Questions and Answers About Your Personal Injury Case
The purpose of this article is to inform you about personal injury law and to explain how the different parties involved will handle your case. A thorough understanding of the details of your personal injury case can help promote a fair and adequate resolution.
Q: What is the most important thing for me to do after my injury?
The most important thing for you to do, quite simply, is to prioritize your well-being. The law requires injured people to "mitigate their damages." In other words, the law requires you to do that which is necessary to improve your physical condition and recover from your injury.
Oftentimes, it will be in your best interest to seek immediate medical care after an injury. Doing so will ensure that you get on the road to improving your health. It also establishes a paper trail, documenting the progression of your injury, which is generally helpful in a personal injury case.
Q: How will my lawyer handle my case?
After initial meetings with you, your lawyer will investigate your claim. This may involve your lawyer getting expert testimony from a relevant source like a doctor or other medical professional, but it usually requires a review of some or all of the following:
- Witness statements
- Police reports
- A possible visit to the scene of the incident
- A review of appropriate laws
- A review of all medical reports
- All other evidence, e.g. photos, documents, first response records, etc.
Q: How will my lawyer be paid and what is a contingent fee agreement?
In almost all personal injury cases, your attorney will be paid by keeping a percentage of the final settlement or court award resulting from you case. The percentage will be discussed with you and will be the subject of what is called a contingent fee agreement. The law requires, for your protection and that of your lawyer, a written contract which specifies the fee he or she will charge so there will be no misunderstanding about how much your case will cost.
It is worth noting that state laws usually ensure that the fee or contingency rate in a case is negotiable between the client and the attorney and isn't set in stone. Also, it's uncommon for personal injury attorneys to request any money up front and/or out of pocket, especially in car accident cases.
Q: What can I do to convince the insurance company that my claim is valid?
As stated above, the most important thing you can do is to prioritize your health and to document all activities relevant to your case. Insurance company personnel tend to believe those people who actively try to recover from their injuries. Also, insurance companies find credible those people who can document their injuries through medical bills, credible medical reports, and accurate lost wage information that is neither exaggerated nor subject to dispute and interpretation.
Q: When will my case settle?
It is impossible in the early stages of a personal injury claim to predict when that particular claim will actually settle. Some cases settle in a matter of months while others can take years to get to settlement or to trial.
The timespan of a case depends on various factors, such as the complexity of the accident and resulting injuries, the quality of the evidence, the bargaining position of each party, and the skill of the attorneys involved.
Q: How much is my case worth?
This question is one of the most frequently asked and difficult to answer questions in a personal injury case, particularly in the case's early stages. It is virtually impossible to predict the value of a case until all of the information has been collected and you have recovered (or almost recovered) from your injuries to the most reasonable extent possible.
Many factors will impact the value of a case and reasons for settling. Some include:
- The actual amount of all of your past, present, and future medical bills
- How much income and other employment benefits were lost and may be lost as a result of your injury
- Whether or not any aspect of your injuries are permanent. This would also include permanent disfigurement—scars, blemishes, etc.—and permanent immobility/incapacity
Q: After the insurance company and my attorney agree upon settlement, how long will it take to get my money?
After an agreement has been reached between the insurance company and you through your lawyer, it usually takes between two and six weeks to complete the settlement process. There may be exceptions to this range, but the average time to sign all documents, receive the check, and figure out the exact proceeds for each party usually requires at least a month.
Q: What has to be done before I get the money that is due me from the settlement?
First, the insurance company will require that you, and perhaps your spouse, sign a release. This is a document that settles your claim. In the release you will read language stating that you are forever giving up your right to sue the person(s), company, and/or party who was allegedly responsible for your injuries. In exchange for giving up your claim, you will receive a certain sum of money when the insurance company receives the release.
Second, your lawyer will have to pay medical bills/medical liens that have not been paid and may be required to reimburse any insurance company that has covered those expenses.
Third, your lawyer will deduct attorney's fees, out-of-pocket expenses, and other possible costs associated with the claim such as court filing fees or clerical costs. After all deductions have been made, you will receive the balance in a check processed from your attorney's office.
Q: What factors would cause my case to go to litigation?
There are usually several reasons why a case does not settle, including the following:
- The insurance company believes that you and your lawyer have asked for more money than they are willing to voluntarily pay for the claim.
- There isn't enough evidence to substantiate your claim without a more thorough discovery process in litigation
- The case might be complex if it involves multiple parties and various levels of claims between them
- Liability—who is at fault—is either being denied by the insurance company, or the insurance company believes that you and/or some other party bear some responsibility for your own injuries
- The insurance company does not believe that you were injured, or that you were injured as badly as you claim.
Q: Should I Get Professional Legal Help with my Personal Injury Case?
Accident and injury lawsuits are often complex, requiring medical evidence, expert testimony, and a detailed knowledge of negligence law. In order to ensure that your case is as well-prepared as possible, it's important to seek out a skilled personal injury attorney in your area.
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Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.