Untitled - Iowa Personal Injury Attorney

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                        Who Should Be Reading This Book?
            Were you involved in a serious car wreck? Was a family member
     killed in a sudden and tragic traffic collision? Are you or a loved one
     looking at a lifetime of medical bills and disability because of a reckless

           If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” you have taken an
     important first step by reading this book. The information we give you
     here will help. We personally guarantee it.

            If you read this book and believe you did not learn something important
            about Iowa car accident claims, please send a letter to our office and we
            will make a $25 donation to the Iowa Civil Justice Foundation in your name.

           You probably opened this book because your mind is swirling with
     questions like:
                  • How do I find out if I have a “personal injury” case?
                    •    Who is responsible for what happened to me or my loved
                    •    How long do I have to do something about my claim?

                    Who Is Behind This Book And Why
                        Should I Listen To You?
            We have been answering questions like these for injured Iowans and
     their families for a combined 45 years. We wrote this book so that you
     could have good, solid information about Iowa car accident claims, hiring
     an attorney and dealing with insurance companies. No matter whether or
     not you choose to file a lawsuit or hire an attorney, this book contains
     important information that all Iowa car accident victims should know.

            Our names are John Riccolo, Tim Semelroth and Pressley Henningsen.
     We are Iowa attorneys who represent people who have suffered serious
     injury or lost a loved one due to a car accident. If you want a divorce or
     need a will or have a traffic ticket, we are not the attorneys for you. We
     only handle serious injury and malpractice cases and we only represent
     people — not big insurance companies.

   PAGE 1

          John Riccolo is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and is a
   member and Past President of the Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers – an
   invitation-only organization limited to the top 250 trial attorneys in Iowa.
   Tim Semelroth is also a member of the Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers
   and is an adjunct professor at the University of Iowa College of Law,
   which is consistently ranked as one of the top 25 law schools in the
   country. Pressley Henningsen is a Past President of the Jackson County
   Bar Association and he speaks around Iowa at educational seminars for
   fellow attorneys. At the time of this book’s publication, John Riccolo,
   Tim Semelroth and Pressley Henningsen were three of only twenty one
   Iowans who had been inducted into the Million Dollar Advocates Forum,
   a national organization of attorneys who have verdicts and settlements
   of a million dollars or more. For more information about who we are,
   you are welcome to visit our websites at www.JohnRiccolo.com,
   www.TimSemelroth.com or www.PressleyHenningsen.com.

                Why Did We Write This Book?
         First, we are tired of getting phone calls from seriously injured
   people who have been exploited or otherwise hurt because they did not
   understand their rights as a car accident victim in Iowa. We are sick of
   having to tell Iowa car accident victims that they made early mistakes
   that cannot be fixed. We believe that the cure to these problems is
   providing helpful information to injured Iowans and their families before

            •   Make a significant mistake, like failing to seek immediate
                medical treatment; or

            •   Talk to an insurance company before they are educated
                about their rights; or

            •   Miss an important legal deadline that will eliminate any
                opportunity to get justice

         Second, we wrote this book because we believe you deserve to
   learn about the Iowa accident law in the comfort and privacy of your own
   home. This book allows you to take your time and review this
   information at your own pace.

   PAGE 2

       You can read this book without any lawyers pushing you to file a
lawsuit or any insurance companies pressuring you to settle your claim.
This book contains helpful information you can use to make your own
decisions. It is also a valuable resource you can save in case your family
or friends face questions about a serious Iowa car accident in the future.

       Third, we wrote this book because giving it to you saves us time.
We get phone calls every day from people who want us to represent
them in their Iowa car accident claims. This book contains the same
general information that we would give you if you called and spoke to
one of the attorneys in our office. Writing this book gives us the chance
to “talk to you” about what you need to know about Iowa car accident
claims so you can make an informed decision about what steps to take
in your own situation. We cannot accept every case. In fact, there are
many cases we do not accept. However, even if we do not take your
case, we believe you still deserve to have access to this important

              This Book Is Not Legal Advice
      This book, which is based upon Iowa law, is designed to inform
and not to advise. We are offering strategies and identifying traps, but
please do not construe anything in this book to be legal advice about
your individual case. No person should ever apply or interpret any law
without the aid of an experienced attorney who knows the facts because
the facts may change the application of the law. Reading this book does
not make you a client of our law firm or its attorneys. We can only
represent you after you have signed a written contract with Riccolo &
Semelroth, P.C. If you have any questions about your legal rights after
reading this book, you can contact us at 1-888-546-6529.

                                                                  PAGE 3
    6 Dangerous Myths
              About Iowa Car Accident Claims
       In 2003, there were over 3 million people injured in traffic
accidents in the United States. Another 43,000 Americans died as a
result of a car crash. Even with this many injuries and deaths every year,
there are a lot of myths about what happens after a person is involved in
a car accident. We want to clear up the confusion surrounding the
following misconceptions:

Myth #1 If You Did Not Cause the Car Accident, You Are
        Not Obligated to Do Anything
      If you are injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s
mistake, you have a personal injury claim. Under Iowa law, a car
accident victim who wants to be compensated for a personal injury must
be able to prove:
   • That the other driver was negligent
   • That the other driver’s negligence caused damage to the car
     accident victim
   • The amount of the car accident victim’s damages
        If the car accident victim cannot prove any one of the above three
elements in a court of law, he or she is not entitled to compensation.
That means the burden of proving everything — from identifying the
important witnesses at the accident scene to providing documentation
of all injury-related losses — ultimately falls on you, the car accident
victim. For a more detailed explanation of an Iowa car accident victim’s
legal obligations, read further in this book to learn the 8 Steps to
Protecting Yourself After a Car Accident.

Myth #2 If the Car Accident Wasn’t Your Fault, Somebody
        Has to Compensate You for Your Injuries
        Being able to prove that you have a legitimate personal injury
claim after a car accident does not necessarily mean that you will be
fairly compensated. There also has to be a responsible party with the
ability to pay.


