We believe it is important for our clients to get honest and professional advice before making a claim.
The attorneys at Levine And Wiss, PLLC answered some of the most common questions for you to review.
If you have been injured after an accident, call our office at (888) 468-4878.
Time to conclusion depends largely on the circumstances of the injury, the nature of the at fault party, the insurance company, the insurance adjuster and the attorneys involved. There is a wide time range for settlements, and that timeframe changes substantially if a claim escalates to an actual lawsuit. A personal injury attorney will be able to give you more information after a thorough evaluation of your specific circumstances.
If you are partially at fault, you may still be entitled to receive a percentage of the compensation you would have normally received. The amount depends on the percentage of fault assigned to you. Until that percentage has been established by a judge or jury, you should seek the informed opinion of a personal injury attorney.
First and foremost you must ensure your own safety and that of those with you. Obtain the medical attention necessary to ensure the health and safety of your loved ones. Do not discuss the facts of the incident or sign any legal documents until you have come to understand your legal rights. Do not give a statement to an insurance company until you are comfortable it is in your best interests. You should gather as much information and supporting documentation as possible at the scene of an accident and in the days following, if possible. Try to get as many of the following items as possible:
- Name and insurance company of the at fault party
- Identity and contact information of all possible witnesses
- If a vehicle was involved, the make, model, year, color and license plate number of other vehicle.
- Photos of damage to your person and property, and other property which was damaged as a result of the at fault party.
- Police report, if applicable.
After an initial meeting with your attorney, he/she will begin putting your case together by interviewing witnesses and thoroughly investigating and documenting the accident. After this information-gathering phase, the attorney will begin discussions with the other party. In the case of car accidents, this is generally the other driver’s insurance company, who is contractually obligated to defend them. Many attorneys organize all the evidence and medical records in a settlement brochure, which is sent to the insurance representative for consideration of the claim. The attorney might also include in the brochure a demand for a specific amount of compensation. After some back-and-forth with the insurance company, many cases settle. Many others do not and a lawsuit must be filed.
Most importantly, you should expect to obtain a sense of confidence in the law firm you are meeting with. Your lawyer should be able to tell you if you have a case with merit. If your case is one the law firm is willing to accept, you will likely be provided with a retainer agreement. All aspects and fine print of the retainer agreement should be explained to you. Be aware, a lawyer cannot represent you without a written retainer agreement. Once that agreement is in effect, your counsel should start gathering the documents and information he or she will need to try your case. No competent lawyer should tell you what your case is worth at the first visit. In order to arrive at a figure for damages, your lawyer will need to determine the extent of your injuries, including pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, the cost of medical treatment, and lost wages. Many times these elements of damages cannot be determined without extensive research and consultation with expert witnesses. Your lawyer, once retained, should be able to provide you with a proposed rough timeline for the pre-litigation, litigation and potential appeal phases of your particular case.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of a Judge or jury to assess the fault and responsibility in an Accident. A personal injury attorney can work with you in conducting a through investigation, and gather the evidence to get to the bottom of who was at fault in an injury causing incident. For this reason, it is important that you gather as much information as possible, and preserve as much physical evidence as possible.
Most people simply want fair compensation for their injuries from an auto accident. They are not trying to get rich or get something for nothing. However, what is “fair compensation?”
There is no exact formula for determining the amount of compensation you recover. A variety of factors are considered, whether by your lawyer, the Defendant and insurance companies in negotiations or by a jury in court, in determining fair and just compensation. These factors include severity of the accident, severity of injuries, impact of the injuries on the victim’s employment and day-to-day life, and extent of medical care, just to name a few. Aggravating factors such as drunk driving can both hasten settlement and affect the settlement amount.
Fair compensation certainly includes more than just reimbursement for your medical expenses. A personal injury victim may recover compensation for—
- Medical expenses already incurred,
- Medical expenses to be incurred in the future,
- Lost wages,Loss of earning capacity,
- Physical pain,
- Mental or emotional suffering,
- Physical impairment,
- Property damage, and
- Other losses.
In some cases, the injured person’s family members may be entitled to compensation, depending on the severity of the injuries and their dependence on the injured person.
You are entitled to compensation for medical expenses even if those expenses already have been paid by a health insurance plan. The same is true for lost wages, regardless of whether you take sick days or receive worker’s compensation benefits.
This, however, is not a windfall or double recovery. First, under a principle known as “subrogation” your health insurance plan (based on the plan documents) and your company’s workers’ compensation carrier may be entitled to reimbursement from your recovery for what they pay out. Therefore, in order to be adequately compensated you need maximum recovery from insurance in the event your health insurer or workers’ comp carrier makes a subrogation claim against your recovery.
Second, if the Defendant’s insurance company reduces your injury compensation simply because you have paid for health insurance, or paid extra auto insurance premiums for “PIP” coverage (see below), or have accumulated sick days or paid vacation, the adverse insurer is taking unfair advantage of the fact that you are a responsible person and diligent worker. If you use up your sick days because of injuries from the auto accident, those days will not be available for other types of health problems. If you sacrifice to obtain extra insurance, the at-fault driver’s insurer should not get the advantage of your sacrifice.
If you were in an auto accident due to the negligence of another driver, you typically will seek compensation from the negligent driver’s insurer based on his insurance policy. However, if the driver was uninsured, and if you have “uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage” (“UM coverage”) through your own insurance policy or the policy covering the vehicle in which you were riding, then an uninsured motorist claim will be made to your insurer.
The proper procedure for bringing an injury claim completely depends on the circumstances of each case. Variables such as the type of injury, nature of the at fault party, and the nature of insurance coverage can drastically effect the method by which a victim must bring a claim. Also, different types of claims are subject to distinct time limits. So it is important that you take action without delay. A personal injury attorney can advise you as to the proper method and timing to properly file a claim in your particular case.
When you settle a case, this means that you agree to accept money in return for dropping the legal action against the person who is at fault for your injury. Our attorneys can help you decide whether or not accepting a settlement is the right solution for your individual case.
Fortunately, most claimants are not subjected to the stresses of litigation, and many cases are settled out of court. However, when the defendant’s or insurance company’s offer of settlement is too low or questions of liability remain, the facts and damages of a case may need to be decided by a jury or a judge. The decision to settle a case or file a lawsuit is one of the key decisions a lawyer can assist you in making.