Most Common Questions about Personal Injury Attorneys
- What is considered a personal injury?
- What are the initial steps I need to take after an accident?
- What can I expect from a personal injury lawsuit?
- Will my personal injury case need to go to trial?
- How long on average does it take to reach a settlement in a personal injury case?
- What should I expect when meeting my personal injury lawyer for the first time?
- Will all information shared be confidential?
- Why should I hire a personal injury lawyer?
- How much does it cost to hire a lawyer?
- How do I know which personal injury lawyer is right for me?
What is considered a personal injury?
Broadly speaking, a “personal injury” is any significant bodily injury or other harm caused by the legal wrongdoing of another. So, “personal injury” is a very comprehensive label that includes a multitude of more specific types of cases. For example, all of the following types fall under the broad label “personal injury.”
What are the initial steps I need to take after an accident?
If you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident:
- Call the police. Report the accident to law enforcement immediately.
- Exchange information. Drivers must exchange identification and vehicle registration information.
- Obtain Witness Contact Information. If there are witnesses who have not been included in the collision report, it is wise to secure their contact information.
- Evidence Preservation – Photographs and Other Evidence. Someone should take and preserve photos of both the scene and the damage to all involved vehicles. The photos should be kept safe until they can be turned over to your lawyer. If there is other important physical evidence that too should be preserved. If you’re unsure about how to best preserve the evidence in your case, contact a lawyer as early as possible to get advice on evidence preservation.
- Medical Care. Get prompt medical care for your injuries any injuries. When you do see the doctor, or any other medical professional it is important to be as accurate as possible with the medical staff. This means telling them exactly which parts of your body are causing you pain or other symptoms and what level of pain you are feeling. When describing the severity of your pain, go ahead and use the 0-10 pain scale.
- Collision Report. If you suspect an injury or property damage will be estimated at $1,000 or more, you must fill out an accident report. If law enforcement responds to the accident, they may fill out an accident report for you. You can obtain the report from the responding officers, so be sure to obtain their contact information before leaving the accident site. If you have chosen to not call law enforcement, but suspect that your injuries or property damage is $1,000 or greater, you may obtain an accident form online from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety by going to: www.dps.state.mn.us. Alternatively, you can request a form by calling DPS at Telephone: (651) 296-6911; Once you complete the form return it to:
Department of Public Safety
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 181
St. Paul, MN 55101-5181
- Notify Your Own Insurance Company. Report the accident and your injuries to your insurance company immediately. If you choose to call your insurance company to report the accident, it is important that you follow up your phone call with the details of the accident in writing. Early notification will speed up payments for medical expenses, wage loss and other benefits you are entitled to. If it takes longer than six months to report injuries, your insurance company may try to deny benefits.
- Communicating with the At-Fault Party’s Insurer. You may well be contacted by insurance representatives or investigators. Be very cautious when interacting with representatives of the insurance company. It is not uncommon for insurance companies to try to persuade people to sign away their rights for much less than the case is worth. Do not sign anything without consulting a lawyer. Do not agree to anything without consulting a lawyer. Do not provide a recorded statement without consulting a lawyer. The safest course is to get the advice of a lawyer before talking to anyone from the insurance company.
- Recorded Statements. Do not give a written or tape recorded statement to any insurance company with talking to an attorney first.
- Get a Lawyer. Find a lawyer you can rely upon to give clear guidance, up front. Selecting the lawyer who will represent you in a personal injury case is an important decision which can significantly affect the outcome of your claim. You will want to find an attorney who has a good reputation in the profession and who has history of strong verdicts and settlements.
What can I expect from a personal injury lawsuit?
The goal of a personal injury lawsuit is to obtain full and fair compensation for individuals who have been harmed by the wrongdoing of another. This means compensation for basic harms like medical expenses and lost wages, and also compensation for exceptional harms that can be more profound, such as chronic pain, the lack of mobility, or even the loss of a loved one.
The Typical Process:
Most personally injury lawsuits loosely follow a path that includes the stages listed below:
- Readiness for demand. Typically, the first major chronological step in a lawsuit involves gathering the facts and information necessary to provide the insurer or other defendant with a well-informed a settlement demand. This usually occurs only after an injured client has reached a point of relative stability in terms of injury and treatment. Obviously, different injuries progress at different rates, and thus the timing of this phase can vary dramatically. It is during this phase that law firm staff are often also gathering the information necessary to establish the at-fault party’s liability.
- Negotiation. Once the demand is made the process of negotiation begins. The length of and consistency of the negotiation stage can vary dramatically. Some cases are straightforward and can be wrapped up within a few months. In other cases negotiations proceed in fits and starts, and can drag on for many months or years.
- Prepare for suit. If negotiation does not result in settlement, the next step is to make sure prepare for the filing of a lawsuit. This involves a good deal of behind the scenes work and it can take a good deal of time lining up the necessary proof and witnesses.
- Lawsuit. From the time a suit is filed, until the time a case is resolved can often span well over a year, and sometimes multiple years.
No honest lawyer can promise or guarantee you the result in a legal case. Instead, your lawyer should offer you frank advice and guidance about the likely outcomes. The truth is case results depend on the individual facts of the case, and even cases with similar facts can vary greatly in their results.
Will my personal injury case need to go to trial?
Experience shows that 90-95% of all personal injury cases are resolved via a negotiated settlement without a trial. Accordingly, if you have a personal injury case, it is statistically unlikely that you will end up in trial.