       Any one of the following scenarios can have a negative impact on
a car accident victim’s ability to receive fair compensation:

   • When the negligent driver has no insurance
   • When the negligent driver does not have assets that can be seized
     to pay for the car accident victim’s damages
   • When the negligent driver does not have enough insurance to
     cover all of the car accident victim’s damages

       That is why it is so important to have sufficient uninsured/
underinsured motorist coverage as part of your auto insurance policy.
Without it, you and your family may be saddled with a lifetime of medical
bills and lost wages after a serious car accident that was not your fault.

Myth #3 The Other Driver’s Insurance Company Must
        Immediately Start Paying Your Medical Bills
      The other driver’s insurance company has no legal obligation to
pay your medical bills until it is ordered to do so after a trial.

      Even if the other driver was obviously negligent and his or her
insurance company says it will pay your medical bills, most insurance
companies will only issue one settlement check for an injury claim. That
one settlement check will be intended to cover all of the victim’s injury
claims (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) and, after that
settlement check is issued, the insurance company will never pay any
additional money for that particular accident in the future. That means
the other driver’s insurance company will not usually start paying
your medical bills after a car accident until you are willing to settle
your injury claim with them once and for all.

       How can you get your medical bills paid until you are ready to
settle once and for all? A car accident victim should consider making an
immediate claim with:

   • His or her own health insurance policy
   • His or her own auto insurance policy (for medical payment
   • His or her employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy (if
     the car accident occurred while the employee was on the job)

                                                                   PAGE 5

   Myth #4 You Need an Attorney Every Time You Are In a
           Car Accident
          Hiring an attorney is an investment. Serious car crashes usually
   warrant that investment. Minor fender-benders often do not. If a car
   wreck results in severe injuries or a need for a significant amount of
   medical care, hiring an attorney is usually a good move. If a car accident
   results only in vehicle damage or only in minor and temporary bodily
   injury, the cost of the attorney’s fee may outweigh any benefit that an
   attorney’s service can provide. The attorneys in our office will tell you if
   we do not believe that hiring an attorney is in your best interest.

   Myth #5 A Quick Settlement Is Always In Your Best
         As previously mentioned, most insurance companies will only
   issue one settlement check for an injury claim and — after that check —
   the insurance company will never pay any additional money for that
   particular accident in the future — even if your injuries get worse. If any
   of the following applies, you usually should avoid a quick settlement:

     •   If you are still receiving medical care for accident-related injuries
     •   If your accident-related injuries will likely require additional
         medical care in the future
     •   If you have not yet been able to return to normal activities —
         especially work-related activities
         If you are still in one of the above situations five months after a
   car accident, you should immediately consult with an attorney to see
   what legal deadlines may apply to your personal injury claim.

   Myth #6 There is No Danger in Trying to Negotiate a Car
           Accident Settlement On Your Own
         Insurance companies save money by paying as little on injury
   claims as possible. Insurance company representatives are trained to
   get you to say things that will sooner or later hurt your case and
   decrease any possible settlement. As you will see on the next page,
   there are many ways to weaken a legitimate personal injury claim when
   dealing with an insurance company representative — the more severe
   your accident-related injuries, the more dangerous the consequences.

   PAGE 6

     6      Unfair Tactics
            Insurance Companies Use
            to Exploit Car Accident Victims
       After a car accident, you will usually be contacted by a
representative of the other driver’s insurance company. This insurance
company representative will try to establish a rapport with you and
convince you to do things. You must always remember that this person
is a professional trained to use a number of tactics to make sure that his
or her insurance company pays you as little as possible.

1.    “You Don’t Need an Attorney to Settle This Claim”

      Insurance company representatives will often suggest that you do
not need an attorney because “we can just work this out together”. You
need to realize that there is no “we” in this situation — the insurance
company representative is not really your friend and is not motivated to
make sure that you receive fair compensation. The insurance company
representative is discouraging you from hiring a lawyer because
insurance industry statistics demonstrate that it costs an insurance
company an average of $9,000 more per claim when an attorney is
advocating for the injured person. Courts and regulators in a number of
states, including New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, have ordered
insurance companies to stop the unfair tactic of discouraging car
accident victims from going to attorneys and learning about their rights.

2.    “My Company Won’t Pay if You Don’t Sign Our Medical
      Release Form”

       The first thing to realize is that the other driver’s insurance
company is not likely to pay anything until you are willing to settle your
case once and for all. Signing a medical release or any other insurance
company document is not likely to change that. An insurance company
is eventually entitled to review records of any medical treatment for
which you ask to be reimbursed. In our experience, however, most
medical release forms are written in such a way that they give the
insurance company access to all of your medical records — even records
that are unrelated to your accident injuries.

                                                                  PAGE 7

   Often insurance companies will then turn around and use your pre-
   accident health history as justification for making a low settlement offer.
   Our firm protects our clients from this tactic in a number of ways:
        • We advise our clients to avoid giving an insurance company a
          medical release until we have reviewed your medical records first
        • If our review uncovers items in your medical history that may
          impact your claim, we make sure that you know about it before
          the insurance company does
        • When we do provide the insurance company with a medical
          release, we make sure that the release only applies to relevant
          medical treatment

   3.      “My Company Won’t Pay if You Don’t Give Me a
           Recorded Statement”
         See Unfair Tactic #2. Giving a recorded statement is not likely to
   make the other driver’s insurance company pay your medical bills any
   sooner. Not only is there usually no benefit to giving a recorded
   statement to an insurance company on your own but there is also a
   serious risk. Insurance company representatives are professionals
   trained to take recorded statements that can be used against you in
   court. They ask specific questions designed to get damaging
   admissions from you that will reduce the value of your personal injury
   claim. If the other driver’s insurance company calls you after a car
   accident, we recommend that you politely tell them that you will be
   happy to speak to them —after you speak to your attorney. Our firm
   protects our clients from the danger of recorded statements by only
   allowing them to be taken when one of our attorneys is present.

   4.      “My Company Won’t Pay if You Don’t (Fill in the Blank)
           Right Now”
          Insurance company representatives will often try to pressure you
   to do things for them right away. They often suggest that you will not
   receive fair compensation if you don’t act “right now”. This suggestion
   is bogus. Iowa car accident victims generally have 2 years from the
   accident date to seek compensation for their injuries either by settling
   their claims or by filing a lawsuit. While there are some situations where
   the law requires you to provide notice within 6 months, you only have
   to act when the law requires it — not when the insurance company asks.

