that details matter.
  • A good lawyer takes positions that are supported by the law and the evidence.
  • A good lawyer makes things happen rather then lets things happen.
  • A good lawyer promptly returns telephone calls and is responsive.
  • A good lawyer meets time deadlines.
  • A good lawyer is persuasive.
  • A good lawyer knows that it is the client’s case and not the lawyer’s case.

Viau & Kwasniewsk attorneys are experienced in insurance bad faith, personal injury and wrongful death litigation cases. Our trial attorneys provide committed, professional and highly experienced legal representation in the state of California. See our Site Directory for a complete overview of our Los Angeles law firm.

For more information about legal representation in the State of California complete our Contact Us Form, Email us or call our Los Angeles trial attorneys at (213) 842-8164.