On the other hand, the quality of a personal injury settlement typically depends in large part on the expected outcome should your case proceed to trial. Accordingly, a law firm’s aptitude and reputation for success at trial is crucially important to anyone seeking a fair settlement through negotiation.
Given the above, we at Hall Law P.A. view everything through the lens of trial. Winning jury trials and winning them convincingly is at the core of our approach. We let the insurance company know:
- We’re planning to go to trial;
- They’re welcome to settle on the way;
- If they don’t settle, we’re going to trial and we intend to win.
The benefits of our approach are clear:
- Increase the odds of winning at trial. We believe our trial-focused approach gives our clients a markedly better chance to win when their case goes to trial.
- Increase the odds of obtaining a stronger settlement. We believe our approach gives clients a better opportunity to settle their claim for a fair amount prior to trial. This is because the insurers/defendants know they are dealing with a firm that can and will push for a strong jury verdict if a fair settlement is not offered.
How long on average does it take to reach a settlement in a personal injury case?
The short answer is that it depends. Do you want a good deal, or a quick deal? Rarely do you get both.
While quick settlements, that occur within a matter of a few months are possible, those settlements typically come at a significant discount. In other words, if you want a quick settlement, that settlement will likely be for an amount that is far less than what is fair given the circumstances.
In our experience, quality settlements that provide fair compensation typically take a good deal of effort and time, often several years.
Some firms are designed to move as many cases as possible, as quickly as possible. That is not our model. If you want a quick deal, we are not the firm for you.
Instead, we try to take good cases and do a quality job with them. That means we work our cases hard and try to get the fullest compensation possible. If there is a choice between a quick deal for less, versus working harder and longer to get you more, we will always default to working harder and longer for more.
What should I expect when meeting my personal injury lawyer for the first time?
In most cases an initial consultation is an opportunity for the lawyer to review the pertinent facts of your case, and then provide you with his or her impression of the relative merits of your case. This means the lawyer should gain an understanding of your injuries and what caused your injuries. Then the lawyer should provide a frank explanation of what he or she thinks of your case.
The lawyer should also be prepared to answer any questions you may have regarding potential representation.
Will all information shared be confidential?
Yes, everything you share with your lawyer is protected by the attorney-client privilege. This privilege applies even to free initial consultations.
Why should I hire a personal injury lawyer?
If you’ve been seriously injured, or otherwise harmed, by the wrongdoing of another, you have a legal right to be compensated. In today’s world getting fair and full compensation requires the help of an experienced lawyer.
How much does it cost to hire a lawyer?
Most personal injury lawyers charge what’s called a contingency fee. This means the lawyers are paid a percentage of what they obtain for you. Typically, the percentage charged can ranges from 33.3% to 45%, depending on the type of case and the reputation of the law firm.
How do I know which personal injury lawyer is right for me?
Not all personal injury law firms are the same. It’s important to do your due diligence when it comes to making the important decision of choosing who will represent your best interests in a personal injury settlement or trial.
Following these general guidelines will help you to make the most informed choice and ultimately achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
Factors to consider when choosing a lawyer:
- Experience – this includes both years of practice and depth of knowledge
- Trust/Commitment – knowing that your legal team cares about you and will do everything they can for you
- Location – this includes location of the physical firm as well as their ability to practice law in your jurisdiction
- Reputation – within your community or on sites such as Lawyers.com or Martindale.com
- Reviews and testimonials – what do others have to say about working with them
- Results – are they successful at winning trials or securing fair settlements
- Fee structure – how do they charge (retainer, hourly), how much do they charge, and when and how do you pay
Do research online and by referral:
Search online for law firms that specialize in personal injury law and view their websites. Check for things like whether they handle injuries like yours, who is on their legal team, how long they have been in business, and what credentials they have.
Asking friends and family for referrals is also a good way to find reputable firms or attorneys. Don’t select a firm purely based on referrals, however — you should still do some research on your own.
Interview your top choices:
Start by calling each firm and asking some questions. They should be happy to address general questions about their firm and the attorneys on their roster. Pay attention not only to the answers you get but also to how the person you spoke with handled your call. Were they friendly and helpful or rude and dismissive? Did you feel rushed to get off the phone, or were they patient with your questions?
Follow up with the firms that made a good impression by requesting a consultation with an attorney. You are not required to hire an attorney that you have a consultation with, even if you share specific details about your case.
Most law firms don’t charge any fee for a consultation, but ask to be sure before you sit down with an attorney.
Prepare for your meeting by having pertinent information and documents related to your case on hand. It’s also smart to have a list of questions ready so you don’t forget to ask anything important.
Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer:
- What percentage of your practice is dedicated to this type of injury?
- What experience do you have with cases like mine? What were their outcomes?
- Have you taken cases like this to trial before? What was the outcome?
- Will other attorneys help on this case? If so:
- How much of my case will you actually handle?
- Who are the other attorneys?
- What is their experience with cases like mine?
- Do you think this case will go to trial?
- What is a typical settlement range for cases similar to mine?
- How long do you think it may take to reach a resolution?
- How will you communicate my case progress to me?
- How are your fees structured?
- What out-of-pocket expenses am I responsible for?
- Do you think I have a good case?
Making a Decision:
Once you’ve been able to meet with a few attorneys for a consultation, review the answers you received from each and compare what you learned so you can weigh your options. Don’t forget to consider how the attorney made you feel. You will be working closely with this person on something very important, so being comfortable is a must.