   PAGE 8

5.      “My Company Won’t Pay for That Kind of Treatment”
      Sometimes an insurance company representative will learn about
the type of medical treatment that a car accident victim is receiving and
suggest that his or her insurance company will not reimburse for that
type of treatment (often treatment from a specialist or a chiropractor).
That is simply not true.

       Under Iowa law, the at-fault driver (or his or her insurance
company) is responsible for paying all “reasonable and necessary”
medical expenses caused by the car accident. What constitutes
“reasonable and necessary” medical treatment should be decided by
your doctors and other medical providers — not by an insurance
adjuster. In most situations, car accident victims should seek medical
treatment until they are healed or a doctor tells them that their condition
is as good as it is going to get (this is often referred to as the patient
achieving “maximum medical improvement”).

6.      “My Company Will Write You a Check for $$$”
      Insurance company representatives will often try to convince a car
accident victim to quickly settle his or her personal injury claim by
throwing out a settlement figure that — at first glance — seems fair.
What they often do not mention is that the car accident victim may not
be entitled to keep all of that money.

        Often a car accident victim has had medical bills or lost wages
paid   by his or her:
   •    Health insurance company
   •    Auto insurance company (“medical payment coverage”)
   •    Short-term disability insurance company
   •    Employer’s workers’ compensation company

       Almost all of the insurance policies described above require a car
accident victim to pay back any amounts received if the accident victim
reaches a settlement with the negligent driver or his or her insurance
company. This legal obligation, which is known as “subrogation”, can
leave a car accident victim with little or nothing after a settlement. We
protect our clients from the shock of subrogation by always advising our
client about how much of any settlement offer they will actually be able
to put in their pockets. We also work to reduce our client’s subrogation
obligations whenever possible before a settlement is reached.

                                                                   PAGE 9

                  8 Simple Steps
   Protecting Yourself After a Car Accident

         Some of the most important times for action take place in the first
   few hours and days immediately following the car accident. During that
   time there is a lot of evidence available that can be preserved to protect
   your legal interests. It is also during this time that major mistakes can
   be made which can limit or destroy your ability to receive compensation
   for your injuries. Here are 8 steps you should take:

   1.    Seek Immediate Medical Attention
          If anyone is injured at the accident scene, call 911. If you are
   offered an ambulance ride to the hospital, take it. In all cases, the safe
   thing to do is seek immediate medical attention regardless of whether
   you think you are injured. Symptoms of an injury may not show up
   immediately after a crash. Some physical problems may not show up
   until hours or even days after a crash. In our legal system, the victim is
   always responsible for proving that he or she was injured in a particular
   accident. The best way to prove you were injured in a car accident is to
   have records from a medical examination that occurred immediately
   after the crash. After a person is discharged from initial medical
   treatment after an Iowa car accident, we advise them to read our guide,
   10 Mistakes People Make When Going to A Doctor After An Injury.

   2.    Call Your Auto Insurance Company
         As soon as possible, report the crash to your auto insurance
   company — even if you are far from home. Ask your insurance agent
   about how to proceed and what forms or documents you will need to fill
   out to support your claim. If you fail to immediately report the accident
   to your insurance company, you may lose whatever protection your
   insurance company is contractually obligated to provide you.

   3.    Take Detailed Notes About the Car Accident
         Write down everything you remember about the crash as soon as
   you get home. Draw a diagram of the scene and the vehicles involved.

   PAGE 10
                             8 STEPS TO PROTECTING YOURSELF

Make note of the following information about the accident:

      •   The time of day
      •   The weather
      •   The road conditions
      •   What you saw
      •   What you heard
Put the notes in a safe place so that they are available if you have to
speak with an attorney or go to trial.

4.    Arrange For Photos to Be Taken
      Even if you believe the investigating officer or an insurance
company representative took photographs, you should still get
photographs taken on your own. Have all photos taken both up close
and from a distance. Have three times as many photographs taken as
you think you will need. In particular, get the following types of photos

 Photos of the accident location: Take photos of the scene both from
 the direction you approached and from the direction of the other
 driver’s approach. Take photos of all skid marks and measure them.
 Take photos of any debris left by the crash before moving it.

 Photos of your vehicle: Do not have your vehicle repaired before it is
 photographed. Take photos from all angles — the outside, the
 interior, even the undercarriage when it is up on a lift at the garage.

 Photos of your injury: Take photos of all visible injuries. Take pho-
 tos of all bruises, scrapes, cuts, etc. while they are fresh.

 Photos of your medical treatment: Have photos taken of you in the
 hospital. Have photos taken of all casts, slings, and bandages. If you
 are prescribed the use of a wheelchair, walker or crutches, get photos
 of those as well.

When in doubt, take the photograph. If your case has to go to trial, you
want to have all of the visual evidence that you can to show to the jury.

                                                                  PAGE 11

   5.    Get Permission Before Having Your Vehicle Repaired
          In addition to having photographs taken of any damage to your
   vehicle, you should find out what procedures your insurance company
   requires before arranging for car repairs. If you fail to take this
   important step, your company may refuse to pay your repair bills. If
   anyone was seriously injured or killed in the accident, you should also
   talk to an attorney before having your vehicle repaired.

   6.    Avoid Contact With The Other Driver’s Insurance
          It is probably not in your best interest to speak to anyone from the
   other driver’s insurance company. Insurance company representatives
   are trained to take statements that can be used against you. Tell them
   to contact you only in writing and do not sign any paperwork from an
   insurance company other than your own. If you have questions about a
   document that you are being asked to sign, talk to an attorney first.

   7.    Talk To An Attorney Before You Pay A Traffic Fine Or
         Go To Court For A Traffic Ticket
          Paying a fine for a traffic offense can be used against you as an
   admission of guilt. Any testimony at a legal hearing can be recorded
   and used against your interests. Before taking either action, you should
   talk to an attorney — either one you have hired yourself or one provided
   to you by your insurance company.

