Personal Injury Q & A
Q: When is the Right Time to Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer?
A: We suggest as soon as possible, like today. It’s never too soon to know your rights and how personal injury claims work. There’s a lot to know. You need information and guidance, and that’s what we’re here for. Involving us quickly can get your claim process moving forward and help you avoid some pitfalls. On your own and quite by accident, you could be doing things that actually hurt your case. There could be valuable evidence we need to secure immediately. There could be key witnesses to speak to while they’re still available and their memories fresh. Plus, there are always concerns about the statute of limitations, which refers to the time period that legal action is allowed. It won’t cost you anything to give us a call. Or if you like, just come by for a chat and a cup of coffee. All consultations are free and at no obligation.
Q: What is a Personal Injury?
A: Personal injuries can happen in all sorts of ways resulting from all types of accidents including; car accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, boating accidents, motorcycle accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, premises liability, workplace injuries and accidents, spinal cord and brain injuries, pharmaceutical negligence, amputations, wrongful death, birth and neonatal injuries, toxic torts, sexual assault and child abuse. In general, a personal injury is when someone carelessly or intentionally hurts you. It almost always involves a physical injury, but there can be emotional and psychological injuries as well.
Q: Are There Different Types of Personal Injury Claims?
A: Yes, the laws in Texas allow for different types of claims and most cases fall into one of these 3 categories:
Intentional Torts; and
A negligence claim is the most common type of personal injury case. An individual is considered negligent when they fail to act in a reasonable manner under the circumstances. A person can be found to be negligent if they fail to use a degree of responsibility that an ordinary person would reasonably use in a similar situation.
To be found liable for negligence, the careless actions of another must have caused your injuries and damages. Often times your injuries can be negligent caused by more than one person or corporation. In such cases, your claims for compensation need to be made against all responsible parties. Corporations, acting through its agents and employees, can be negligent just like an individual.
Gross negligence falls into a gray area between ordinary carelessness and intentional actions. It involves reckless conduct where the offender is aware of an extreme risk of harm but proceeds with the reckless conduct nonetheless. For example, a driver likely commits gross negligence by driving while intoxicated. Depending on the circumstances, a jury may award higher damages for proving gross negligence.
An intentional tort is a willful act that caused you injury. An example would be someone who physically assaults you during an argument, resulting in you being harmed. Another would be if someone rammed you with their car in a fit of road rage.
An intentional tort is normally both a crime and a tort, meaning criminal charges may be involved. Even if the defendant is acquitted of the crime, you may still be able to successfully pursue a personal injury claim against them.
In a strict liability lawsuit, you can win without proving that the defendant was careless, reckless, or acting in an intentional manner. There are certain types of dog bit cases that fall under strict liability. Those are when the dog owner knew, or had reason to know, his dog was dangerous and yet allowed you to be exposed to that risk.
In many states, strict liability applies when you are injured by a defective product. To win against a manufacturer or seller, you must show that:
The product had a design, manufacturing, or marketing defect, such as inadequate warnings;
The product reached you without a significant change in its condition;
The product was “unreasonably dangerous”; and
The defect actually caused your injury.
Once these elements have been established, you may be awarded damages under strict liability.
Q: Do I Even Have a Personal Injury Case?
A: If you have been injured and it was someone else’s fault, you probably do. You are entitled under the law to be compensated for your injuries and losses. That said, each case is different. We can help assess your case and determine if filing a claim and pursuing a lawsuit is best for you. Let us evaluate your case at no cost or obligation to you or your family.
Q: How Much Will I Have to Pay a Lawyer to Represent Me?
A: We operate on a contingent fee basis. This means that we only charge a fee if we win your case. In other words, our getting paid is “contingent” upon our success. The fee is a percentage of the total amount of the settlement or verdict we obtain for you. The percentage is usually 33.33% but commonly goes to 40% if a lawsuit is needed. We pay all upfront costs so that you never have to pay anything out of your own pocket. If for some reason we don’t get a recovery for you, you owe us nothing.
By charging a contingency fee instead of an hourly rate (which is usually many hundreds of dollars an hour) it allows anyone who has a legitimate injury to have access to legal representation regardless of their income. Otherwise, only the wealthiest among us could afford to hire an attorney. You can meet with us as many times as you like at no cost or obligation before you decide which lawyer to hire. We want you to know your rights and be completely comfortable with your decision.
Q: How Much is My Case Worth?
A: It is difficult to estimate the value of any case at the outset, and, if a lawyer or law firm gives you a dollar value for your case right away, don’t trust it. It is impossible to know what kind of settlement to expect before investigating the extent of any injuries sustained, medical costs, lost wages, future expenses, pain and suffering, and how the incident occurred. There are many factors that can affect the value on any case. This is why it is important that you hire a lawyer who will complete a thorough investigation and who will never advise you to accept a settlement for less than you truly deserve. Each case is unique, so the best way to learn about what compensation you may be entitled to is to speak with an experienced injury attorney.
