If you have been injured, you may have a personal injury claim against the person who caused your injuries. If you do, you may be compensated for those injuries. Here are some answers to typical questions that a personal injury victim may have.
Q: What are the stages of a personal injury claim?
If you have been injured, the first thing you should do is to get the medical treatment that you need. You need to make sure that you recover from your injuries as much as possible.
Depending on the circumstances of your injury, you may already have a good understanding of the identity of the person who caused your injuries. This is certainly true in a motor vehicle accident case. Your are legally bound to exchange insurance and identifying information at the scene of an accident if at all possible. If the accident is severe, police will most likely have been called to the scene and they will help make sure that both parties are safe and have exchanged information.
Once the culpable person’s insurance company contacts you and a claim is opened, you will have entered the claims stage. Issues of liability and damages are often investigated and if it is possible, your case may be resolved without filing suit against the other party.
If you are not able to resolve the claim before the statute of limitations expires, you will need to file a lawsuit in order to protect your right to recovery. Once you file suit, investigation continues under a new name, discovery. Litigation can end in a trial or a settlement.
Q: Can I resolve my claim before I go to trial?
Most claims are resolved before you go to trial. Even if you were unable to resolve the claim before filing a lawsuit, courts often help the parties resolve their case before trial through either mediation or arbitration.
Q: My lawyer used the term “pain and suffering.” What does that mean?
All of your damages directly related to the accident are compensable. This includes the pain and other suffering that you have suffered as a result of the accident. This is a subjective number that is attached to your damages and is related to the level of pain and discomfort you have suffered as a result of your injuries. This number can vary quite a bit from case to case.
Q: How do I know the true value of my claim?
Each case must be valued independently. Often insurance claims adjustors will use a multiplier to determine the value of a case. For example, a claims adjuster may make a settlement offer based on a multiplier such as 3 times the amount of your medical damages. That amount is then added to your other enumerated damages.
It is important to know that while this formula is often used, it may not reflect the true value of your case. Your injuries may be more severe or permanent, adding to the value of your case, or the defendant may have engaged in an intentional bad act, subjecting them to punitive damages. Before accepting any offer from an insurance company make sure that you get at least one opinion about the true value of your case from a trusted personal injury attorney. Value can be highly subjective.
Q: I have no money to pay an attorney, how can I hire an attorney?
This can be a real problem for many people. Legal help, especially good legal help, can be quite expensive. Attorneys who represent personal injury clients often remedy this problem by using what is known as a “contingency agreement.” In a contingency agreement, the fee to your attorney is delayed until a settlement or verdict is awarded. This amount will most often be a percentage of your recovery, often a third.
If there is no money awarded, you do not need to pay your personal injury attorney. Regardless of the outcome of the case, you will have to pay costs associated with the handling of your case. Costs vary quite a bit from case to case, but can include copying costs, filing fees if the case moves into litigation, deposition and expert witness fees and the like.
When you are injured and believe that another person is liable for those injuries, you should consider consulting with an attorney. While each case is different, personal injury attorneys are very experienced and can help answer your questions and bring your matter to resolution.