When potential personal injury case clients first contact me, they often have similar questions. Personal injury cases, by their very nature, can be traumatic and confusing. Virtually no one expects to be a victim, yet once disaster strikes, time is of the essence. Legal representation is rarely at the forefront of a victim’s mind. But, legal representation may be necessary to secure compensation for medical costs and other injury-associated losses.
To save accident victims time and money, I am answering the 10 personal injury questions I get asked most:
- What is a personal injury case?
- What are some different types of personal injury cases?
- Should I hire a personal injury attorney?
- What is negligence and how does it affect my personal injury case?
- How soon should I file a lawsuit?
- What are the typical steps in a personal injury case?
- What if the person dies during the case?
- Are personal injury cases different for children?
- How long will it take for my personal injury case to be resolved?
- What types of technology do you use in personal injury cases?
While every case is different (and I could easily write an article on each of these questions!) I will answer each question as succinctly as possible. If you have been injured and would like advice specific to your situation, I highly recommend scheduling a consultation. The information provided in this article is generalized and may not apply to your exact circumstances.
Nevertheless, let’s dive right in with an overview of what constitutes a personal injury claim.
What is a Personal Injury Case?
A personal injury case is a civil lawsuit, which is quite different from a criminal case. In criminal cases, there is often an arrest, followed by charges filed by a local district attorney. Defendants may qualify for a free public defender when accused of some crimes. Civil lawsuits, on the other hand, are not handled by state-appointed attorneys. Most of the time they are about compensation in the form of money.
You have a constitutional right to a jury trial in civil cases (7th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution). In a jury trial a jury and judge determine if one party must compensate another party for wrongdoing. When dealing with personal injury, the question often revolves around whether one party is responsible for another person’s injuries. If so, the court will also consider whether the responsible party must compensate the injured person for their losses.
Every case is different. Compensation for personal injury depend on factors like medical treatment cost, lost wages, home healthcare and physical therapy. On average, many personal injury lawsuits settle for an amount between $3,000 and $75,000. It is not unheard of for personal injury cases to settle for millions of dollars, but that is much rarer.
What are Some Different Types of Personal Injury Cases?
There is significant variety in the world of personal injury litigation. The types (and causes) of different injuries are almost limitless. The most common types of cases are car accidents, trips and falls, defective products, and mass disasters. For instance, if a chemical plant catches fire, blows up, and kills people, a mass disaster lawsuit will likely result. Mass disasters are a type of personal injury case.
Should I Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you believe another person (or a company) is at fault for your injuries, consult a personal injury attorney. Many attorneys offer free consultations. So, it will not cost you anything to find out if you have a potential case. The more information you gather about your chance of success, the better equipped you will be. Information is power when making decisions about retaining an attorney.
One of the most important considerations when hiring an attorney is cost. Fortunately, the vast majority of personal injury cases are handled on a contingency fee basis. This means that money is not required “up front.” Clients typically do not pay a fee unless they win. If they win, the lawyer charges a percentage of the recovery (usually anywhere from 33%-45%). If a $100,000 settlement or verdict results, lawyers will retain anywhere from $33-$45,000 plus expenses.
Finding out whether you have a potential personal injury case is fairly low risk since many personal injury lawyers do not charge for consultations or require up-front retainers.
What is Negligence and How Does it Affect My Personal Injury Case?
Not all personal injury cases are black and white. Sometimes, an injury can be 100% the fault of another party. For example, if a drunk driver drives through the side of your house while you are sleeping. But, more often than not, the cause of injury is less than clear cut. You may even have a role in your own injury. For example, if you are involved in a high-speed car accident where both you and the other driver were speeding.
In Texas, you may still pursue a personal injury case and obtain a settlement if you are partially at fault. As long as the jury determines you are less “at fault” than other parties, you can recover a proportional share.
For example, a jury determines you are 40% responsible for your injuries. It also determines the other party was 60% at fault. The jury also determine you are entitled to $100,000 in damages. Your share of the settlement would be reduced by 40%, for your proportionate fault. That leaves you with a verdict of $60,000. This is called comparative negligence. It’s a legal term of art, which is admittedly tricky to understand.
What Should I Do Immediately After Being Hurt?