   8.    If You Suffer Car-Accident-Related Injuries, Settle Your
         Claim Or File a Lawsuit Within 2 Years of the Date of
         the Car Accident
          Iowa law requires a car accident victim or the victim’s family to
   settle a claim, start a lawsuit or give notice of an intent to make a claim
   within a short period after the accident. Generally, the Iowa statute of
   limitations for an injured person is two years from the date of the injury.
   In certain situations, however, injured parties must provide notice before
   filing suit. That notice may be required within six months of the
   accident. There are also some limited exceptions to the usual statute of
   limitations. Whether an exception applies in a particular case is a
   question that must be answered on a case-by-case basis by an attorney.

   PAGE 12

      If You Are Not Careful, Your Health Insurance
       Company May Seize Money You Receive in a
           Car Accident Settlement or Verdict
       That was not a typo. It is possible for a health insurance company
to take your money after a car accident settlement or verdict. It is the
result of a federal law called The Employee Retirement Income Security
Act of 1974 (“ERISA” for short). ERISA, in some instances, can allow a
health insurance company to collect the money they spent providing for
your medical care if you are ever paid money by the person who caused
your injury. What can happen is that a car accident victim can get a
settlement or a jury verdict and then later get a letter from his or her
insurance company stating that the victim is legally obligated to
reimburse the insurance company for the amount of the medical
benefits paid. The letter usually threatens a lawsuit against the victim
unless the ERISA “reimbursement” – which can sometimes be as large as
the whole settlement or verdict - occurs within a limited amount of time.
It does not seem fair, but it can happen. Do not get caught off guard by
an insurance company’s ERISA claim. Before attempting to settle a car
accident claim or deciding whether or not to file suit, it is important to
review with an attorney whether or not you face a potential ERISA claim.
An experienced attorney can often take steps to reduce or eliminate
your reimbursement obligations under ERISA.

                                                                PAGE 13

   The Absolute                          to Pick an Iowa
                                         Car Accident Attorney

         Make no mistake – hiring your Iowa car accident attorney is an
   important decision with real consequences. Your choice of an attorney
   can mean the difference between receiving fair compensation and being
   stuck with a lifetime of unpaid medical bills and lost wages. The
   absolute wrong way to pick a car accident attorney is to make a hasty
   decision based upon convenience or guesswork. Here are just a few
   examples of the misguided ideas that lead people to choosing the wrong
   lawyer for their case:

     •   “I’ll just go to the lawyer who handled my divorce.” – A
         common mistake is taking a serious car accident case to the only
         lawyer you know. Just because a lawyer did a good job on your
         cousin’s drunk driving charge or your neighbor’s will does not
         mean that he or she is qualified to handle a serious car accident
         case. In fact, some of the best Iowa car accident attorneys have
         highly focused practices – you are not likely to find one who also
         handles family law, criminal law and probate matters. A lawyer
         who you already know and trust can be a useful resource in
         finding a qualified car accident attorney (see #1 of A Step-By-Step
         System for Finding the Right Iowa Car Accident Attorney for You)
         but your search should not necessarily end there.

     •   “I’ll just go to the lawyer with the office down the street.” –
         What are the odds that you just happen to live minutes away from
         one of the relatively few Iowa lawyers who practice primarily in
         serious car accident cases? The sad truth is that most people are
         willing to drive several hours for a good deal on a new car but they
         do not look beyond their hometown for a lawyer. Don’t get us
         wrong – if you were injured in Iowa, you will likely need a lawyer
         with a license to practice in Iowa. But what many people don’t
         realize is that a car accident attorney who is licensed to practice
         law in Iowa can file a lawsuit in any Iowa county.

         You should not focus on picking the nearest attorney – you should
         focus on picking the best and most qualified one for your case.
         That kind of choice can and should involve a statewide search.

   PAGE 14

•   “I’ll just open my phonebook and see the first lawyer who
    takes my call.” – The Yellow Pages can be a useful resource in
    finding a qualified car accident attorney (see #1 of A Step-By-Step
    System for Finding the Right Iowa Car Accident Attorney for You).
    The costly mistake some people make is calling only one law
    office or only talking to the first lawyer who returns their call. Any
    lawyer can seem qualified or knowledgeable if you do not have
    anything to compare him or her to. A smart consumer will use the
    phonebook to come up with an initial list of names that can then
    be carefully investigated. One more warning about the
    phonebook – beware of phonebook ads for lawyers who list 6 or
    more different types of cases that they handle. The more
    specialties they list, the less time they actually spend in each area.

•   “I’ll just let an attorney referral service or website direct me to
    a lawyer in my area.” – What we are talking about here is the
    type of service – either over the phone or on the internet – where
    you are directed to describe your situation and give your city and
    state. In exchange, you are then provided with the name of an
    attorney to contact. A lawyer is listed by an attorney referral
    service or website not because they are good at the specific area
    of law, but because they have usually paid a fee to be listed. You
    won’t get a guarantee of the recommended lawyer’s expertise or
    experience. You need to have more information available to you
    to make an informed decision. Without more information, it is
    dangerous to rely solely on an attorney referral service or
    website’s recommendation.

                                                                PAGE 15

                   The Step-By-Step Guide for
                   Finding the Right
                   Iowa Car Accident Attorney For You

          So what can you do to make sure that the attorney you hire is
   qualified to handle your case? We have put together a step-by-step
   system that will greatly increase the odds of finding an attorney who is
   qualified and will represent you well.

   1.       Create a List of Names of Iowa Attorneys Who Handle
            Serious Car Accident Cases
         This sounds fairly simple, but it is a very important first step. In
   many cases people do not stop to check what their options are before
   hiring an attorney. Think of it like this – when you combine the amount
   of time and money invested into a serious car accident case, it could be
   as big an investment as a new house. You would not buy the first house
   that you saw without stopping to look at others in the market and
   exploring other options. You should not do that with an attorney either.
   Here are a few places to start your search:

        •   Do an Internet search. The internet can be a great tool for doing
            an initial search for names of Iowa car accident attorneys, but be
            careful. We already outlined some of the dangers of relying too
            heavily on online directories or referral services. The key to
            searching the internet is not to do a general search like “Car
            Accident Attorney.” You will get thousands of results from all over
            the country. Make sure to include “Iowa” as one of your search
            terms. Also, do not rely too heavily on the information contained
            on a particular lawyer’s website. The purpose of searching the
            internet is not to hire an attorney on the spot, but to build an
            initial list of names that you will investigate more closely.

