Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions

Q What is Personal Injury?
A A personal injury is any harm or injury you suffer to your person. A personal injury is to be distinguished from a harm or loss suffered because of loss of reputation, breach of contract or fradulent practice. Any physical injury is considered to be a personal injury.
   
Q Do I have a claim for every personal injury I suffer?
A No. Just because you have a personal injury does not automatically mean that you have a justified legal claim. However, many people may not realize initially that their injuries were caused by the negligence of another.
   
Q Do I have a personal injury claim if I am injured at work?
A Probably not. Although there are exceptions to this rule, most jurisdictions do not allow an employee to sue the employer for the employer’s negligence. However, if the employee is injured by another at a job site, a personal injury claim may be appropriate depending on the jurisdiction.
   
Q Can I recover lost wages if I am injured?
A Yes, most jurisdictions allow a victim of personal injury to recover from the negligent party their lost wages which were caused by the injury. These are usually measured by determining how much the victim was earning at the time of the injury. The law attempts to place an injured person in the same position they would have been in if the injury had not occurred.
   
Q Should I try to preserve evidence after a personal injury?
A Yes. Even if you do not ulitmately file a claim it is better to have the evidence and discard it later than it is to let the evidence be destroyed and unavailable for use later. Photographs and witness statements are probably the best and easiest ways to preserve evidence.
   
Q When should I contact a lawyer about my personal injury claim?
A As soon as you realize that your injuries are significant. Contacting a lawyer is not the same as retaining a lawyer. Most lawyers offer free consultations. A lawyer can guide you through the early steps of preserving your claim in the event it becomes necessary later to file one. This does not mean that minor injuries warrant an immediate call to an attorney.
   
Q What is the time limit for filing a claim for personal injuries?
A Each jurisdication varies in the time period allowed for bringing a claim. In some jurisdictions, a person has only one year from the date the event to bring a claim. In others, the claim can be brought two to six years after the event. Regardless of the jurisdiction, thought should be given to the institution of a claim before expiration of the first year.
   
Q Do all personal injury lawyers handle all types of personal injury cases?
A Absolutely not. Many lawyers focus their practice on two or three types of cases. Some experienced lawyers handle a whole variety of case types. However, you cannot assume that just because a lawyer handles personal injury cases that he can effectively handle all types of personal injury cases
   
Q What fees do most personal injury lawyers charge?
A It varies. For automobile accidents, alot of attorneys charge a minimun of 1/3 of the recovery plus expenses. This figure may go up if the case is set for trial or an appeal is taken. In products liability and medical malpractice cases most lawyers charge a minimum of 40% of the recovery plus expenses. This higher fee reflects the degree of work and risk of losing costs..
   
Q Do most personal injury cases settle?
A Yes. However, more complex cases like medical malpractice and products liability cases frequently go to trial. Moreover, of the cases that do settle, most do not settle until the case is approaching a trial date. Remember, the defense lawyer works by the hour and gets paid more the longer the case drags out.
   
Q What types of damages may I recover in a personal injury case?
A Different jurisdictions allow injured plaintiffs to recover different types of damages. Some jurisdictions place caps on damages for certain types of cases. Most jurisdictions allow an injured plaintiff to recover out of pocket expenses and losses and some component of pain and suffering and mental anguish..
   
Q What are punitive damages?
A Punitive damages are damages designed to punish a defendant for willful and wreckless conduct. The theory is that this punishment will deter future bad conduct.Many states do not allow plaintiffs to recover for punitive damages regardless of the willfulness of the defendant’s conduct.
   
Q How long do most personal injury cases take to get resolved?
A It varies. Usually, most uncomplicated cases either get settled or tried within three years after filing. Some courts have a back log of cases which cause delays beyond three years. Generally, cases filed in federal court resolve much faster than those filed in state courts.
   
Q Will my case go before a judge or jury?
A It depends. Most jurisdictions have a threshold that the damages of the case must meet to qualify for trial by jury. Usually, both parties can stipulate to a trial by judge instead of a jury trial. However, most jurisdictions provide the absolute right to either party to request a trial by jury. A common exception to this rule is when the case is against the state. Most cases involving the state as a defendant are tried to a judge
   
Q Will insurance rates go up if I make a personal injury claim?
A It depends on who you ask. The insurance companies would answer this question in the affirmative in hopes of discouraging claims to increase corporate profits. However, most research has proven that filing claims has little or no effect on premium increases. The business and investing practices of the particular insurance company is the main driving force on premiums.
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