Four Important Things To Know About Personal Injury Cases in Maine
Here are four basic concepts that apply to all personal injury claims.
What are the Two Main Components of a Personal Injury Claim?There are two basic parts to a personal injury claim - liability and damages. In order to recover on an injury claim, we will first need to establish liability, i.e. that the negligence of someone other than yourself caused your injury. If liability can be established, we then calculate the damages for your claim, i.e. how have you been injured and how much your injury is worth.
Establishing Liability - Who is at Fault?The first step in recovering on a personal injury claim is to establish liability, i.e. that someone other than yourself caused your injuries. For example, if you fall into a hole in the sidewalk that had conspicuous warning signs posted around it because you were looking at your cell phone, it will be difficult to prove that someone else is responsible. On the other hand, if you are sitting in your vehicle at a traffic light and another car rams you from behind, liability should be relatively easy to establish. At trial, the injured party (the plaintiff) must demonstrate to the jury that it is more likely than not that they were injured by someone else's negligence. If the plaintiff fails to convince the jury that the defendant is at fault, the jury will not award him/her any damages.
Damages - How Much is my Case Worth?Generally, an injured plaintiff is entitled to recover an amount that compensates him/her for the injuries suffered and all attendant expenses. In terms of attempting to place a value on a claim before trial, the simple answer is that a claim is worth what a jury is likely to award the injured party at trial. Unfortunately, this can often be difficult to determine, as there is no hard and fast rule that dictates what any jury will pay. At a minimum, the value of the claim usually includes the injured party's medical expenses, any lost wages or other expenses, plus an amount for the injured party's pain and suffering.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney for my Personal Injury Claim?In my experience, the answer is a resounding "yes" for almost all claims, as the injured party will not be able to properly value the claim, nor will they be able to convince the defendant's insurance carrier to pay full value. The reasons for this are simple. First, the value of an injury claim depends on many factors, such as the liability issues involved, the type and duration of treatment received, how much pain and suffering you've endured and the permanence of the injury. A person who does not regularly negotiate and litigate these claims will have no idea how to apply these different factors to determine the reasonable value of the claim. Second, as stated above, the ultimate value of any injury case is what a jury will pay at trial. Insurance companies know that in almost all cases, an unrepresented plaintiff will be unable to win a jury trial against a seasoned insurance defense attorney. On the other hand, when you hire a competent, experienced injury lawyer, it substantially increases the insurance company's risk of a jury verdict in the injured party's favor. The good news is that finding a good personal injury attorney to represent you is usually a fairly easy proposition. Most personal injury lawyers offer a free initial consultation and do not require attorney fees and costs to be paid at the beginning of the case. Instead, injury lawyers usually have their clients sign a 'Contingent Fee Agreement', whereby it is agreed that if the lawyer obtains a recovery for the injured client, the lawyer is entitled to recover his/her costs plus a percentage of the damages award as the attorney fee.