        •   Check the Yellow Pages. Again, here you need to be careful.
            Focus on what the phone book ad is telling you about the
            attorney. Because Iowa car accident law can be complex, limit
            your search to attorneys who list one or two closely-related
            specialties (for instance, “Personal Injury” and “Medical
            Malpractice” are closely-related specialties).

   PAGE 16

         Some Yellow Pages will also list subcategories of lawyers after the
         general heading “Attorney”. Do not forget to check the
         subcategory of “Accident” or “Personal Injury” as well as the
         general “Attorney” heading.

     •   Ask your friends who are attorneys. If you have a friend who is
         a lawyer, ask him or her for the names of attorneys who handle
         serious car accident cases. As we have already explained, the
         odds are that your friend does not handle serious car accident
         cases him or herself, but your friend probably knows attorneys
         who do. Your friend can give you the names of Iowa attorneys
         who have a good reputation for handling your type of case. If you
         have several lawyer friends, ask all of them for names. If a few
         names come up from every lawyer you ask, those names are
         probably the car accident attorneys with the best reputation in the

2.       Call the Names on Your List and Ask For Written
       Now it is time for you to collect information on the different
attorneys that you have identified. Start by calling each lawyer’s office
and requesting the lawyer’s written materials on car accident cases. It is
important to say that you want information specifically on car accidents
because you want to know right away whether they truly focus on
serious car accident cases. If a lawyer does not have anything to send
you or if he or she tells you that you have to come into their office to get
their materials, you should look elsewhere. Remember that you are just
collecting information at this point. You want written materials rather
than an in-person consultation with the lawyer because you want to be
able to evaluate each attorney’s qualifications at your own pace in the
comfort of your own home. You don’t want to be talked into anything
over the phone or get a high-pressure sales pitch until you are ready to
ask the right questions.

      Once you receive the written information, read it. Compare the
information in those sources to the information in this book and other
materials that you have found on Iowa car accident claims. After you
have finished reviewing the written information, create a short list of
Iowa car accident attorneys (no more than 3 or 4) who clearly have the
expertise and experience that your case requires.

                                                                   PAGE 17

   3.    Arrange For In-Person Interviews

         Call each of the offices on your short list and schedule an
   appointment to speak with an attorney. There is absolutely no
   substitute for sitting down with an attorney to decide if he or she will be
   a good fit for you. In order for an attorney to represent you well, you
   have to be comfortable with the attorney and trust him or her. In
   addition to your general feeling about each attorney, it is also important
   that you ask each of them the right questions. We have included some
   important questions in the next section. They are not the only questions
   to ask, but they are questions that reveal important information about
   an attorney’s expertise and experience in serious car accident cases.

   PAGE 18

     6         Smart Questions
               You Should Ask Before Hiring
               An Iowa Car Accident Attorney
1.       Are You Eligible Under Iowa Rule DR 2-105(C) to
         Advertise That You Practice Primarily in Personal
         Injury Law?
      This is a question that only a legal insider would likely know to
ask. In order for an Iowa attorney to advertise that he or she “practices
primarily” in personal injury law, the lawyer must file an annual written
report with the Iowa Supreme Court’s Commission on Continuing
Education swearing that:

     •   the greater of 400 hours or 40% of the lawyer’s time in the
         preceding year was spent doing personal injury cases; and

     •   the lawyer has attended 15 hours of continuing legal education in
         personal injury matters in the preceding year.

       Do not be fooled if a lawyer tells you that he or she is eligible
under Iowa Rule DR 2-105(B) rather than (C)! Iowa Rule DR 2-105(B)
requires only 100 hours or 10% of the lawyer’s time in the preceding
year was spent doing personal injury cases. This question – “Are you
eligible under Iowa Rule DR 2-105(C) to advertise that you practice
primarily in personal injury law?” – is the fastest way to find out whether
you are talking to an experienced Iowa car accident attorney who is
making an effort to stay informed of the latest medical and legal trends.
Relatively few Iowa attorneys can answer this question with a “Yes.”

2.       Are You Listed in The Best Lawyers in America?

       The Best Lawyers in America is a publication that is updated every
two years and is one of the largest guides to attorneys in the United
States. In order to be listed, you need to be nominated by someone who
is already a member, and then go through a review process conducted
by other attorneys around the country.

                                                                  PAGE 19

          The Best Lawyers in America book details which attorneys focus
    on certain areas like personal injury. A listing in The Best Lawyers in
    America does not guarantee that a lawyer is right for you, but it does
    demonstrate that this attorney is well-respected in the legal community.

    3.    Are you a member of the Million Dollar Advocates
          The Million Dollar Advocates Forum is a national organization of
    attorneys who have obtained a verdict or settlement of a million dollars
    or more for a client. Past results do not necessarily predict future
    success, but it is important to know what kind of past results an
    attorney has had. If he or she has not won any big cases, the lawyer
    may not have enough experience to handle your case. At the time this
    book was published, only 21 lawyers in Iowa could answer this question
    with a “Yes.”

    4.    Are you on the faculty of any law schools?
           Law schools will often invite distinguished lawyers and judges to
    teach classes to their law students. A good number of lawyers volunteer
    their time to judge law student competitions or give guest lectures. Very
    few lawyers and judges are asked by a law school to teach an entire
    course. Lawyers who teach entire courses at a law school, but also
    practice law, are often described as “adjunct professors” or “adjunct
    faculty.” Adjunct professors are typically selected by a law school for
    their expertise in a particular area of the law.

    5.    Are you a member of the Iowa Academy of Trial
          The Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers is an invitation-only
    organization limited to the top 250 trial attorneys in Iowa. In order to
    be inducted, a lawyer must be nominated by a current member and then
    be evaluated by all Academy members. The Academy executive
    committee then selects inductees from among the qualified nominees.
    Membership in the Academy demonstrates a lawyer has a good
    reputation for trying cases in Iowa’s courtrooms.

