Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury Claims
I’ve been injured; what’s the first thing I need to do?
The very first thing to do after you’ve been injured is to address the injuries. If you require emergency medical care, contact 911 and accept the help when it arrives. Follow up with your medical treatment and doctor’s advice. If your injury did not require emergency medical care, then you should still see a doctor as soon as you can for a full evaluation. It is not uncommon for serious injuries to present with minor symptoms in the beginning, so don’t assume that you’re alright. After you’ve addressed caring for your injuries, contact an attorney.
Is it really necessary to hire an attorney?
It will not be necessary to hire an attorney in all situations, though it is advisable to at least seek out a free consultation to get a better idea of the unique needs of your case. If the case is very simple and you don’t need an attorney, you’ve lost nothing by seeking free advice. If you do need an attorney, then you’ll know right away.
Can I afford an attorney?
Attorney’s fees vary depending on the lawyer and how he or she chooses to bill clients. Typically, you can find a personal injury attorney who will work on a contingency bases, so that the lawyer doesn’t get paid unless you recover compensation for your injuries. Then, if you are successful in your case, the lawyer will take a percentage of your award, between 20% and 40$ (33% average). This will not include the court costs and other associated fees, so you will need to keep those in mind when your case is completed.
Some attorneys prefer to work with a flat fee. The lawyer will give you this fee ahead of time and will allow you to make the payments up front or in installments. Alternatively, you can choose a lawyer who charges an hourly rate with an upfront retainer.
An insurance company has been reaching out to me; what do I say?
After a personal injury happens, you can expect to be contacted by an insurance company, usually attempting to get a statement or to settle your claim for an unfairly low amount. The insurance adjusters do not want what is best for you, but what is best for the company. Thus, you should be very careful about what you say to insurance companies. It is easy to have your words twisted and held against you later. Give only general information if you choose to communicate with the insurance company, and remember that you are under no obligation to speak to them at all.
It is perfectly okay to politely express that you would rather not speak to the insurance adjuster without first speaking to your attorney and/or completing your medical treatment. Most importantly, you need to avoid making any kind of admission of fault.
How is negligence defined?
When someone fails to exercise caution and uphold his or her duty of care owed to others, then this person can be found negligent and liable in a personal injury claim. The court will consider whether or not the actions of each involved party were reasonable and will determine whether or not the defendant was legally negligent, resulting in the plaintiff’s injuries.
What is the value of my personal injury claim?
Many different things will affect the value of your personal injury claim, and it is difficult to give even a general estimate in the beginning of negotiations. Many factors may not be known until later, such as the true extent of your injuries, the full expense of treatment, the total of lost wages, the potential of lost future earnings, the value of the pain and suffering endured, and whether or not punitive damages may also be awarded. You can get a general idea of what your claim might be worth by speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney in a free consultation.
Will my case end up in court?
Not all personal injury claims wind up in court. In fact, the vast majority are resolved via settlement negotiations before they ever go to trial. It can take a long time to reach an agreement, but it benefits both sides to avoid an expensive, time consuming trial. There is a statute of limitations on your personal injury claim, so it is not uncommon for injured parties to file a lawsuit while settlement negotiations are still ongoing. Even if you do file a lawsuit, you may be able to still settle your claim out of court.
How long will it take to receive my settlement or judgment?
It can take a very long time from the date of your injury to the date of recovery. First, you will spend some time on the settlement negotiations process, and you may have to deal with the trial process if the case ends up in court. Once you’ve agreed to a settlement or received a judgment in your favor, you may receive your payment in two or three weeks. It can take a lot longer, however, with out of state insurance companies and individual defendants.
What happens at the deposition?
At the deposition, you’ll give your sworn testimony to the attorneys and will asked several questions that you must answer honestly, under oath. You will answer questions about your medical history, the incident that caused the injury, whether or not you filed an insurance claim, how the injury has impacted your life, and whether you’ve been involved in past lawsuits.
I may be partially at fault; what do I do?
While you may be partially at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, you can still recover compensation as long as you are less than 51% at fault. You should never say anything to insurance companies or law enforcement that indicates fault on your part for the injury. An investigation will later determine if you are partially at fault and how much fault is yours. If you are not sure about who is at fault for your injury, or if you believe you are partially to blame, contact an attorney to discuss the details of your case and the options ahead of you.