Every day thousands of Americans are killed or injured due to the negligence of others. After an injury or death the victims or their survivors are confronted with many questions. What should one do, where should one go for advice? Do I need a lawyer? If I determine I need a lawyer to assist me and protect my interests, how do I find the right lawyer for me?
People should hire an attorney because they need a trained and knowledgeable person to evaluate their claim and present a demand to an insurance company or sue, if necessary. Remember, insurance companies have more time and money than you do. They collect premiums like barracudas and adjust claims like dinosaurs. You will be dealing with an adjuster whose entire career is based on saving money for their company, not helping an injured person or the survivors of one wrongfully killed. An injured person usually has no previous experience in this area of claims adjusting, settlement, negotiation and litigation. Victims are often emotionally distraught and under severe financial pressure and frequently suffering from pain and depression. A seasoned adjuster can often stampede an injured person into a hasty and unfair settlement.
An injury case is like a triangle. In order to have a true triangle, you must have three sides and, similarly, there are three necessary elements to a successful injury case. The first is liability which is a legal term meaning guilt, fault, blame or wrong. To be successful you must at first establish that someone other than yourself was at least 51% at fault in regards to your injury. You may have contributed in part to your injury but the other party(s) must be more than 50% at fault in order for you to be successful.
The second element or side to the personal injury triangle is that of injuries and resulting damages. You may have been involved in a motor vehicle collision and not sustained any injuries (fortunately for you) and therefore you may have no damages. However, if you are less fortunate, the spectrum of damages can run anywhere from soft tissue injuries, to broken bones, lacerations, paralysis, brain damage, disfigurement and scarring, or death. Damages may also include property damage, lost earnings and earning capacity, medical expenses, past and future, scarring and emotional distress. Under certain circumstances one can claim injury for actually seeing a close relative suffer injury or death.
The last and final element of the three sides is that of compensation/insurance. Generally speaking, if the individual who negligently harmed you does not have insurance the likelihood of collecting from that individual is remote indeed and usually it is not worth pursuing the claim against such a person. However, if you have your own insurance coverage, uninsured and underinsured coverage, then you can collect from it even if the person who hurt you doesn’t have any insurance.
After any collision, you will have four questions which are:
1) how much is my case worth?
2) how long will it take?
3) how much will it cost? and,
4) will I have to go to court?
The value of the case is generally determined by two of the three elements mentioned above, namely degree of liability and the extent of injury and damage. Obviously, a case that renders an individual a paraplegic is worth a great deal more than a soft tissue injury case. Caution: don’t try to compare your case to what others have told you they got for their case. There are too many variables, subtleties and complexities in each case making it difficult to compare one to another. The length of time it will take to resolve a case will depend again on the injury and damage and the time it takes to reach a maximum medical improvement. If it is necessary to file suit, of course, it can take much longer. A case shouldn’t cost you anything because although I offer my clients a choice of contingency, flat fee or an hourly rate, most of my clients select the contingency arrangement. That is, I do not charge you anything up front but will be paid (usually 1/3) on the gross proceeds obtained on your behalf. However, there may be costs or expenses such as expert witnesses and medical testimony for which by law you are required to reimburse your attorney.
Whether or not your case goes to court depends on whether or not it can be settled to both parties satisfaction. The vast majority of the cases are settled without filing suit; of those that go to court, only about three percent actually go to trial. A case usually goes to court if one side is unreasonable in their position or if there are questions regarding liability and or injuries and damages.
If all or a portion of your medical bills were paid by your auto or health insurance carrier or Medicare, they are generally entitled to reimbursement of your settlement proceeds for all or a portion of the amounts they paid on your behalf.
What do I do if I am injured by someone, it is clearly their fault, and they have no insurance? In this situation, check with your insurance agent to determine if you have what is known as ‘uninsured motorist coverage’. If you have such coverage, you can make a claim based on the liability, your injuries and damages from your own insurance company. Will my rates go up if I report a claim to my company? This is difficult to say because insurance companies do not publicly state the reason for the rate increases. The insurance companies say your rates won’t go up if the accident was not your fault or if it was not a one car accident.
My advise when injured is to get the best medical care possible, heal as quickly and completely as possible and get back to work. Insurance dollars paid for injury claims are a means to compensate you but it is difficult for dollars to adequately give you what you think your claim is worth. After all, insurance adjusters try to save the company money and the companies’ goals are in conflict with yours. A judge or jury is not in conflict with you and ideally will give you a fair and just compensation. Remember; however, judges and juries will have their own biases and prejudices which will affect any awards they make.
In conclusion, people who are hurt or injured due to the fault of others are entitled to compensation. I can often maximize the recover which should net a greater dollar amount to you than you could otherwise obtain for yourself.
When people hire me they get me, an attorney with over 34 years of experience, not a junior associate or a secretary. They won’t have to deal with a frustrating, demeaning and insulting voice mail. They will get me or my personal message. When I am not in the office my calls are forwarded to my cell phone so I am always available. I have the highest rating, AV, from Martindale Hubble. See lawyers.com or martindale.com.