People often avoid contacting a lawyer after an accident because of the cost. However, in many cases, it does not cost money upfront to retain a lawyer. The consultation is free, and many personal injury attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis, and only get paid a percentage of anything he or she helps you to recover. Your accident lawyer can help you settle your case; or, if you think the settlement is too low, the lawyer can help you determine if you should file a lawsuit.
Every case is different and depends on the specific circumstances of your case. Going to court is a decision you and your personal injury attorney discuss if it looks as though the insurance company will not offer a fair and reasonable amount.
What Kind of Cases Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Handle?
Personal injury encompasses a lot of cases. Some personal injury lawyers represent those hurt in car accidents, while others might choose to represent those hurt in workplace accidents. When you are looking for a personal injury lawyer, check the firm’s website to find their practice areas.
While the basic premise of personal injury is the same—in that the cases are civil cases involving injuries—some types of injuries have special circumstances. For example, not every personal injury is familiar with the rules and regulations of big trucks, but a truck accident lawyer is going to know these regulations. Make sure to do some research before choosing the right fit for you and your needs.
How Much Could I Get for My Case?
The amount you could get for your case depends on several factors, including the type of injuries you have and the type of personal injury case you have. Generally, those who have been injured could sue for three types of damages—economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. However, punitive damages are not available for many types of cases.
The court orders economic damages and non-economic damages in an attempt to make a person whole again. While no amount of money can erase injuries that cause long-term or permanent disabilities, or bring a loved one back, it could help reduce some of the financial stress associated with losing an income; whether it is because you cannot work or because you lost a loved one.
However, the court does not order punitive damages, or exemplary damages, to make a person whole. Rather, the court awards exemplary damages, in limited circumstances, as a punishment for the defendant’s grossly negligent behavior. Not all accident cases are eligible for punitive damages. Your personal injury accident lawyer should tell you if your case may qualify.
Special damages, or economic damages, have a monetary value and may include:
- Past and future medical expenses;
- Past and future lost wages;
- Replacement or repair of damaged and/or destroyed real or personal property;
- Cognitive, physical, and/or psychological therapy; and
- Burial and funeral expenses.
Even if you can go back to work, you may collect partial future lost wages if your injuries prevent you from working at your previous earning capacity. Future medical expenses may also include physical, cognitive, and psychological therapy if needed, along with expenses for long-term disabilities caused by accident injuries.
Non-economic damages do not have a set price tag and could include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of a body part;
- Loss of a body function;
- Loss of consortium;
- Loss of companionship;
- Physical impairment;
- Loss of enjoyment of life; and
- Injury to reputation.
Working With Insurance Companies
Many people would like to settle their claims themselves. However, you may not receive enough to cover your losses or even your medical expenses. The insurance company may even deny your claim because of something you inadvertently said. Because insurance companies are in business to make money, any claim they pay out decreases their profit margin.
After an accident, if you decide to speak with the insurance company, give the representative your name and let him or her know: that you are filing a claim, that your attorney will contact the insurance company, and your attorney’s contact information. If the representative asks you questions about your accident, refer the representative to your lawyer. If you do not do this, there is a risk that the representative could twist your words in an attempt to deny your claim.
You might wonder why the insurance company would try to deny a claim that you are entitled to—it is because insurance companies are in business to make a profit. They will likely be more than happy to take your money, but might fight tooth and nail to keep from paying an account. Refrain from speaking with insurance companies, but if you do, only give the basic information listed above.
Your Own Personal Injury Lawyer Will Look out for Your Best Interests
Because a personal injury firm will likely not charge for a consultation and wait to collect costs and fees from settlements they win for you, it does not cost you to get started with the process.
Some of the expenses these firms could cover may include:
- Expert witnesses;
- Filing fees;
- Arbitrators and/or mediators; and
- Other costs that might come up during settlement negotiations, trial preparation, and the trial itself.
You have enough to worry about while you are recovering from injuries sustained during an accident, or while you are mourning the loss of a loved one. Let an attorney help. They could work on negotiations, trial (if you decide to go that route), getting medical records and gathering evidence, or potentially even making funeral and burial arrangements. Contact a personal injury attorney today for a free consultation.