   PAGE 20

6.    Does your law firm hold a legal malpractice insurance
     An attorney in Iowa is not required to carry malpractice insurance.
Some do not. We believe that carrying malpractice insurance says
something about a lawyer’s sense of responsibility. Mistakes can
happen. Clients should be protected if an attorney’s mistake causes
harm. How much trust can you place in a lawyer who does not care
enough about his or her clients to carry malpractice insurance?

                                                               PAGE 21

   How do we measure up to the Smart Questions? Here is our report card:

     Smart Questions                       Our Answers

     Eligible Under Iowa Rule
                                 John Riccolo, Tim Semelroth and Pressley
            DR 2-105(c)?
                                  Henningsen are all eligible to state that
                                         they primarily practice in
                                            personal injury law.
     Listed in Best Lawyers in
                                 John Riccolo is listed in the Best Lawyers
                                      in America for his expertise in
                                          personal injury cases.
           Member of the
                                 John Riccolo, Tim Semelroth and Pressley
     Million Dollar Advocates
                                    Henningsen are all members of the
                                     Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
          Member of a
                                 Tim Semelroth is an adjunct professor at
       Law School Faculty?
                                   the University of Iowa College of Law.
            Member of
                                  John Riccolo and Tim Semelroth are
      the Iowa Academy of
                                 members and John is a Past President of
         Trial Lawyers?
                                             the Academy.

       Covered by Legal
                                 Riccolo & Semelroth, P.C. is covered by a
     Malpractice Insurance?
                                 $5,000,000 legal malpractice insurance

   PAGE 22
                                       RICCOLO & SEMELROTH,P.C.

       Here is a sampling of cases we have handled. There are others
described on our website at www.riccololaw.com. Please recognize that
every case is different and these verdicts and settlements, while
accurate, do not represent what we may obtain for you in your case. Nor
does it mean that we win all of our cases - we don't. Many of our clients
tell us that knowing that we have achieved significant results, both by
settlement and by jury verdict, is one factor that influenced their
decision to hire us. You certainly should ask any attorney whether he or
she has ever obtained a significant verdict and/or settlement in a serious
car accident case. We would be happy to discuss any of these cases, and
many others, with you.

$1,610,209 - Verdict for Disabling Injuries Caused by Truck Driver
Running Stop Sign
42-year-old male driver suffers fractures of his pelvis, tailbone and
upper back when a semi-truck driver runs a stop sign and causes a
crash; the resulting physical limitations combine with severe depression
to result in permanent disability

$1,020,000 – Motorcyclist’s Wrongful Death Settlement With
Trucking Company
45-year-old motorcyclist on way to work is killed when tractor-trailer fails
to yield and turns into the biker’s path

$725,000 - Settlement With Farmer and Tractor Owner for Causing
Collision at Field Exit
67-year-old woman suffers severe leg fracture after the car she is a
passenger in rear-ends a tractor and farm implement that has pulled out
in front of the car from a field exit

$485,000 - Settlement for Severe Hip Injuries Because of Truck
Driver’s Negligence
50-year old pick-up driver suffers hip and leg fractures when semi loses
control of its empty trailer in snowy conditions and slams into the pick-
up driver

                                                                  PAGE 23

   $415,000 – Settlement With Vehicle Owner For Loaning Vehicle to
   Unfit Driver
   82-year-old male passenger suffers collapsed lung, fractured ribs and
   permanent injury to his bladder after the car he is riding in is hit by a car
   driven by a disoriented elderly woman with poor driving history; poor
   driving history was known to car’s owner

   $400,000 - Settlement for Closed Head Injuries and Facial Fractures
   Three tractor trailers collide in winter conditions causing 40-year-old
   driver to suffer broken facial bones and a closed head injury

   $300,000 – Verdict for Death of Motorcyclist Due To Car Driver’s
   Failure to Yield
   43-year-old man riding a motorcycle is killed after a car driver fails to
   yield after stopping at a stop sign and a collision occurs; jury finds car
   driver to be 60% at fault for collision

   $275,000 - Settlement for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder After Semi
   Loses Control
   Worker is assisting snowbound motorist in ditch when semi loses control
   and hits pedestrian pinning him under car with dead motorist causing
   minor physical injuries to worker but significant emotional distress

   $212,500 – Settlement With Negligent Garbage Truck Driver for
   Failure to Yield
   37-year-old woman suffers a severe ankle injury after a garbage truck
   fails to yield and pulls out in front of her vehicle; ankle injury requires
   multiple surgeries and results in significant disability and need for
   lifetime of medication therapy

   $175,000 – Verdict Against Two Drivers for Collision at Uncontrolled
   17-year-old female passenger suffers a hip fracture and a strained
   ligament in her right knee after the vehicle that she is riding in and
   another vehicle collide after each driver fails to yield at an uncontrolled
   intersection on a country road

   PAGE 24
                                        RICCOLO & SEMELROTH, P.C.

$155,000 – Settlement With Negligent Driver Who Failed to Secure
Trailer Load
60-year-old woman driver suffers neck and back injuries after her car is
struck by railroad ties falling off of trailer; truck driver failed to properly
secure trailer load

$150,000 - Settlement With Dog Owner for Road Rash
56-year old motorcyclist and 55-year old passenger suffer severe road
rash and passenger suffers torn shoulder muscle when a dog known to
chase cars runs in front of motorcycle on highway and causes the bike to
go down

$132,397 – Verdict Against Insurance Company for Uninsured
Motorist Benefits
20-year-old passenger is injured in a hit-and-run car accident; he suffers
a compression fracture of his spine, a pinched nerve and bulging discs
in his neck; despite these injuries, insurance company of the driver
refuses to pay uninsured-motorist benefits before trial

$121,365 – Verdict for Wrongful Death of Nine-Year-Old Due To Semi
-Bicycle Collision
9-year old girl riding a bicycle on highway is run down and killed by a
semi-truck driver; jury finds semi driver 65% at fault for collision

                                                                    PAGE 25

   Below is a small collection of comments from our clients. Additional
   comments from our clients are available at www.riccololaw.com.

