10 Most Frequently Asked Question About Personal Injury Cases
Many clients come to me with very similar questions. They've been injured due to someone else's bad decision. Read this list if you've been injured and aren't sure where to turn.
Why should I hire an attorney if I'm injured?If you are injured in an accident, you will get overwhelmed with the paperwork, dealing with insurance companies, knowing which medical treatment to get, going to the medical appointments, getting the medical bills paid, and getting the compensation you deserve. An attorney can handle all this for you, and get you a better outcome with the insurance companies. In fact, research shows that you are likely going to get 3.5 times more if you have an attorney than if you don't have an attorney. Click here to see a list of the many services that your attorney at Jensen Law provides to clients.
How can I get my car repaired?You need to report your property damage claim to yours and to the at-fault party's insurance companies as soon as possible. You should have received the at-fault party's insurance information at the accident scene. If you do not have it, call the police officer or department that investigated the accident and request a copy of the police report or DI-9, which will contain this information.
The at-fault party's insurer will assign an adjuster to the property damage claim. Be sure to write down the contact information for each adjuster and claim number for each claim. You will need this information repeatedly throughout the claims process.
In most cases, your property damage claim will get resolved before your bodily injury claim. You will need to take the car to a collision repair shop to get a repair estimate. The adjuster can provide you with a list of preferred shops that routinely process property damage claims with that insurer. Allow one to two weeks for repairs depending on the extent of the damage. You will owe a deductible, usually $1,000, and the insurance company will pay for the cost of repairs above the deductible. Most auto insurance policies also cover car rental costs for up to 30 days.
If the repairs exceed the value of the car, then your car is "totaled." The insurance company will then pay you book value for the car. Obviously, the older your car, the less damage it takes to total your car. If you purchased your car within 1-2 years, you may lose some purchasing power when shopping for new car. This is because new cars depreciate or go down in value the most during the first two years. The insurance company does not pay you back for the amount owed on the car but only what the car is worth at the time it is totaled. This is where gap insurance can help. Gap insurance is something you may want to consider when purchasing a new car, especially when the car is worth over $25,000. Gap insurance pays you the difference between book value at the time of the car and the amount that is still owed on the car. This can mean thousands of dollars.
Will I have to file a lawsuit?Most of the time, you will not need to file a lawsuit to resolve your personal injury claim. After making a claim for injuries, the parties will work to settle the claim with terms that all parties will accept. These pre-lawsuit negotiations usually lead to a resolution of the claim.
Most people do not want to get involved in a lawsuit. It can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful for all parties involved. Unfortunately, there are occasions where the parties cannot agree on terms, and a lawsuit is necessary. If a lawsuit is necessary, you will need an experienced attorney that has the tools and skills to effectively litigate your case.
Do I have a case?Whether you have a case depends on three main factors: fault, injuries, and insurance. First, you can't be the one at fault. In most states, if you are at least 50% at fault for the accident, then you cannot recover a penny for your injuries. If you are less than 50% at fault, then you can recover for your injuries minus the amount of the percentage of your fault. For example, if a jury awards you $100,000 for your injuries and decides you are 30% at fault, then you would get $70,000.
Deciding who is at fault is not always an easy task. Oftentimes, more than one person is at fault. It can take some time to investigate the facts to make a determination about fault. Parties often do not agree on who is at fault for an accident. Ultimately, your case outcome will depend not only on the facts themselves but also on how well your attorney frames the facts in your favor.
Second, you must have injuries serious enough to pursue a claim. In car accident cases, you need to have at least $3,000 in medical bills, permanent impairment or disfigurement, or a death in order to bring a claim for personal injury. However, this is only a requirement in car accident cases. If you don't have damages in excess of $1,500, you may be better off resolving it without an attorney. Never assume your injuries aren't serious enough until you've talked to an attorney.
Lastly, the person or company at fault needs have insurance or enough money to pay you for your injuries. If there is no way to get paid for your injuries, then the time and stress of seeking payment will be pointless. An experienced attorney will know what insurance policies may be available to help compensate you for your injuries.
What is my case worth?You are entitled to receive money for special (economic) and general (non-economic) damages. Special damages are damages that you can more easily calculate: past and future medical bills, loss of future earning capacity, past and future wage loss, past and future benefits and pensions, property damage, etc. These damages are supported by medical bills and records, tax returns, W-2s, pay stubs, letters from doctors and employers, repair estimates, and more.
