PERSONAL INJURY FAQS
General Personal Injury Questions
Q. I was in an accident and intend to make a claim. How soon should I see a lawyer?
A. Accident victims should get legal help as soon as possible. One reason for this is there are time limits for making claims. If you wait too long and the deadline passes, you won’t be able to make your claim — which means you will have lost the chance to obtain money you otherwise might have received.
Another reason why it’s vital to get legal help quickly is that delay can hurt your case. As time passes, memories fade, evidence gets harder to find and people move. So seeking legal help faster can help your lawyer prepare the strongest case so you get the maximum recovery.
Q. After an accident, how do I know if I have a good case?
A. There are several factors to look at when evaluating the strength of an accident victim's claim. They include:
- Fault. For you to recover compensation, generally a person or business must have done something wrong or failed to do something. In most states, you can still make a claim even if you are partly at fault for the accident.
- Damages. To receive compensation, you must suffer damage. This can cover many things, like medical bills and lost wages.
- Can you collect? Before making a claim, you will want to make sure there’s a source for recovering your damages, such as the other party or an insurance company.
- Is your claim timely? As noted above, the law requires accident victims to make their claim within a certain period after the accident. Waiting too long can cause you to lose an otherwise valid claim.
Q. If I make a claim, will there be a lawsuit?
A. Most personal injury claims don’t become lawsuits. In most cases, a claim is filed with an insurance company. Your lawyer negotiates with the insurance adjuster to get you the best settlement offer. The vast majority of personal injury claims are resolved this way, by a settlement. Rarely is there an actual lawsuit and trial. So there is very little chance you will have to go to court.
Q. How long will my case take?
A. The answer depends on many things, including the nature of your injuries and the other side’s willingness to resolve the matter. Many claims are resolved quickly, while others — sometimes because the extent of the person’s damages are not known for a while — take longer.
Q. Do I need a lawyer's help after an accident?
A. After almost any type of accident, you should contact a lawyer. You have important legal rights and responsibilities, and a lawyer can explain them to you. A lawyer can also evaluate your claim and tell you how much money you may be entitled to receive.
You also need a lawyer’s help dealing with insurance companies. After an accident an insurance adjuster will likely try to convince you that you don’t need a lawyer or that a lawyer won’t help you get more money. But remember that the adjuster works for the insurance company, not you. Your lawyer is truly fighting to get you the maximum recovery.
Q. I was hurt in an accident and want to make a claim, but I’m concerned about legal fees. How will I be charged?
A. Most personal injury claims are handled on a contingent fee basis. This means there’s no fee unless there is a recovery (there may, however, be court and other costs). The fee is a portion of the recovery. Because of contingent fee arrangements, accident victims can make claims against big businesses and insurance companies even if they could not afford to do so for other matters.
Q. I was in an accident. What are my legal rights?
A. Accident victims have many rights. Generally, you have a right to receive fair compensation for your injuries and losses from the party responsible for paying. This includes lost wages, medical expenses, costs to fix or replace damaged property, and compensation for pain and suffering.
You also have many other rights if you are in an accident, including the right to consult your lawyer before answering questions and the right to decide whether to accept settlement offers.
Q. I was hurt in an accident. How much compensation am I entitled to recover?
A. The answer depends on several factors, including the type of injury you suffered, how long-lasting and severe your pain is, your past and future medical expenses, your past and future lost income, any scarring or disfigurement, and changes you have had to make to your lifestyle. Your attorney can evaluate these factors, and then, based on settlements and jury awards in the community for similar injuries, estimate how much compensation you might recover.
Q. Can I receive compensation after an accident even if I have existing health problems
A. Yes. The fact you have a preexisting health condition will not stop you from making a claim and recovering your damages. Whoever causes the accident takes you in the condition you are in at the time of the accident. If the accident makes you worse, then you can recover damages. The fact that someone in better health would not have been hurt as badly as you were does not make any difference.
Q. Can I still get damages if the accident was partly my fault?
A. Yes. In most states, accident victims can recover compensation even if they are partly at fault for their accident (though rules vary between states about what level of fault prevents you from making a claim). Your damages will just be reduced by the amount of your fault. For example, suppose you are hurt in an accident in which you were 25% at fault and that your damages are $10,000. In this case, because you were 25% at fault for the accident, your damages will be reduced by 25%, or $2,500. You will still recover $7,500.
Q. Shortly after my accident I settled my case and signed a “release” without consulting a lawyer. Later I found out I had more serious injuries. Can I get more money?
A. Probably not. If you signed a “release of all claims,” you likely have lost your right to make another claim. Only in very limited circumstances can a person undo a settlement he or she signed. This is one of the main reasons why it’s vital to consult your lawyer before settling your accident claim or signing anything from the other side or an insurance company.
