What is Personal Injury?
Personal injury cases involve seeking compensation for physical and/or psychological damage caused by another, whether an individual or entity, such as a business. In order to receive damages, it must be proven that the defendant acted negligently in some way, leading to your injury –simply suffering harm without negligence would not entitle you to pursue compensation. These cases are pursued in civil courts, not criminal.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Technically, no you do not need a lawyer to file a claim. But you, a mere civilian, going up against behemoth insurance companies is probably not a battle you could successful fight on your own. They have lots of money and sharp legal aid at their disposal. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney will ensure you are giving your case the best shot. You should see an attorney as soon as possible after your injury since there is typically a firm statute of limitations on filing suit. When choosing a personal injury attorney, it is crucial to look for lawyers that not only primarily work in this area of practice, but have experience with your specific type of injury. The knowledge required to represent a car accident victim are very different than someone who is suing for medical malpractice.
How Much Do I Have to Pay a Lawyer?
Almost all personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning they will only get paid if you recover money from the lawsuit. When talking with lawyers, ask about the percentage of damages they will collect as fees, and whether there are any fees you would be responsible for if you ended up losing your case.
How Much Money Can I Get?
There is no easy answer to this question. An attorney experienced in trying your types of cases may be able to offer some ballpark figures based on past settlements. Many factors will be taken into account, such as the extent of your injury, current and future medical costs, psychological damage, whether you can continue working in your current job or at all, and effects on personal relationships, such as inability to maintain sexual relations with your spouse. Typically, an insurance company will begin putting together a number by figuring out medical expenses, multiplying that figure by between 1.5 and 10 depending on the nature of your injury, and add lost income on top of that.
Whether you had any degree of fault will also be figured in—in some states, any percentage of fault nullifies your right to damages, while some do not take fault into account at all. Most fall somewhere in between, entitling you to compensation so long as you were not more than half responsible, with compensation being reduced by the percentage you were at fault. Compensation can also be reduced if, after your accident, you failed to take, or not take, certain actions that would reduce the extent of your injuries, such as not following your doctor’s treatment recommendations, or partaking in activities that aggravated your injury.
Another factor that may affect your final award is how long you are willing to hold out, and negotiate back and forth.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about a variety of legal topics; she recommends you see here for more information about one of Chicago’s top personal injury law firms.