General damages are more difficult to calculate: pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of enjoyment of relationship, emotional distress and anguish, deformity, incapacity, immobility, inconvenience, etc. These damages should not be considered less important despite the difficulty of determining their worth. Your attorney should never overlook these damages. They are supported by medical records, witness testimony of family members and friends, photographs, video, journal entries, and more.
How long will my case take until completion?This depends on the specific facts of your case, including whether you are partially at fault for the accident, whether you had pre-existing injuries similar to those that you received in the accident, how badly you are injured, and how quickly you supply needed information to the attorney. If there are complicating factors that the insurance company can grasp onto to pay you less money, this can delay a fair settlement. Sometimes it takes a little bit more time to persuade an insurance company to rethink its position on a claim.
Also, some insurance companies take longer than others when handling personal injury claims. Even within the same insurance company, you will find that some claims adjusters are more responsive than others.
Does the at-fault party pay my medical bills?Not usually. In almost all cases, your health insurance company will need to begin paying bills when you begin treating. If Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is available, then your health insurance company will begin making payments once PIP is exhausted (for more information on PIP, see What is No Fault Insurance and PIP?)
If you do not have health insurance, then you will need the help of an attorney to find doctors and medical providers that will treat your injuries and who will postpone payment of medical bills until you receive a settlement. Otherwise, medical bills can pile up and cause great stress in your life.
What is No Fault Insurance and PIP (Personal Injury Protection)?In Utah and in twelve other states, every person injured in an accident, regardless of whose fault, is entitled to receive No Fault benefits. These benefits are part of automobile coverage. Under No Fault you are entitled up to $3,000 for medical bills, $250 per week for lost wages, and up to $25 per day for 365 a day for household services. You can still make a claim on the at-fault party's insurance for bodily injury even if you receive No Fault benefits. Click here for more information on No Fault/PIP coverages.
What should I do after I'm injured in an accident?If you or a loved one are involved in an accident, the first priority is to seek medical treatment as soon as possible and for as long as needed. If you have ANY symptoms, do not refuse medical treatment at the scene. Inform the first responders of every symptom and injury. Do not assume that they are document everything that you are feeling. You need to tell the paramedics and doctors everything that hurts. After you are discharged from the doctor or hospital, continue to follow up as long as needed until every symptom is adequately addressed or resolved. Do not assume that your doctors will take care of everything for you. You need to tell the doctors how you are doing. If something is still bothering you, get an appointment and treat for it.
Contact me, an experienced personal injury lawyer, right away. I can make sure you are getting good medical treatment, coordinate medical bills, investigate the accident, and deal with the insurance companies right away. You need to focus on getting better.
Have a family member or friend take photographs and video of the scene as soon as possible after the accident. Do not rely on an investigating authority to do this. Police officers don't always take photographs and they rarely take video.
Do not give any recorded or unrecorded statements, except with a police officer or treating provider. When giving a statement, be as brief as necessary to convey the necessary information but no more. Do not guess about what happened. If you guess, you can be wrong, and this can effect the outcome of your case. For example, you may be asked how fast the other car was going in an automobile accident. Unless you saw the speedometer of the other car, which you most certainly did not, do not guess the speed. Instead, give a broad description, such as, "The car was going much faster than the other cars," or "He came out of nowhere." Always be truthful. Sometimes, saying "I don't know," is the only true, accurate answer.
Keep all evidence. If you think it has anything to do with the accident or was in any way a part of the accident, do not get rid of it. Things you may not believe are relevant and important can become very important.
What is negligence?
When someone is negligent, he or she does something or behaves in a way that is unreasonable. For example, if I leave a saw blade in my front yard while children are playing in the yard, most of us would agree that I should not do that. Doing so would be unreasonable. Most of you would require that I put the saw blade in a place that is not accessible to children. This would be reasonable.
If a child then picked up the saw blade and cut herself, I could be liable for her damages because I was negligent.
What is the Statute of Limitations?The statute of limitations is the period of time in which you have to file a lawsuit to preserve your claim. If you wait to file a lawsuit of the statute of limitations deadline has passed, then you can no longer make a claim. It is critical that you contact ATTORNEY right away to avoid going past the statute of limitations. In Utah, there's a 4-year statute of limitations for most personal injury claims. However, this time period may be shorter than four years.
If the responsible party is a government agency or representative of a government agency, then you must file a Notice of Claim within 1 year of the date of injury. If you do not file a Notice of Claim within 1 year, then your claim is barred against the government. Please click here for more information on making a Governmental Claim.