Personal Injury Questions and Answers

What is a personal injury claim? If you have been injured because of the negligence of another person, you have the right to be compensated for your damages. This right can be legally enforced, if necessary, through a trial by jury.

Must I go to trial? The great majority of personal injury claims do not go to court. Usually it is possible to negotiate with the insurance company of the person at fault and obtain a reasonable settlement.

Do I need an attorney? The adverse insurance company will make an offer to settle a claim only to avoid paying more at trial. Without an attorney, you cannot bring a lawsuit against their insured, and they know that you must accept their best offer, no matter how low.

How much is my claim worth? You have a right to be made whole; to be paid in full for all your damages. Your compensation includes the actual losses sustained to date, as well as any reasonably foreseeable losses in the future.

What damages are compensable? The most important damages concern the bills for the medical treatment you have received. You are entitled to be compensated for them, even if they have already been paid, either by you or by some insurance on your behalf.

Are other monetary damages compensable? Yes, particularly the earnings you lost. To document this part of your claim, your employer and your doctor must confirm from their records that at the time of the accident you were employed and how much you were earning, and that after the accident you were disabled and for how long.

What about non-monetary damages? Pain and suffering are compensable; and so are grief, embarrassment, humiliation, worry, nervousness, anxiety, shock, fright, and terror. These kinds of damages cover any detriment to your enjoyment of life including any restriction or limitation of your family, social, or recreational activities.

How is the value of general damages determined? The basic measure is what a jury would award to you. Reports of trial jury awards in each county in California are published weekly. To evaluate a claim, we research cases with similar injuries and estimate the various factors that add or subtract value.

Are there general rules to evaluate a typical claim? Suppose that your neck and low back are injured in an automobile accident caused by someone else. Your medical and chiropractic bills come to $2,500.00, and your doctor puts you on disability from work. The value of such a claim is approximately three times the medical bills plus the loss of earnings, or $9,000.00

What factors alter the value in a particular case? A claim with a bone fracture or a facial scar is more highly compensable because of the cost of the treatment is minimal in relation to the severity of the injuries. By contrast, the value of a claim is reduced if liability is disputed, or if the cost of the medical bills is out of proportion to low loss of earnings or low cost of automobile repairs.

Are all insurance companies alike? No. some companies make it particularly difficult to negotiate a fair and timely settlement, and often force a case to trial. Because more work is involved, some personal injury attorneys have been charging higher fees in cases against such insurance companies.

Do more damages mean a greater recovery? Up to a certain point. The injured person has a duty to mitigate damages; for example, to continue working unless put on disability by the doctor, and to obtain only treatment that is necessary and at a cost that is reasonable.

When is compensation paid? At the end of the case, after the bulk of the treatment is completed, either by a settlement or, if that is not possible, through a trial. Unlike workers’ compensation where the medical aspect of the claim can be left open, in personal injury, a settlement is final. One cannot reopen a claim even if it turns out that the injuries are more serious than anticipated and additional treatment is needed. Accordingly, settlement negotiations are not initiated until the primary treating physician has prepared a final report.

Who pays the injured person? Usually it is the insurance company of the person at fault. If there is no insurance, it is not practical to seek direct payment unless the damages are substantial and the responsible party owns some real property, and so cannot void payment merely by leaving the county or filing in bankruptcy.

Who pays the medical bills? When the insurance company of the person at fault pays the injured person, it pays all the damages in one lump sum. When the injured person receives the settlement or award, the balance of the medical bills should be paid from that amount. To continue with the above example, upon receipt of the $9,000.00 the health care providers should be paid $2,500.00.

Who pays the attorney? The situation is the same. If the attorney was working on a typical contingency fee of 33.33%, when the insurance company pays the injured person the settlement or award, the attorney will be paid $2,999.70.

What else is paid from the settlement or award? Any legal costs advanced or incurred by the attorney in the prosecution of the case, such as for the police report, medical records and reports, and court filing fees.

How much is left for the person who was injured? Approximately one third of the settlement. In the above example, if the settlement, is for $9,000.00, attorney’s fees $2,999. 70, medical bills, $2,500.00, and legal costs $250.00, you would receive $3,250. 30. Normally, if the client receives at least as much as our office, we recommend the offer.

What if there is no recovery? The medical bills remain the responsibility of the patient. The legal costs are usually waived. And as far as the legal fees are concerned, if there is no recovery the attorney is not paid.

Must I settle my claim within one year? No. What you must do is to comply with the applicable statutes of limitations. These may be as short as six months and vary according to several factors, including the age of the plaintiff, the state where the accident occurred, and whether the defendant is a public entity. If the appropriate action is not taken, correctly and on time, regardless of the merits of your case, your claim may be forever barred, and you may not be able to recover any compensation.

What is the best time to retain an attorney? As soon as possible after the accident. Since personal injury fees are on a contingency or percentage basis, a delay in retaining an attorney does not produce any savings. But it can hurt the case. Don’t let the adverse insurance take a recorded statement in which you admit some responsibility for the accident or minimize the severity of your injuries. Don’t let their doctors examine you and write a report questioning whether your treatment is reasonable and necessary, or whether your injuries are indeed a result of the accident. The sooner the attorney can begin to work on a case, the better the result.

Categories: Chiropractic