Personal Injury FAQ

How do I know if I have a personal injury case?

The best way to know is to visit with an attorney who practices in the area of personal injury law. Tell the attorney everything you can about your accident or injury. After considering all the facts you provide, your attorney also will tell you what facts might prevent you from having a good case. For instance, in some instances you may not be able to sue your employer, however if the negligence was caused at you work by someone not employed by your employer (a third party), then you may be able to bring suit against that third party to recover your damages.

The person who caused my injury did not mean to, it was an accident. Is it appropriate to pursue a claim?

Persons who negligently cause another's injuries seldom intend to cause the injuries they inflict. Instead, the injuries are caused by carelessness or thoughtless actions. Unfortunately, too often today, people who carelessly injure another fail to own up to their responsibility without being made to do so.

Should I provide my lawyer with documents? If so, which kind?

Yes, if they might be relevant to your case. Police reports are available in such situations as auto accidents, fires and assaults. These reports may contain eyewitness accounts and details about the conditions surrounding the incident. Copies of medical reports and records from doctors and hospitals will describe your injuries. You should supply all available documents to your lawyer. The more facts you give your lawyer, the easier it will be for your attorney to evaluate your claim, prepare your case, and increase your likelihood of a favorable result.

The insurance adjuster wants to take my recorded statement. Should I give it?

Often times these statements are taken shortly after an accident occurred. If a mistake is made during these statements, you might be accused of later fabricating the correcting statements. Accordingly, it may be advisable to visit with an attorney prior to giving a statement and reviewing the circumstances of the incident. Additionally, it is typically advisable to either be examined by a doctor or have an appointment to see a doctor prior to asserting that you are not injured in a recorded statement. Even though you may feel okay or only slight pain, these symptoms may worsen or linger longer than initially thought.

If my health insurance already paid for my medical and hospital bills, may I recover from the person who caused my injury?

Yes. Although typically, your health insurance will be entitled to be reimbursed for some or all of their payments, these bills are only part of what the law allows an jury victim to recover. Accordingly, a personal injury claim may be the only way to recover for damages such as disfigurement, pain and suffering and the strain on a marriage an injury may cause.

How do I estimate h ow much my case is worth?

There are many factors to consider in evaluating a personal injury claim, so be wary of any "formula" an adjuster or acquaintance may try to convince you to accept. The value of your claim may depend on the nature and extent of your injuries, how your doctors expect you to progress in the future, your medical bills now and anticipated in the future, the pain you experienced, how your injuries have affected your ability to earn a living and maintain your lifestyle, how old you are, whether you had preexisting injuries that already affected your life or that occurred in the same area of the body, and what juries are awarding for similar injuries and circumstances. Evaluating all these factors is complex, and one reason why you should consult with an attorney prior to beginning the negotiation process on your own.

When should I settle my case?

While there is seldom total certainty concerning future medical attention you may need, you should feel confident with the nature and extent of your injuries and whether you'll need continuing medical attention. You should have a good idea whether you will be able to work in the future and how the injury will affect your ability to do normal household tasks, sports and hobbies before you "talk money" with anyone.

How does a prior injury affect the value of my claim?

Generally, a person who is negligent or careless is responsible only for the harm he or she caused. That means that you have to prove there was negligence and that the negligence caused your injury. So, if you already had an injury, the negligence could not have caused it. But if you can prove that the negligence made the injury worse, you can collect for the degree to which the problem has been aggravated.

Can I get a partial settlement from the insurance company for my injury?

Typically, not for an injury. Usually, the insurance company will only settle if they can dispute the entire claim. Occasionally, victims sometime settle for substantially less than they are entitled, simply because they do not have the money to pay for medical care out of their own pockets. And while a partial settlement which disposes of the property damage can frequently be achieved early on (prior to the injury claims being resolved), some victims have released all claims thinking they were only settling the property damage claim.

How do I know if I have a medical malpractice case?

A bad medical result is not necessarily malpractice. Even with adequate care, bad results can, and do, occur. Generally, to win a medical malpractice case, you must have expert medical testimony that your healthcare provider's care fell below those standard of a reasonable healthcare provider in the area. The issue is whether any reasonable physician could have done what the doctor in question did, based on the available information - not simply whether another doctor would have performed the procedure differently. Additionally, the expert testimony must establish that the negligence of your healthcare provider was a cause of injury or death. A doctor may be negligent, and still not be liable if the injury or death resulted from some other factor.

What do I need to do if I'm in an automobile accident?

When you are in an automobile accident, you may be injured and in shock. But it is important to protect yourself legally at the earliest possible moment. Here is a list of things to do right away to make sure your legal rights are covered:

Get the other driver's name, address, date of birth, telephone number, driver's license number and insurance company name and policy number.
Get the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses.
Get the name of the police officer who comes to the scene of the accident. Ask when and where a copy of the police report will be available.
Get medical attention right away, regardless of whether you think you've been injured. Often, symptoms from an injury will not surface for several days. Tell the physician you see that you've just been in an accident.
Write down everything you can remember about the accident as soon as possible. Draw a diagram of the streets, the direction of the vehicles, the location of witnesses and any other details you recall.
Take pictures of the accident scene from different angles.
Take pictures of the damage done to your vehicle and any visible injuries to your body. Take many photographs, from different angles. Additionally, have these photographs developed quickly to determine if they adequately depict what you were photographing.

Taking these steps during the time immediately after your accident can preserve evidence and help your prove your personal injury case down the line.