         After an auto accident, I felt I was being taken advantage of
         by the insurance company. My hometown lawyer suggested
         I talk to John Riccolo. Everyone in John’s office was very
         professional and helpful whenever I had a question or
         needed something explained.          I recommend Riccolo &
         Semelroth, P.C. because I was very happy with the outcome
         of the settlement they negotiated for me.
         Norman “Phil” Kelchen, Monticello, Iowa

         I contacted a lawyer because I was unsatisfied with the
         insurance company’s offer to settle a car accident claim.
         John Riccolo and Tim Semelroth gave me honest feedback
         about our situation.      They impressed me with their
         professionalism and incredible attention to detail. Tim
         Semelroth assembled an awesome PowerPoint presentation
         for our mediation and ultimately negotiated a fair
         settlement. I recommend Riccolo & Semelroth, P.C. because
         my personal experience validated their reputation for
         expertise and professionalism.
         Dr. Gerald Kreitzer, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

         I needed someone to protect my rights after I was injured in
         an auto accident. Tim Semelroth impressed me with his
         ability to listen to my concerns with compassion while
         effectively guiding me to stay with the legal issues. I
         recommend Riccolo & Semelroth, P.C. because I felt
         confident with Mr. Semelroth handling my case.
         Connie Meester, Dubuque, Iowa

   PAGE 26
                               RICCOLO & SEMELROTH, P.C.

After a car accident, I was afraid I was going to have to pay
my medical bills because the insurance company was not
paying. I chose to hire Riccolo & Semelroth, P.C. because it
was very helpful talking to Tim Semelroth about what had
happened to me. Tim impressed me with his knowledge, his
composure and his willingness to do what was in my best
interest. I recommend Riccolo & Semelroth, P.C. because
they were very professional.
Sybil Zmolek, Marion, Iowa

My mother was involved in a semi accident on I-80. I chose
to hire Riccolo & Semelroth, P.C. because they came highly
recommended by a friend. Pressley Henningsen always
explained the actions he took and kept me informed of his
progress. Pressley impressed me by always taking time to
answer my questions and being very easy to talk to. I
recommend Riccolo & Semelroth, P.C. because I feel they
would be helpful to anyone in need of an attorney.
Bill Franklin, Des Moines, Iowa

After my car accident, I asked an attorney friend if he could
help me. He suggested that Riccolo & Semelroth, P.C. would
be better suited to work on this type of case. It was helpful
talking to Tim Semelroth because he was able to explain the
process and what to expect. Tim is very easy to talk to and
is able to explain things so they can be understood. I
recommend Riccolo & Semelroth, P.C. because Tim really
seemed to care about how everything in my case was
Scott Shelton, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

                                                         PAGE 27

       I was in a serious car accident with a semi and needed legal
       advice. I immediately called John Riccolo’s law firm because
       he had represented me before after a work injury. John’s
       partner, Tim Semelroth, impressed me by being
       professional, organized and thorough.          It was very
       reassuring to have him represent me at trial. If anyone
       chooses to use either John Riccolo or Tim Semelroth to
       represent them, they will be using one or both of the best
       attorneys available. Listen to their counsel – I did and
       everything turned out great!
       Steve Gollobit, Mount Vernon, Iowa

       After my husband’s motorcycle accident, I chose Riccolo &
       Semelroth, P.C. because they seemed like an honest, hard-
       working team who was looking out for the client – not
       themselves. Pressley Henningsen handled my case. It was
       helpful talking to Pressley because he was honest and did
       not pull any punches. I recommend Riccolo & Semelroth,
       P.C. because they know what they are doing and they are
       Alicia Hala, Marshalltown, Iowa

   PAGE 28
                                      RICCOLO & SEMELROTH, P.C.

      Keeping in mind that every case is different, here is a list of the
tasks we typically perform for our car accident clients:

   •   Interview the prospective client to get the whole story of what
       happened and what factors were involved

   •   Educate the prospective client about Iowa car accident claims

   •   Answer all of the prospective client’s questions

   •   Provide the prospective client with our New Client Kit which
       contains the following publications:

          o Are We There Yet?: A Guide to the Stages of a Lawsuit

          o 5 Simple Things You Can Do to Help Your Case

          o The Fastest Way to Ruin Your Case

          o WARNING: 6 Things You Should Immediately Report to Our

          o Client Injury Care and Expense Log

          o 10 Mistakes People Make When Going to A Doctor After An

   •   Research and analyze any legal issues relevant to the prospective
       client’s case

   •   Collect and analyze all relevant medical records from both before
       and after the car accident

   •   Collect and analyze any police reports or other accounts of the car

   •   Identify the types of experts necessary to evaluate the car accident
       and the resulting injuries

                                                                  PAGE 29

     •   Hire the necessary experts to evaluate the accident scene to
         determine the cause of the car accident or the medical records to
         determine the cause of the client’s injuries

     •   Advise the client of the results of the expert evaluation and the
         viability of the case

     •   Recommend whether an attempt should be made to negotiate a
         settlement with the insurance company or whether a lawsuit
         should immediately be filed

     •   Gather all documentation of the client’s damages (medical bills,
         employment records, tax returns, etc.)

     •   Initiate contact with the appropriate insurance companies

     •   Analyze the client’s health insurance policy or welfare benefit plan
         to identify whether those groups are entitled to a share of money
         from a settlement or verdict

     •   File a lawsuit

     •   Interview all known witnesses

     •   Collect physical evidence like photographs or videos

     •   Submit written questions to the defendants

     •   Assist the client in answering the defendant’s written questions

     •   Prepare the client, witnesses and healthcare providers for

     •   Conduct the depositions of the defendant and the defendant’s

     •   Advise the client about the likely jury verdict value of the case

     •   Conduct settlement negotiations with the defendant’s lawyer

   PAGE 30
                                       RICCOLO & SEMELROTH, P.C.

