PERSONAL INJURY - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)

Strictly speaking, a personal injury is defined as a physical or psychological injury that is caused by another. Broadly speaking, a "personal injury" can also include an injury to a person's personal or real property. These are also deemed "personal injuries" because the person's property has been injured.  An individual or company may act negligently, intentionally or they may be held strictly liable (i.e., charged with liability without fault) for causing injury to a person. Lawsuits involving personal injuries are handled in civil court, where financial penalties are enforced, as opposed to criminal court where criminal penalties such as imprisonment are enforced.

Often times we at the Lee Law Group will take your case at no costs to you unless and until you recover compensation. This is called a ‘contingency fee retainer agreement'. In these fee retainer agreements we take your case and are compensated ‘contingent’ on our obtaining monetary damages for you. We pay all the costs to prosecute your case and we work without pay unless we prevail.

We not only risk getting nothing in attorney fees for the work we do for you if we do not prevail in your case but we also risk losing the time and money expended in prosecuting your case. However, IF and WHEN we do prevail, i.e., recover compensation, we are paid a percentage of your judgment award or settlement. Usually when attorneys take contingency fee retainer agreement’ the defendant, (i.e., the person you are suing), has good insurance or is otherwise financially able to pay your damages and we reasonably believe we will be able to obtain some relief for you. This is why we take the risk. However, it is still a substantial risk we take on your behalf.

This is one of the more difficult questions for a plaintiff's attorney to answer. Determining the worth of your personal injury claim will depend on several factors, including but not limited to, the severity of your injuries, the details of the case, insurance limits and the identity of the defendant. A case's worth is usually based on five sometimes six areas, assuming that the liability issue is straightforward.

These areas include:

◦Past medical bills

◦Future medical bills

◦Lost wages

◦Loss of earning capacity

◦Pain and suffering and of loss of quality of life issues

◦The unknown factor, a factor whose identity and value are usually determined during litigation.

You add up the value of all these items (known as damages) and that is how much your case is worth. Of course, that is not an easy equation and that is why you need quality legal representation.

Damages are just what the common meaning of the word is: damages. These are what you are due because of your injury to make you whole or 100% again. They are used to compensate or pay you for the harm done to you. When damages are used to compensate they are called “compensatory” damages. Usually, damages are paid by the person who is at fault or is liable to you for the harm or injury that you have suffered, or that person's insurance company. There are two types of compensatory damages. These are “special” damages and “general” damages.

Special damages are for specified harms that can be identified as costing a specific amount. Examples of these are medical bills, or your lost earnings. General damages are hard to compute or evaluate as costing a specific amount. Examples of these are for pain and suffering, physical disfigurement, not the medical costs to treat this injury but the disfigurement itself or for loss of quality of life. Sometimes damages can be used to punish or make an example of the person who is at fault or is liable to you. In these situations, the damages are called “punitive” or “exemplary”, which are identical, with the name difference being based on the reason why the court charged them, i.e., to punish (punitive) or to make an example, (exemplary).

It is difficult to determine how long it will take to resolve a personal injury lawsuit. Each case is unique; therefore, no general timetable can be established for personal injury cases. A personal injury case may settle in a few weeks without the need for a lawsuit, or once a lawsuit is filed, in a few months without the need for a trial. If a trial is necessary, or if it appears that a trial is necessary because the case is not settled several weeks to months after filing the lawsuit, the case will take considerably longer. Then, in California, you must wait on the court's calendar, that is for your case's turn to be heard in, and by, the court. This will normally be a minimum of 5 to 6 months. If there are complications or if an appeal is filed your case could take years to complete. You will need an experienced attorney to guide you through this process.

Some questions that may be asked during a deposition may include the following:

What types of illnesses and injuries have you suffered from during the course of your life?

Have you previously been involved in any other lawsuits or legal claims?

Were there any witnesses to the accident?

Did you file an insurance claim?

What is the nature of your injury?

Do you have pain? Where? How often?

How often do you go for medical care or physical therapy?

When was your last medical treatment?

What is your current job?

How has this accident affected your ability to do your job?

What is your job history?

How has your injury affected your life?

Your attorney should prepare you for your deposition so that the experience gives as little stress as possible.

You should speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible following your accident. Injury victims only have a short period of time to file a claim. Failure to file within this time period, known as the statute of limitations, can bar the victim from ever recovering compensation for their injuries.

Negligence is when a person conducts themselves, or acts, in a manner that falls short of what a reasonable, prudent person would do under the same or similar conditions or circumstances; and this conduct causes harm or injures another person’s body or property in which the negligent actor owed a duty of care, i.e., a responsibility to be careful. Legally speaking, or using legal language, negligence occurs when an individual fails to exercise a reasonable standard of care for the safety of others. If a person fails to act as a reasonable person would, he or she may be liable for any resulting damages that their actions caused.

Yes, in California. In some states, now a minority, the answers is no. That is, recovery is barred if the plaintiff is legally at fault for any part of the accident or injury, even 1%. California, as a "pure fault", comparative fault state, can be considered the opposite. What that means is that if you are partially at fault, the amount of damages you will receive for your injuries or property damage is reduced commensurate with your degree of fault (negligence). Because California is a "pure fault", comparative fault state, this rule applies even if you are the person most at fault for your accident.

For example, if you have an auto accident and you are 75% at fault, and your damages are worth $10,000 you will still receive $2,500 or 25% of your damages, (100% = the complete loss; you were 75% at fault, 100% (-) you 75% at fault = 25%).  There are two types of "non-pure fault", comparative fault states. In one type, you may recover even if you are partially at fault as long as you are less at fault than the defendant. These are called "49% of less non-pure comparative fault" states. The other type allows recovery even if you are partially at fault as long as you are no more at fault than the defendant. These are called "50% of less 'non-pure comparative fault' states".

NO, not until you are thoroughly advised by an attorney to ensure that your rights are protected. If you sign a release, you may be unable to recover future damages. In some instances, the insurer may offer an early settlement, which may not fully compensate the victim, as he or she may still be in treatment and thus unaware of its total costs; or they may be unaware of the extent of their injuries and thereby the future costs of these injuries.

Often times, people are lacking insurance coverage. When this happens doctors, medical facilities and other healthcare providers often will take a lien on the case, which is a signed document allowing the patient-plaintiff to continue treatment without having to pay until the case is completed in the hope that the patient will win the case and payment for the medical care can be taken from the settlement payment or judgment award. In lien situations, it is essential that the patient-plaintiff understands that they are the person responsible for their medical costs not the attorney or "the case" and if the case is not resolved in their favor they still must pay these medical bills. 

 

 

If you have a Personal Injury related question that was not addressed on our website

The Lee Law Group will be glad to provide you a straight forward, no nonsense answer.

 

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