Q: Do I have a claim?
The first thing that many individuals wonder when they are hurt in an accident is if they have a legal claim. Unfortunately, it is impossible to say with certainty whether one has a legal claim without knowing the particular details about the situation. The right of recovery will depend on a variety of factors, including the nature and extent of the injuries and who is at fault. However, in general, the civil law holds that one who is injured (or their surviving family members) has a legal claim for recourse any time that another party intentionally or negligently causes harm. Negligent misconduct is much more nuanced, but in general it refers to situations where someone acts unreasonably. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case in light of these and other factors, and give you a realistic assessment of what you can expect.
Q: How much is my claim worth?
It is impossible to make generalizations about the value of any case without knowing the details of a situation. It is pertinent to retain an experienced attorney because one of the most important task of the attorney is to investigate and find all possible damages or losses that will translate into a legal recovery. The law allows recovery for a wide range of situations, many of which may not be readily apparent to the injured party. This includes past medical bills, future medical and rehabilitation costs, therapy, lost past wages, lost future income, pain and suffering, and more.
Do not fall for the trap of believing the worth of your case from the insurance company. The insurance companies are not advocating for your best interests and have incentives to drastically underestimate the value of your losses. It is important to remember that insurance adjusters work for the insurance companies and not for the victims. Often adjusters will make offers at a very early stage in a claim - sometimes hours after the accident. They make these offers before the full extent of the injured person's injuries are known. The insurance company's goal is to give the victim as little money as possible. Insurance adjusters are paid to minimize the value of victims' claims, not to advise victims of their rights.
Q: What should I do if I am injured on someone else's property?
If you are injured on someone else's property, take note of the surroundings and the hazard which caused you to fall. If you have a camera or mobile phone with photo capturing ability, try to take photos of the hazard as this may serve as evidence of the condition of the property at the time of injury. If there are any witnesses, ask for their contact information or a written statement of the accident from their perspective. If you are in a business setting, the business will probably require that you submit an accident report at the time of the incident. Be sure to retain a copy of this report for your records. In the upcoming days and weeks, keep clear records of any medical treatment needed and document any missed work which occurred as a result of you injury. Most importantly, contact a personal injury attorney who can review your case and inform you of the best course of action to receive compensation for your suffering and lost wages.
Q: When should I contact an attorney?
As soon as possible. Important evidence may be lost or mistakes made if you don’t act quickly. We’ve all heard the maxim that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In injury cases, that maxim rings sharply. For example, in an accident case, we may want to photograph the involved vehicles before they are repaired or salvaged, and any evidence of your injuries (bruising, bleeding). We may need to examine the vehicles to determine whether there was a product failure.
Moreover in most instances, an experienced personal injury attorney will offer a free initial consultation so there is nothing to lose! During this free consultation, the attorney will gather facts to make an initial assessment of your case, and will advise you as to your rights of recovery. Therefore, it makes sense to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after you suffer an injury.
Q: How much will a Personal Injury Lawsuit cost me?
In most instances, personal injury cases will cost the client nothing until there is a recovery of moneys whether by settlement or a trial verdict. Many personal injury attorneys will enter into a Contingent Fee Agreement whereby the Client will not pay any attorneys’ fees, unless there is a recovery. In other words, you “Don’t Pay Until You Win.” Attorney’s fees are calculated using a specified percentage of your total recovery and should be set forth in a written retainer agreement.
In addition to Attorney fees, a Client may be obligated to pay out-of-pocket expenditures. Out-of-pocket expenditures typically include Court costs, expert witness fees, copies, medical record reports, overnight fees, and etc. In certain instances, an attorney may advance the Court fees and other related expenses. If the attorney advances costs, then the out-of-pocket expenditures will be reimbursed from your eventual recovery.
Q: How long is the case going to take?
The length of time needed to resolve a personal injury case would depend on a number of factors. There are many variables but the most influential variables are the time it takes our client to complete their recovery from the injuries, how long it takes the insurance company to make an acceptable settlement offer, and whether or not litigation is necessary. Practically speaking, there are three main stages to a personal injury claim.
The first stage is to wait until the Client has a fully recovered from his/her injuries or when the Client has reached the point where - in the opinion of their treating doctor - the Client has reached his/her maximum recovery and whatever residual problems the Client still has are essentially permanent. Doctors call this the point of "maximum medical improvement" or MMI. Attorneys do this for the protection of the client, because once there has been a settlement agreement, the case is considered concluded. If, after the settlement, it is later discovered that the Client has additional injuries or problems, it may be too late to seek a further recovery.
After the Client has a fully recovered from their injuries or when the Client has reached the MMI stage, the second stage will begin. This is the time where the attorney will contact the insurance company in an attempt to negotiate a settlement. This second Stage can last anywhere between several weeks to several months depending on the complexity of the case. In many cases, medical records will need to be obtained and reviewed by an insurance company before a settlement offer is even rendered.
The final stage of a typical personal injury lawsuit occurs when the insurance company has extended an inadequate offer, and litigation becomes inevitable. In New York, the litigation of a personal injury matter will often last more than a year after the initial summons and complaint has been filed.
Given all of the foregoing variables, it is extremely hard to predict how long a case will last.