Q. How do I know how much to settle my accident claim for?
A. This is a crucial question, since once your claim is settled, you usually cannot get more compensation. You often cannot get a good idea of what a fair settlement is until you know the full extent of your injuries and losses. Your lawyer can be especially helpful in advising you how much to settle your accident claim for, since lawyers know all the different types of damages you can receive after an accident. They also know what courts have awarded for accidents and injuries like yours, and can evaluate the strength of your case. By considering these and other factors, your lawyer can help estimate the value of your claim. You can then evaluate if a settlement offer is fair.
Q. What should I do if I am in an auto accident?
A. After medical attention has been summoned for anyone injured, obtain important information, including the name, address and phone number of the other driver and witnesses, as well as information about the other car, including its make, model, year, license number and vehicle id number. If the other driver is not the car’s owner, obtain the owner’s name. Also make a diagram of the accident and write down what happened.
There are some things you should NOT do if you are in an accident. Don’t discuss the accident with anyone at the scene (except to answer questions asked by police officers). Also, don’t take any blame for the accident. Things you say can be used against you later and may hurt your claim.
Q. How can I protect myself against uninsured drivers?
A. The best protection is to carry the maximum amount of uninsured motorist insurance. This lets you collect money from your own insurance company if you’re in an accident with an uninsured or hit-and-run driver. You should also carry underinsured motorist insurance. This pays you benefits if the other driver does not have enough insurance to pay for all your injuries and losses.
Q. I was riding in my friend’s car and we got in an accident. Can I make a claim to recover compensation for my injuries?
If you are a passenger hurt in an auto accident, your lawyer can tell you about possible sources for recovering damages for your situation.
Q. We have a family member who was killed in a car accident. What are our rights to make a claim?
A. Family members of a person killed in an accident have the legal right to make a claim. This is called a “wrongful death” action. Rules about the types of damages family members can recover vary from state to state. Some states let family members recover for grief caused by the death, while others allow recovery for income lost due to the death. Still other states prohibit recovery for grief, but allow it for lost companionship and support.
Wrongful death actions can usually be brought by immediate family members or representatives of the deceased. People who lost a loved one in an accident should seek legal help to determine their rights.
Q. I was in an auto accident. Can any lawyer help with my insurance claim?
A. Though lawyers can handle different kinds of cases, after a car accident it’s usually best if your claim is handled by lawyers experienced in personal injury claims, such as our firm. Accident claims are complex, and a lawyer’s training, skills, experience and resources can pay off for you in the form of a higher financial recovery. Personal injury lawyers who have successfully handled many accident cases are often the best suited to handle complicated issues, tough negotiations with insurance companies and, when necessary, trial of your case.
Q. What should I do if an insurance adjuster contacts me after the accident?
A. It depends on whether the adjuster works for the other driver’s insurance company or yours. If the adjuster is from the other driver’s insurance company, you are not required to talk, and you should not give him or her any information. Tell the adjuster to contact your lawyer. Do not give details about the accident or your injuries. You can be certain the adjuster wants to get information that hurts your claim.
Your obligation to your own insurance company is stated in your policy. Most policies require you to cooperate with the insurance company’s accident investigation. But since even your own adjuster wants to get information to lower the value of your claim, you should consult your lawyer before giving a statement.
Slip and Falls
Q. I was hurt when I slipped and fell on a wet floor in a market. Is the owner of the store liable for my injuries?
A. The answer depends on the specific facts of your case. Generally in the case of businesses like stores, restaurants, theaters and malls, to be liable a property owner must have known (or should have known) about the dangerous condition and failed to take steps to prevent injuries. As a result, whether you can recover damages will likely depend on how long the floor was wet and what employees knew and did. If the floor was wet for a while and employees knew or should have known about it but did nothing, you’ll likely recover damages. But if the floor became wet just before you slipped and employees did not have a chance to dry it or post warning signs, recovering damages may be harder.
Q. If I am hurt in a slip and fall accident at a store or other business, what should I do to protect my right to make a claim?
A. If you get hurt in a slip and fall accident, there are several things you should do to protect your rights and help make sure you can recover what you are entitled to receive under the law. Make written notes on the accident, get the names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses, and save any evidence, such as whatever caused the fall. You should also report the accident to employees of the business, but don't sign anything or give a statement before talking to your lawyer. You are not legally obligated to give a statement to a store employee or anyone connected to the business. What often happens in slip and fall accidents is that store employees try to get victims to say something that hurts their case, like admitting they weren't paying attention. Anything you say can be used against you later and hurt your claim. Also, if you sign something, this may result in giving up your claim for less compensation than you are entitled to receive.
