11 Personal Injury Questions
If you have suffered a serious car accident, or a slip and fall accident, you may be feeling angry. You have reason to open a personal injury claim and want to seek compensation for your damages. It is time to start asking the right questions about what you should expect. Here are some frequently asked questions about personal injury that you will want to know.
How long will it take to finish my personal injury case?
The timeframe of personal injury cases is hard to predict because there are so many variables: the circumstances of the injury, questions of liability, the insurance companies, the defendant’s lawyers, settlements, and the gathering of evidence. Shorter cases can last six months to a year; longer cases can last two or three years – but even these are only guidelines. You should be suspicious of any attorney who promises results within an absolute or narrow timeframe.
I’ve been injured. Do I have to sue?
No, you do not have to sue. Very often your attorney will be able to settle your case with the insurance companies involved without ever having to file a law-suit. There’s a lot of work that goes into this: investigating, gathering photo-graphs and other evidence, contacting witnesses. While all this goes on, you should focus on your health and immediate medical needs. Your attorney will be able to tell you if you need to file a claim or a lawsuit, but in many cases, injured parties can reach a settlement without even filing a claim.
What is the “discovery phase” of a personal injury case?
The “discovery phase” of a personal injury case begins right after the accident happens and ends when you’re discussing the merits of accepting a settlement versus going to trial. Discovery normally refers to the exchange of information between the two sides. That could encompass a lot of written documentation, including medical records, and formal answers to certain questions. The discovery phase also involves sworn testimony about how the accident happened and the nature and extent of your injuries.
Will my case go to trial?
Most personal injury cases never go to trial. At least in Western New York, personal injury cases are generally settled – sometimes even before a victim has filed a claim. An attorney can help you achieve an equitable settlement without the added stress of a trial; and if your case is one of the rare ones that goes to court, you’ll want someone with experience you can trust on your side.
Is there a minimum amount of medical expense need for a case?
The simple answer is: No. In New York State, there is no minimum threshold for medical bills restricting claims. Your ability to file a claim depends entirely upon your injuries. The circumstances of your injuries and the extent of your injury will determine your case. If you’re wondering about your ability to pursue a claim, consult an experienced personal injury attorney.
How can I figure out the value of my case?
Many factors determine the value of a personal injury case. When you meet with a personal injury attorney, you should expect that attorney to start by asking for your version of events: describe the accident, explain who was at fault, and detail any injuries you sustained. After investigating and gathering evidence, your attorneys will review your version of events, with special attention to the ways the accident has impacted your life, from medical expenses to limitations on your ability to work, recreate, spend time with family, and function normally.
The amount of your compensation will depend on three factors:
- The extent of the injuries: Medical expenses, time away from work, emotional damages, and any restrictions on an injured person’s ability to function normally can all drive up the value, or potential compensation, in a personal injury case.
- The circumstances of the case: How did the accident happen? Is the other party entirely at fault, or is there some fault on both sides?
- The amount of available insurance coverage: Do you and/or other parties involved have insurance coverage? What are the specifics of your insurance policies?
After accounting for these variables an experienced attorney should be able to give you a detailed and reasonably accurate estimate of the value of your case.
Should I take the first settlement offer?
Sometimes a representative of an insurance company will reach out to the victim of a personal injury with an early settlement offer. This may be a perfectly legitimate, just, and even generous offer – or it may not. In any case, it’s best to consult your attorney and to wait before responding or accepting. If you’ve been injured, you won’t be healed overnight. If you’ve been offered an early settlement, you should wait to see how your injuries heal, adjust for complications that arise, and let some of the other particulars of your case play out. Once your recovery seems to be progressing, your attorney can help you come to a decision about an early settlement offer.
I have a preexisting condition. Will that affect the outcome of my case?
Insurance companies might point to a preexisting condition to lower or even get out of a settlement with an injured person. An experienced attorney can help to draw a clear distinction between injuries directly resulting from your accident and any other injuries or preexisting conditions. Overlap won’t necessarily ruin your case. If you suffered an injury to your shoulder 10 years ago, a recent injury to the same area might trigger or aggravate pain.
What doctor should I see if I’ve been injured? Will my choice affect my claim?
If you’ve been injured, your priority should be your health, not some future personal injury claim. Go the doctor you’d normally see given the circumstances. If you’ve been seriously injured, an ambulance may arrive to take you to a hospital. If your injuries are less serious, you might be able to drive yourself, or have a friend or family member drive you to the hospital. You may go to an urgent care facility. No matter the case, be sure to follow up with a specialist. For example, if you’ve sustained an injury to your neck, you should see an orthopedist, a neurologist or neurosurgeon, or a physical therapist or chiropractor. Most importantly, you want to visit a doctor with the expertise to treat the type of injury you’ve sustained. If you do end up filing a claim or going to court, their expert evidence could weigh heavily in your favor.
What if I didn’t see a doctor immediately after my accident?
You can still pursue a personal injury claim even if you didn’t seek medical attention immediately after an accident. Many injuries aren’t easily detectable right away, but worsen over time. In fact, in the immediate aftermath of an accident, many injured people say to themselves, “I think I’m going to be okay. I’m a little sore. I’m going to go home and see how this goes.” In some cases, an injured person may have other legitimate reasons for delaying seeking medical treatment. Don’t be discouraged if you waited to seek medical treatment – there’s a good chance that you could still have a personal injury case, and could seek reimbursement for your expenses and injuries.
Can I claim emotional damages?
Not all personal injury law pertains to physical injuries. You might be able to make a case for legitimate emotional damages. Like physical injuries, emotional damages have to be documented. This isn’t a straightforward process: if you think you ought to be compensated for emotional damages, seek the counsel of an experienced attorney who can help you document your claims and present your case.
If you are seeking compensation for your personal injury, contact our office in Buffalo. Let us fight for your justice and see that you get what you deserve.