When others behave negligently and carelessly, serious accidents can lead to debilitating and sometimes lifelong personal injuries.
If you suffered injuries in a car accident, premises accident, or other occurrence that was not your fault, you should speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer can answer all of your questions and help you set a course of action for recovering the monetary compensation you deserve in your case.
Waiting too long to seek out legal representation can be a severe mistake. This is because accident victims only have five years from their accident date to file a claim or lawsuit seeking monetary recovery for their injuries. If they miss this statutory deadline – even unintentionally – they forever waive their right to recover the compensation they deserve.
A personal injury attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf right away, especially if the statute of limitations is about to expire in your case. At every step of the claims filing or litigation process, your attorney can address your concerns and help you make informed and intelligent decisions throughout your case.
For example, your lawyer can help you decide whether accepting a particular settlement offer is worthwhile or litigating your case in court instead. Whatever you decide, your attorney will aggressively fight for your legal rights every step of the way and help you maximize the compensation you ultimately recover in your case.
The Basis for a Personal Injury Claim
If you suffered injuries in a motor vehicle collision, premises accident, or other occurrence that another person negligently caused, you may file a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
In most situations, a personal injury attorney will file this claim with the insurance company for the at-fault individual or entity. These are called third-party claims.
The accident victim has the sole legal burden of proof to recover monetary compensation in a third-party personal injury claim. Therefore, they must establish that the responsible individual or entity behaved negligently, recklessly, or intentionally wrongfully.
This typically means that the at-fault party acted unreasonably by failing to do something that a hypothetical reasonable person should have done in the same scenario or by doing something that a hypothetical reasonable person should not have done in the same situation.
To establish that the other party was negligent, the accident victim must first show that the other individual or entity owed them a legal duty of care.
For example, in the context of a motor vehicle crash, a driver has a duty to follow all traffic laws and regulations and drive in a prudent, safe, and careful manner at all times. Similarly, premises owners must carefully maintain their properties in a reasonably safe condition at all times for the safety of property visitors.
Next, the injured accident victim must establish that the other party somehow breached or violated their legal duty of care. This typically means that the other party acted unreasonably, given the facts and circumstances at that time.
For example, in a motor vehicle crash case, the at-fault driver may have violated one or more traffic laws or driven while intoxicated or distracted. Similarly, in the context of a premises accident, the property owner might have failed to repair a known defect or other dangerous condition on their premises within a sufficient amount of time.
Third, the injured accident victim must establish that the other party's negligence was both the foreseeable and the actual cause of the subject occurrence, such as a car accident or premises slip-and-fall accident.
Finally, the injured victim must demonstrate that as a direct result of the subject event, they suffered one or more physical injuries.
Establishing the legal elements of proof in a personal injury claim can be challenging since insurance companies sometimes try to dispute fault for accidents. In some situations, the insurance company may even allege that the injured accident victim caused or contributed to their own accident.
When that happens, a personal injury attorney can retain an expert accident reconstructionist who can:
- Visit the scene of the occurrence
- Speak with witnesses who observed what happened firsthand
- Speak with you about the occurrence
- Review police reports
- Review diagrams of the incident scene
After reviewing this documentation, the accident reconstructionist can then form an opinion about how the accident likely occurred and who caused it. They may then testify as expert witnesses during a deposition or civil jury trial to support your claim.
In addition to retaining an expert accident reconstructionist, your lawyer can retain a medical expert to testify in your case and establish, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, that you suffered one or more permanent injuries in your accident.
A medical expert can also review the available medical evidence in the case and establish the necessary causal relationship between your claimed injuries and the accident.
Personal Injuries That Accident Victims Often Suffer
When individuals become involved in accidents that are not their fault, they may sustain certain debilitating injuries. In some situations, these injuries are permanent, meaning that the accident victim experiences pain and other symptoms for the rest of their life.
An accident victim's injuries will usually depend upon the amount of force involved in the incident, whether the accident victim fell to the ground, and other circumstances surrounding the incident.
Some of the most common physical injuries that accident victims may suffer include:
- Traumatic head and brain injuries, including concussions
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Soft tissue neck and back injuries
- Bone fractures
- Rib fractures
- Spinal cord damage
- Open lacerations
- Road rash
- Shoulder injuries
- Knee injuries
- Jaw damage
If you sustained one or more physical injuries in an accident that was not your fault, you should undergo all the medical treatment you need to get better.
Many times, after an accident victim visits the hospital or urgent care center following their accident, they will need to follow up with their primary care doctor, consult with a specialist about their medical condition, or attend physical therapy sessions several times per week.