If a settlement is reached:

•   Advise the client about any insurance company’s right to a share
    of the settlement

•   Review all settlement paperwork

If a settlement is not reached:

•   File briefs and motions with the court to eliminate surprises at

•   Prepare the client and other witnesses for trial

•   Prepare and organize trial exhibits

•   Argue the client’s case at trial

•   Analyze the jury’s verdict to determine if either side has a basis
    for an appeal

•   Make recommendations to the client about whether or not to file
    an appeal

                                                               PAGE 31

          Hundreds of people contact our office every year asking us to
   represent them in accident cases. We decline the majority of those
   requests so we can devote personal, careful attention to a small number
   of legitimate cases involving serious injuries. The only way that we can
   provide personal service to each of our clients is to refuse any case that
   does not meet our strict acceptance guidelines. Therefore, we generally
   do not accept the following types of car accident cases:

   •   Cases where you were charged with a traffic violation (other than
       failure to provide proof of insurance or wear a seatbelt): We know
       that law enforcement can be wrong; but, if the investigating officer
       who saw the accident scene and talked to the witnesses decides that
       you were at fault and the other driver was not, we will not represent
       you in a personal injury case.

   •   Cases involving no property damage: We know that it is
       scientifically possible for a collision to injure a vehicle’s passenger
       without causing visible damage to the vehicle itself; but we also know
       that juries have a hard time believing a minor impact can cause a
       serious personal injury.

   •   Cases involving injuries that did not require at least $5000 in
       medical treatment: If a car-accident-related injury is not severe
       enough to require at least $5000 in medical treatment, it is not likely
       that we will recover enough money through either settlement or a
       jury verdict to justify asking you to pay us a 33 1/3% attorney fee.
       You will often be better off negotiating with the insurance company
       on your own.

   •   Cases that have already been filed: If your case has already been
       filed by another attorney or by you on your own, we cannot represent
       you. Your case is likely governed by court deadlines that we will have
       a difficult time satisfying while still serving our current clients.

   PAGE 32
                                       RICCOLO & SEMELROTH, P.C.

       We accept car accident cases when the evidence suggests that a
negligent driver caused a serious crash and an innocent person’s severe
injury or death was the direct result.

       We are most likely to accept a car accident case if it involves at
least one of the following factors:

   • Significant damage to the vehicles involved in the crash

   • The crash results in:

           •        Death; or

           •        Injuries that:

                •   Can be seen on X-ray or CT scan or MRI like broken
                    bones, herniated spinal disks or brain lesions; or

                • Require invasive medical treatment like surgery or
                  epidural steroid injections; or

                • Doctors say will require on-going medical treatment;

                • Require doctors to take the injury victim off of work
                  for more than two weeks

       By limiting ourselves to serious car accident cases that satisfy the
criteria described above, we are able to fully focus on each of the cases
that we accept. We do not allow ourselves to get “bogged down” with a
lot of small claims. Instead we prefer to devote our energies to getting
fair compensation for the injury victims who need our assistance the


      We never file a car accident lawsuit solely to coerce settlement or
to harass another. Such practices can be illegal and could subject the
person filing the lawsuit to liability for malicious prosecution or abuse of

                                                                   PAGE 33

         The majority of our clients pay nothing up front for a car accident
   case. There are normal costs involved in a car accident case like
   postage, copying and paying to obtain police reports, medical records
   and expert analysis. Our firm will often advance these costs and deduct
   them from any settlement or verdict that we obtain on our client’s
   behalf. Costs are separate and distinct from our fee and are incurred
   regardless of an adverse verdict or decision.

          Most people who come to us choose to pay for our services on a
   contingency fee basis. In car accident cases, our contingent fee is 33
   and 1/3% of the total settlement or verdict. Our fee is considered
   “contingent” because you only pay us for our services if we make a
   financial recovery on your behalf. In other words, if your case does not
   result in the defendant or the insurance company paying you money, we
   do not get paid for our work. Hiring our firm on a contingent fee basis
   provides three main benefits for our clients: (1) it allows you to hire an
   experienced car accident attorney without having to make a down
   payment or pay a retainer up front; (2) it motivates us to work for the
   highest recovery possible because the more money you receive, the
   more compensation we receive; and (3) it encourages us not to take
   unnecessary risks because if you don’t get paid, we don’t get paid.

          Our services can also be purchased on an hourly basis. Our usual
   rate is $400 for each hour of work. We typically ask for a retainer before
   we begin work on an hourly basis.

          You have done the right thing by ordering this book and educating
   yourself about car accident claims in Iowa. Remember the general
   deadline for taking legal action in Iowa is two years after a car accident.
   A person is rarely disadvantaged by starting the search for a qualified
   Iowa car accident attorney as soon as possible – but injury victims or
   their families can be left with nothing when they wait too long to act.

         We applaud you for taking the necessary steps to learn about your
   options and take control of your situation. If what you have read in this
   book leaves you with any unanswered questions or if you are not sure
   where to turn, feel free to call us toll-free at 1-888-546-6529.

   PAGE 34

                      ABOUT THE AUTHORS
   John Riccolo has over 30 years of experience in helping individuals and
   families who have been devastated by serious car accidents. Riccolo is
   listed in The Best Lawyers in America and he is a Past President of both
   the Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers and the Iowa Trial Lawyers
   Association. Riccolo is one of only 20 Iowa attorneys inducted into the
   Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a national organization of attorneys who
   have verdicts and settlements of a million dollars or more. For more
   information about John Riccolo, please visit www.JohnRiccolo.com.

   Tim Semelroth has represented hundreds of injured Iowans against
   insurance companies since 1998. He previously served as a judicial
   clerk for Federal Judge John Jarvey (now of the Southern District of Iowa).
   Semelroth has also been inducted into the Iowa Academy of Trial
   Lawyers and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. In addition, Semelroth
   serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Iowa College of Law,
   which is consistently ranked as one of the top 25 law schools in the
   United States. For more information about Tim Semelroth, please visit

   Pressley Henningsen is an Iowa attorney dedicated to helping
   individuals who have suffered serious injury or the death of a loved one.
   He has been inducted into the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and he
   speaks around Iowa at educational seminars for fellow attorneys.
   Henningsen is a Past President of the Jackson County Bar Association
   and served as the Chair of the Jackson County Committee to Prevent
   Domestic Violence. For more information about Pressley Henningsen,
   please visit www.PressleyHenningsen.com.

   PAGE 35

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