Being injured because of negligence or an accident caused by another person can wreak havoc on your life. Missing days or even weeks of work, combined with the mounting medical bills and emotional stress, can turn your life upside down. Therefore, there is no reason not to get a case evaluation from a qualified personal injury lawyer, especially when it’s free. A personal injury lawyer should help you understand whether you have a case worth fighting. In addition, the financial implications of being injured mean that you can fight for compensation. By hiring an attorney, you can increase your chances of receiving a higher amount than if you went about the claims process yourself. Here, we will discuss why you should call Rawlins Law, APC, when you have an injury. Let us take help you through the process every step of the way.
After you suffer injuries in an accident or an incident, you might have several questions, including whether you have a case. The best thing you can do is contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident or incident the personal injury attorney will listen to your side of the story and tell you if you have a case.
What Should I Do After an Accident or Incident?
In some cases, your injuries might be so severe that you won’t be able to do anything after an accident or an incident. However, if you can move around without causing additional injury to yourself, or if a family member suffers injuries in your presence, you can take steps to help your legal team investigate your case.
Some suggestions may only apply tin certain cases.
- Take pictures of the accident scene. If the accident is a vehicle accident, take photos from all angles. If it is a slip and fall, take pictures of what caused you to slip or trip and fall and the area around it. If the incident is a dog bite, having photos of the dog and your wounds can help your case.
- Call first responders for car accidents and dog bites. Always allow the emergency medical technicians to check you over.
- Report the incident to a supervisor or manager immediately for slip and fall accidents in retail establishments and other public places.
- In all cases, obtain the contact information from others, including:
- In car accidents, contact information from the driver and witnesses, including the passengers in the vehicle that hit you. You should also obtain the at-fault driver’s license, registration, and insurance information.
- In slip and fall accidents, the contact information for the establishment’s corporate offices. For small businesses, the mailing address and contact number for the owner, CEO, or another person responsible for the business.
- For dog bite incidents, the contact information for the dog owner, the dog’s veterinarian (to check on rabies shots), and the dog’s owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy information.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible, even for minor injuries. The defendant’s attorney will argue that your injuries couldn’t have been that bad if you didn’t immediately seek medical attention.
- Contact a personal injury firm with experience in your case type.
What is Negligence, and Does it Matter?
To determine whether you have a case, your attorney needs to determine if the person who caused the accident or incident was negligent.
To prove negligence, you must prove four elements:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care. When driving, the duty is to drive in such a manner that includes following laws and watching out for others on the road.
- The defendant breached the duty. For example, suppose the defendant was weaving in and out of traffic and clipped your bumper, causing you to wreck. This would mean the defendant breached their duty to drive responsibly and within the law.
- The defendant’s actions directly caused your injuries.
- You suffered damages because of the defendant’s actions or inactions.
If an attorney believes they can hold the defendant negligent, you most likely have a case.
What Happens If the Attorney Believes I Have a Case?
Your legal team will begin investigating the case and collecting evidence. Depending on the case, your legal team may have to visit the site of the accident, look at the vehicles involved, gather medical records, interview witnesses, hire expert witnesses, and subpoena documents.
Once the attorney receives and reviews your medical records, they may need to speak with your doctors or expert witnesses, especially if doctors expect your injuries to cause long-term or permanent disabilities or the wrongful death of a loved one.
The attorney will discuss what they believe would be a fair and reasonable settlement with you. Once they discuss the case with you, they can draft a demand letter to send to the defendant’s attorneys. In most cases, the firm you negotiate with represents the defendant’s insurance company.
Who Can I Sue?
Many insurance companies might be involved in the case, depending on the circumstances.
For example, if a semi-truck hit you, you might have to deal with insurance companies and their lawyers for:
- The driver.
- The truck manufacturer.
- The trailer manufacturer.
- An auto technician.
- A dispatcher.
- An inspector.
- The driver’s employer.
- The trucking company.
- The Department of Transportation for a state.
- A local municipality’s road maintenance department.
- Another driver who caused the semi-truck to hit you.
After a premises liability incident, such as a slip and fall or a mugging in a parking lot because the lights are out, defendants might include:
- The property owner.
- The lessee.
- The lessor.
- A sublessee.
- A maintenance company.
Since these properties are usually private, a city, town, county, or state is not responsible for keeping driveways and parking lots clear of ice and snow it is up to the property owner or the establishment manager.
In the case of a product liability incident, such as a defective child’s toy, a peanut-free snack that contains peanuts, faulty medical equipment, poisons in the environment, and other product liability cases, those who might share liability include:
- The manufacturer of the product.