The ultimate purpose of ongoing medical treatment is for the accident victim to make a full recovery. However, when accident victims do not treat continuously for their injuries, insurance companies and their adjusters often become skeptical.
For example, adjusters might believe that your injuries are not severe and that you do not deserve to recover significant monetary compensation in your case.
To safeguard your right to monetary compensation and help ensure that you recover fully, you should treat your injuries continuously, follow through with your medical treatment regimen, and refrain from lengthy gaps in your medical treatment.
During the time you treat for your injuries, a personal injury attorney can start gathering your medical records and other documentation necessary to prove your case.
Upon completion of your treatment, your lawyer can begin negotiating settlement compensation from the insurance company adjuster handling your claim.
Questions to Ask a Prospective Attorney
An essential step is selecting an attorney to represent you in your personal injury claim or lawsuit. In general, you want a lawyer who has experience handling personal injury claims successfully and is a good fit for you and your case.
First, you should ask a prospective attorney how much experience they have handling personal injury matters. Not all attorneys handle personal injury cases regularly. However, to achieve the best result in your case, you want a lawyer on your side who handles a significant number of personal injury claims in a given year. Ideally, you want a lawyer who handles personal injury cases as most of their practice.
You should also ask a prospective attorney about their record of settling cases and taking cases to trial. Most insurance companies are skeptical of attorneys who settle all of their cases and are less likely to offer these attorneys top dollar for the personal injury claims they handle.
Therefore, you want a lawyer on your side who not only settles personal injury cases favorably but who also has a track record of success litigating personal injury claims in court and taking them to jury trials and binding arbitration proceedings.
Finally, you want an attorney on your side who has a clean disciplinary record.
Once you know the answers to these basic questions, you can make an informed and intelligent decision about whom to select as your personal injury attorney.
Questions to Ask a Lawyer You've Retained for Representation
Once you've retained legal counsel for representation in your personal injury claim, numerous questions may arise at various stages of your case.
First, you may ask your attorney about your case's likely value. Although your attorney will be unable to pinpoint an exact number, they can provide you with a ballpark figure based on the type of accident that occurred, the nature and extent of your injuries, the cost of your medical treatment, and other case-specific factors that may weigh on a total damage award.
Next, if the insurance company places a settlement offer on the table, you can ask your attorney whether that offer is good, given the facts and circumstances of your unique case.
Your attorney can recommend whether you should accept a pending settlement offer or take your case to a civil jury trial or binding arbitration hearing. However, as the accident victim, you are the sole decision-maker on whether to accept a pending settlement offer or pursue litigation.
You can also ask your lawyer whether your case will likely go to trial. Your attorney can also recommend alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as mediation or binding arbitration, as additional options for avoiding a civil jury trial in your case.
By asking your attorney these questions and listening to their responses, you can make intelligent decisions throughout your case to increase your chances of obtaining a favorable monetary recovery.
Recovering Favorable Monetary Damages in a Personal Injury Case
The total monetary damages that accident victims recover in personal injury claims and lawsuits are highly case-specific and depend upon various factors. Those factors include the specific type of accident that occurs, the injuries that the accident victim suffers, the medical treatment that the accident victim undergoes, and the cost of that medical treatment.
Generally, the more severe an accident victim's physical injuries and the more costly their medical treatment, the higher the monetary damages they may recover in their personal injury claim or lawsuit.
The venue where a personal injury lawsuit is pending may also affect a case's value. This is because some venues are more plaintiff-friendly than others, and insurance company adjusters are typically aware of this fact.
Some of the most common monetary damages that accident victims can recover include:
- Compensation for all related past and future medical expenses
- Loss of earnings
- Loss of earning capacity
- Mental distress
- Physical pain, suffering, and inconvenience
- Permanent disability
- Lifetime care costs
- Loss of spousal companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of the ability to use one or more body parts, such as from a spinal cord or paralysis injury.
Your attorney can tell you what to expect regarding your overall monetary damages in a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Your lawyer can then help you maximize your damages by aggressively negotiating with insurance company representatives on your behalf or taking your case to a litigation proceeding.
Speak with a Personal Injury Attorney as Soon as Possible
When accident victims suffer serious personal injuries due to another individual or entity's negligence, they must immediately seek the legal help they need. A personal injury attorney can enter an appearance on your behalf and begin advocating for you immediately.
Throughout the entire process, your lawyer can answer all your questions and address your concerns, helping you make informed decisions at every stage of the proceedings. Your lawyer can also aggressively negotiate during settlement negotiations on your behalf and, if necessary, pursue litigation in court.
If you choose to litigate your case, your lawyer will represent you at all legal proceedings and aggressively fight for your right to the monetary damages you need to become whole again.