Q: Who Will Pay My Medical Bills?
A: After an injury or an accident, most victims worry about how they will pay their medical bills. Depending on your case, there are different answers to this question. Your health insurance may cover your medical costs, or you may have to rely on the at-fault party’s insurance carrier. You may also have PIP (Personal Injury Protection) through your automobile policy which could help. In any case, the best course of action is to speak with an attorney to discuss your options. Consultations are free and confidential. You can feel comfortable speaking with a personal injury lawyer at our firm at any time and as long as you need. We are here to make sure all your questions are answered and you know your rights.
Q: How Long Would it Take to Get a Settlement?
A: It is very difficult to say. The length of time needed to reach a personal injury settlement varies with each situation. The facts of how your injury occurred, the recovery period for your injury, and the insurance company’s willingness to negotiate in good faith are all factors that affect the time needed to resolve your case. I understand that waiting can be very frustrating and downright infuriating, especially when you are not at fault for your injuries. That’s where we come in. We try to resolve cases as soon as possible for our clients, but we never recommend settling a case unless the money offered is fair and appropriate for your injuries.
Q: Can I Still Pursue a Claim If I was Partially at Fault for My Own Injuries?
A: Yes, but there are limits. Texas courts apply “comparative responsibility” meaning a jury will determine the percentage of fault of all the parties. Your recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault found against you. If, however, you are found to be more than 50% at fault, you may not recover for your injuries. Here are some examples: If you are in an automobile collision and awarded $10,000 but found to be 25% at fault for the accident, your award is reduced to $7,500 ($10,000 minus 25%). If you were awarded $10,000 but found to be 50% at fault, your award is reduced to $5,000. If, however, you are awarded $10,000 but found to be 51% at fault for the accident, your award is “zero” because your fault was greater than 50%. The “51% Bar Rule” may seem very unfair to you and I agree, but that’s the law in Texas.
Q: Will I Have to Go to Trial?
A: The majority of personal injury cases are settled before ever going to trial, but sometimes settling out of court is not an option. A few reasons for this may be:
The defendant does not offer a settlement;
The defendant only offers an unreasonable settlement;
The plaintiff wants to go to trial; and
Liability or damages are disputed.
Even though going to trial in a personal injury case is rare, it is always good to be prepared and understand why it could happen.
Q: How Long Will a Lawsuit Take?
A: This also depends on the specifics of your case. It is not uncommon for personal injury claims to be drawn-out if there are factual and legal issues or if the compensation at stake involves a large sum of money.
If you are still recovering from your injuries, that can also prolong the legal process. Your lawyer will want to wait until you have fully recovered to understand the complete and final value of your injuries.
It is possible to avoid a lengthy legal battle, but you’ll have to be willing to settle for a significantly less amount of money.
Q: Should I Give a Recorded Statement to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company?
A: No, not without talking to a lawyer first. You will most certainly be contacted by the other driver’s insurance company and the person calling will likely tell you a recorded statement is necessary to process your claim. That is simply not true. You are under no obligation to provide the other driver’s insurance company with a statement. We strongly advise you not to give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company without speaking to a lawyer first. The questioner is looking out for the insurance company’s interest, not yours, but we will. Insurance companies will try to create inconsistencies between the recorded statement and other statements you made to police officers or in a deposition. They may also try to trick you into saying things that will hurt your case. Don’t fall for this. Be courteous and respectful, but simply say you will provide a statement at a later time, in writing. If the insurance adjuster just needs your name, address, occupation and the name of your insurance company, that’s fine. You should provide nothing else in a recorded statement until you speak with a lawyer.
This situation is different if your insurance company needs a recorded statement. You have an obligation to cooperate with your own insurance carrier, so you will likely need to provide a recorded statement to them. We would still encourage you speak with a lawyer first.
Q: Should I Sign a Medical Form Release for the Insurance Company?
A: No, you should not. Not ever! A medical records release form allows the insurance company access to all of your medical history, including matters completely unrelated to the injuries sustained in the accident. The insurance company will attempt to use your medical history against you. They will look for medical conditions preceding the accident and try to later say these conditions are the true cause of your problems and disabilities, or at least a partial cause. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to protect your private medical history if it is unrelated to the issues of your case.
Q: Should I Accept the Insurance Company’s Settlement Offer?
A: An insurance company is a business. Their main goal is to minimize payouts so they can maximize their profits, which does not leave your best interests in mind.
Accepting a settlement from an insurance company will get the ordeal over with pretty quickly. However, the settlement will be incredibly low as compared to what you rightfully deserve. It can be worth it to work with an attorney to get the compensation you deserve so you’re not drastically underpaid. It may take longer, but the payout will be worth the process.