- The product’s seller or retailer
- A supplier, for example, if a grower or another supplier supplies a manufacturing plant with an ingredient that is bad or contains allergens, such as peanut-free cocoa that got contaminated with peanuts, and a chocolate bar maker used the contaminated product.
Once the attorney determines who shares liability for your injuries, they will forward a demand letter to the defendant’s attorneys. The demand letter contains a reply by date.
The defendants have several choices.
- Ignore the demand letter. In most cases, your attorney would then file a lawsuit.
- Reply with a counteroffer. Your attorney will review the counteroffer with you. You can accept or decline.
- Reply with an acceptance.
If the defendant’s attorney replies with a counteroffer, and you accept it, the case moves on to the next step. If you decline the counteroffer, your attorney can submit a counter counteroffer or can let the defendant’s attorney know that he will file a lawsuit. In some cases, negotiations go back and forth several times.
How Long Does it Take to Get My Settlement?
Once you and the defendant(s) agree on a settlement, several steps take place. One of the attorneys drafts the settlement agreement. Since the defendant is the one paying for your injuries and attorneys’ fees and costs, it is often the defendant’s attorney. The attorney sends the settlement agreement to your attorney, who then reviews it.
If it meets your attorney’s approval, they will forward it to you for review. If you have questions about the settlement agreement, now is the time to ask. Also, let your attorney know if you want changes to the agreement.
If you need changes, your attorney will let the defendant’s attorney know, and they will negotiate the changes.
Once the settlement agreement is ready, you sign and notarize the agreement, along with a release and other documents. Your attorney forwards the contract and other documents to the defendant’s attorney, who then processes the documents, including cutting a check to your attorney.
Once your attorney receives the check, they deposit it into an escrow account. Your attorney cannot take the next step until the check clears the bank 10 to 14 days, depending on the amount.
After the check clears, the attorney will review your file and pay any outstanding medical expenses so be sure to submit all medical expenses to your attorney. They will also reimburse your health and auto insurance companies if you use them to cover medical costs while waiting for a settlement.
Finally, the attorney deducts their percentage and cuts you a check for the balance. Your attorney’s percentage is the amount you agreed to when you signed the contingency agreement. The attorney will have you pick up your check you can then deposit it and use it as you please.
How Much Money Can I Recover in a Settlement?
The amount you might recover for damages depends on several factors, including the severity of your injuries. Most people can recover compensatory damages in the form of economic damages. Some might recover non-economic damages, which are also compensatory damages. Still, others might recover both types of compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value and include:
The amount of medical expenses depends on the type of injuries you sustain and whether you have injuries that cause long-term or permanent disabilities.
Medical expenses include:
- Doctors’ appointments.
- Surgeries and follow-up appointments.
- Prescriptions and prescribed over-the-counter medications.
- Ambulatory aids.
- Medical equipment, such as hospital beds and oxygen tanks.
- Physical therapy.
- Occupational therapy.
- Psychological therapy.
- Cognitive therapy.
- Hand controls for your vehicle.
- Updates to your home, including but not limited to wheelchair ramps, grab bars, handrails, and widened doorways.
If your injuries keep you from working, you could recover lost income. If you have traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries that do not allow you to work for the rest of your life, you could recover from the loss of future earning capacity. If you lost a loved one because of someone’s negligence, you could also recover the loss of future earning capacity.
If your injuries allow you to work but only part-time or in a job that pays less than the job you were doing before the accident or incident, you could still recover partial loss of future earning capacity.
If you suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident, you could recover compensation by replacing or repairing personal property destroyed or damaged. Personal property includes your vehicle and anything of value inside the vehicle, such as cell phones and computers.
If you lost a loved one in an accident or incident, you could recover these death-related expenses:
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- Cremation expenses.
- Certain probate court expenses.
- Probate attorney’s fees and costs.
Sometimes called general damages, non-economic damages account for subjective losses that are not easily quantifiable.
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make changes such as taking prescription drugs or using ambulatory aids for the rest of your life.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy spending time with your family or participating in family activities and events.
- Loss of consortium If you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, including but not limited to grocery shopping, house cleaning, lawn maintenance, and home repair and maintenance.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a hand or leg.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder.
- Disfigurement and excessive scarring.
California allows plaintiffs to recover punitive damages. However, you must have “clear and convincing evidence” of a malicious, fraudulent, or oppressive defendant. The court only orders punitive damages exemplary damages to punish the defendant.
While exemplary damages are difficult to recover, in some cases, it is worth the extra time it takes to pursue them. You must prove that the defendant was more than negligent. Some states refer to this as gross negligence.
If you suffered injuries in an accident or incident and are unsure whether you have a case, contact a personal injury attorney for a free case evaluation as soon as possible.