Q. I was injured when I tripped on a crack in a sidewalk. Can I make a claim against the city for my injuries?
A. In some areas, laws protect the city or local government from lawsuits. In other areas, accident victims can make a claim for injuries sustained on public property, like sidewalks. If the local government failed to properly maintain the sidewalk, you may have a valid claim.
Important: There are special rules and procedures for making a claim against the government. These rules can include shortened time limits in which to present a claim to the appropriate government entity. If you are injured on government property, seek legal help promptly to make sure these special rules and time limits are followed.
Q. What defenses do businesses commonly make in slip and fall accidents?
A. To deny legal responsibility after a slip and fall accident, businesses often claim that whatever caused the accident (like a spill) happened too soon before the accident for them to do anything. They also often try to shift blame to the accident victim, saying he or she was careless or not paying attention.
If you are hurt in a slip and fall accident, don't give up your claim until a proper investigation is made. The business owner will likely deny responsibility or try to shift the blame to you, but your lawyer can help conduct an investigation to find out the true cause of the accident. Also, even if you are partly responsible for the accident, in most states you can still recover compensation (your recovery will just be reduced by the percentage amount of your fault).
Other Types of Injuries
Q. I was bitten by a dog. Is the owner liable for my injuries?
A. Probably. The old rule in dog bite cases was that a dog’s owner was not liable unless the dog had bitten someone before or was known to be dangerous. This was often called the “one free bite” rule. Today, most states now follow a stricter rule which says dog owners are liable for injuries regardless whether their dog has injured anyone before.
Q. I was injured by a product I bought. Can I make a claim for compensation?
A. People who are injured by a defective product can make a claim to recover compensation for their injuries and losses. Common sources of product liability claims include clothes, sports equipment, children's toys, tools, furniture, medical devices, drugs, household appliances and many other commonly used items and medical products.
Q. What makes a product defective?
A. Under the law, a product can be defective in several ways. It may have a manufacturing defect, which occurs when the product is not made according to specifications (for example, a piece is missing, making it dangerous). It can also have a design defect. This occurs when there is something wrong with the product’s design. (for example, the product’s creators may have used the wrong type of material or may not have included adequate safety shields when designing the product). Finally, a product can also be considered defective under the law when it does not include proper warnings about dangers or complete instructions on how to use it.
Q. We have a loved one in a nursing home and have safety concerns. What is elder abuse?
A. Elder abuse is an umbrella term that refers to any intentional or negligent act by a caregiver that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.
Q. How common is nursing home abuse and neglect?
A. It is a lot more common than most people think. A report released by Congress several years ago found that nearly one out of every three nursing homes had been cited for abusing residents. The problems were not limited to minor instances of abuse. All the violations had the potential to harm residents. In addition, nearly a third of the violations were serious enough to actually harm residents or place them in danger of serious injury or death. According to the report, nearly 10% of the approximately 17,000 nursing homes in the United States have been cited for abuse violations that caused actual harm to residents.
Q. Are there different kinds of abuse?
A. Yes, There are several different kinds of abuse, including:
- Physical abuse - Physical abuse is inflicting pain or injury on an elder. Examples are slapping, hitting, pushing, shoving, kicking, and pinching. The wrongful use of drugs, physical restraints and force-feeding are also examples of physical abuse.
- Sexual abuse - This is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind. It includes unwanted touching as well as all types of sexual assault and battery. Sexual contact with a person incapable of giving consent is also considered sexual abuse.
- Emotional abuse - This psychological abuse includes inflicting mental pain, anguish or distress on an elder by verbal or nonverbal acts. Examples are humiliating, threatening, intimidating or harassing the elder. Preventing an elder from seeing his or her family or socializing with other residents is also a form of emotional abuse.
- Neglect - This is the refusal or failure by those responsible to provide proper care of the elder. Neglect of an elder usually takes the form of denying the person basic necessities like food, clothes, shelter, hygiene and medical care.
Q. Are there signs we should look for?
A. In many cases, seniors are reluctant to admit they are being victimized by their caregiver. They may be fearful of what will happen if they report the abuse. It is therefore important for loved ones to be able to spot signs of possible abuse and neglect. Bruises, broken bones, wounds, cuts, abrasions and burns may indicate physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment. Withdrawal from normal activities or unusual depression may be indicators of psychological abuse. Bedsores, poor hygiene and unusual weight loss may indicate possible neglect.
Q. What should we do if we suspect our loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect?
A. If you have a loved one in a nursing home and suspect he or she is being abused or neglected, call us. We will investigate to help determine if abuse or neglect occurred, and advise you of the legal options to end it as well as recover damages for it. It is vital to call as soon as possible so the conduct can be stopped and the victim's legal rights enforced.