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Make a Report
The very first thing you should do if you or a loved one is injured is to make a report. This might be a police report in the event of a car accident. Or it might be, or a report to your employer if you are injured in the workplace. If you are injured at a retail location, a report to the store manager. This may be the single most important step you take in preserving your rights. It is difficult to make a claim if you do not report the injury when it first happens.
Secondly, take pictures of any injuries (ideally with a date/time stamp on the photo). If you see a doctor, follow their advice, and keep a record of your visit. Also, write down any details you remember about the incident, your injuries, and what happens following the incident. Gather information about witnesses (including their contact information) if applicable. Each of these steps will serve as evidence of the incident and injuries if the case goes to trial.
Get Medical Treatment
If you have been injured, go to a doctor. Do not delay hoping that it will get better on its own. If you have been seriously injury, it usually does not get better on its own.
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Speak to a Lawyer
Finally, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as practicable. There are statutes of limitations on most personal injury cases, so time is of the essence. We offer free, no-obligation consultations so you can find out if you have a potential case without unnecessary costs.
How Soon Should I File a Lawsuit?
In Texas (as well as most U.S. states) the statute of limitations for a personal injury case is 2 years. Don’t file a personal injury lawsuit 2 years and 1 day after the injury. You may be out of luck. Gathering evidence and pre-trial work can be time-consuming. It is best to consult with an attorney as quickly as possible. You don’t want to risk losing your rights by waiting too long to find out if you have a case.
What Are the Typical Steps After Filing a Lawsuit?
Once you meet with a lawyer and decide to move forward, you are typically looking at the following:
- Your lawyer files the case with the appropriate court. It’s typically called a Petition or Complaint.
- The other side is served with a copy of the case paperwork. The other side has to respond by a deadline.
- After the other side responds, discovery may begin. Discovery often involves interviewing witnesses, depositions, and gathering evidence. Discovery is often the most time-consuming part of a case. It can take anywhere from 1-2 years depending on the complexity of your case.
- You will receive a trial date and/or you may attempt to mediate. Mediation is an effort to get parties to reach a settlement before going to trial. If the parties are able to agree, the case may not have to go to trial. Roughly 98% of personal injury cases are resolved before trial – saving everyone time and money.
- If the case is not resolved pre-trial, all involved parties and witnesses will go to trial. Personal injury trials are rare. Most often trials occur when the facts of a case are disputed. Or there are allegations of comparative negligence.
What if the Person Dies During the Case?
Sadly, some personal injury cases are so extreme that a victim may die before a jury ever reaches a verdict. Likewise, some individuals die instantly from their injuries – leaving their families to pursue a lawsuit on their behalf. When this happens, an individual’s estate (can continue the case on the victim’s behalf. This usually includes the deceased’s surviving spouse, children, or family members.
Any settlement will go to the victim’s beneficiaries as designated in their Will, or absent a Will, passes to heirs according to state intestacy laws.
Are Personal Injury Cases Different for Children?
If a child is wrongfully injured, there are special procedures for bringing a personal injury lawsuit. Courts recognize that children can be victims and may be entitled to compensation just like an adult. However, minors cannot file lawsuits or negotiate their own settlements. Courts assume that individuals under the age of 18 cannot make legal decisions for themselves. In the context of personal injury, a parent or legal guardian must file the lawsuit on behalf of the child.
Depending on the age and mental capacity of the injured child, they may be able to testify. Most courts only accept testimony of older children, that are mentally capable of understanding the nature of the court proceedings.
How Long Will It Take for My Personal Injury Case to be Resolved?
Every case is different, but personal injury cases, on average take anywhere from a few weeks to two years. Cases involving mass disasters tend to take much longer. For instance, we have 182 clients that were injured in 2013 in the West Texas fertilizer plant explosion. That case is ongoing nearly eight years later.
What Types of Technology Do You Use in Personal Injury Cases?
Technology has changed everything, and personal injury law is no different. For the most part, technology has enabled lawsuits to proceed more quickly and efficiently since evidence can be shared digitally. Even better, technology has helped prove the facts of many cases. Video surveillance may show how an injury occurred. Vehicle data may show how fast you were travelling prior to an accident. Smartwatch/phone data can show evidence as specific as heart rate and activity levels.
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Underwood Law Office Helps Accident Victims
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, we can help. If you would like more information specific to your case we offer a free consultation. You can contact our Texas office at 972-480-6337 or our West Virginia office at 304-486-3350.
Together, we can get your life back on track.