11 Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury LawMay 25, 2016
It is not surprising that unfortunate events can happen to unsuspecting people. A distracted driver could run a red light and total your car. A vicious dog could get loose and attack a jogger. Or a careless employee could leave a puddle of mop water near a store entrance, causing someone to slip and hit their head. When situations like these happen, it is important to understand the process of personal injury law and your rights in seeking compensation.
If you are considering filing a personal injury claim, here are 11 of the most common questions and answers.
- Do I even have a case?
If you experienced injuries because of someone else’s negligence, you are justified in following through with a case to collect compensation.
Since it can be difficult to prove fault in these instances, it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney to explore your options and find the best route for your case.
- What is my case worth?
It is difficult to estimate the value of your case right off the bat. There are a number of factors that will influence the potential payout, which is why your lawyer will need to thoroughly research your particular case, past verdicts in similar cases and settlement data.
Past medical bills, future medical costs, rehabilitation costs, pain and suffering, therapy, lost wages and/or future income will all be factored into what you could potentially receive.
- Will I have to go to trial?
The majority of personal injury cases are settled before ever going to trial, but sometimes settling out of court is not an option. A few reasons for this may be:
- The defendant does not offer a settlement
- The defendant only offers an unreasonable settlement
- The plaintiff wants to go to trial
- Liability or damages are disputed.
Even though going to trial in a personal injury case is rare, it is always good to be prepared and understand why it could happen.
- What questions will be asked in a deposition?
A deposition is basically a question and answer session between you and the defense attorney. Your lawyer will also be present, as well as a court reporter to document everything that is said.
Some of the topics you will be asked can include:
- General background information, like your work history, education, family, etc.
- Your health condition before the incident
- Details of the accident
- The medical treatment you received for the injuries
- How the accident has impacted your life
- How long will a lawsuit take?
This also depends on the specifics of your case. It is not uncommon for personal injury claims to be drawn-out if there are factual and legal issues or if the compensation at stake involves a large sum of money.
If you are still recovering from your injuries, that can also prolong the legal process. Your lawyer will want to wait until you have fully recovered to understand the complete and final value of your injuries.
It is possible to avoid a lengthy legal battle, but you’ll have to be willing to settle for a significantly less amount of money.
- How long do I have to file a claim?
Do not forget about the statute of limitations, which limits the time you have to file a claim from the date of the incident. For New Hampshire and Massachusetts there are three year statutes, which means you should consult with a lawyer soon after being injured.
- Should I accept the insurance company’s settlement?
An insurance company is a business. Their main goal is to minimize payouts so they can maximize their profits, which does not leave your best interests in mind.
Accepting a settlement from an insurance company will get the ordeal over with pretty quickly. However, the settlement will be incredibly low as compared to what you rightfully deserve. It can be worth it to work with an attorney to get the compensation you deserve so you’re not drastically underpaid. It may take longer, but the payout will be worth the process.
- Do I really need a lawyer?
As we stated above, insurance companies are not concerned with giving you the compensation you deserve. Filing a claim without an attorney or accepting the first offer will drastically diminish your chances of receiving a fair settlement.
The legal process is incredibly complicated and can be overwhelming for those that do not deal with it on a daily basis. While some claims are small enough to be handled without counsel, the majority of them should involve an experienced attorney to make sure you receive reasonable compensation.
Most law firms offer a free initial consultation, which means you have nothing to lose when consulting with them about your case.
- What should I bring with me for my first meeting with a lawyer?
You will want to bring any and all medical documents that report on your injuries to be used as evidence. This will include diagnosis paperwork, discharge instructions, bills, receipts and anything else from where you received treatment. You should also bring a copy of any police reports.
If there were witnesses to your accident, you will also want to provide their names and contact information. For auto accidents, bring your insurance information and any documents you received from either party’s insurance company.
If your injury required you to purchase otherwise unnecessary items, like wheelchair ramps or crutches, bring the receipts for those as well.
- What should I expect during the first meeting with a personal injury lawyer?
The lawyer will want to get a general understanding of your case and your injuries, so explaining everything in as much detail as possible will be crucial.
You will be asked to go over each detail of how you were injured and the circumstances that led to the incident. They will also want to know of any medical treatment you received, the extent of your injuries and any health needs you will require in the future. The lawyer will need to understand your medical and employment history as well as any lost wages that resulted from your injuries.
After there is a general grasp of your situation, the lawyer will explain the laws as they relate to you and the steps that are necessary to fulfill the goals of your case. They will also go over the details on their specific fees and expenses.
- How much will a lawyer cost?
This will be determined by the law firm you select as well as the length and extent of your case. Typically, most firms offer two payment options:
Hourly/retainer: This is an arrangement in which you pay your lawyer on an hourly basis and through an upfront retainer. The retainer is a certain amount of money put into a trust account and held by your attorney until they begin work on your case.
Contingency: This payment method requires you to pay nothing up front. When there is a settlement, the lawyer will be paid a pre-determined percentage as his or her fee.
With either payment option, you will also be responsible for expenses from the case, like filing fees, sheriff’s fees, deposition costs, copying and related charges.
Make sure that the plan you decide on is agreed upon in writing for your records.
Each case is unique, so it is difficult to make generalizations about your exact circumstances without understanding the situation. Consulting with a lawyer is the best way to get a firm grasp on the scope of your rights and your potential for compensation.
Sherman Law has 22 years of experience providing professional advice and representation in personal injury cases. If you have questions regarding an injury you have sustained or need advice on whether to pursue a claim, please contact us today for a free consultation.