WHAT IS PERSONAL INJURY LAW?
How Do I Find The Right Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Lawyer?
How Do I Find Out About A Lawyer's Qualifications and Experience?
How Much Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
How Long Does It Take To Conclude My Personal Injury Case?
Will My Personal Injury Case Go To Trial?
How Much Will It Cost Me To Have My Personal Injury Case Handled?
Do I Have To Sue Someone In Order To Obtain A Recovery?
What Is the Process Once I Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer
Finding a lawyer is not much different than choosing the right professional to assist you with other needs that you might have. Your goal should be to find the lawyer with the best qualifications, experience and knowledge to meet your legal needs. Like doctors, many lawyers concentrate their practices in specific areas. Just as you would not consult with a neurologist to treat your foot injury, you should not select a lawyer who is not qualified to handle your case. Many lawyers are general practitioners who can handle a wide variety of cases. Your objective should be to find a lawyer with the most experience with the type of problem that you have.
In the area of personal injury cases, there are many lawyers who handle relatively non-complex cases. However, there are relatively few lawyers who regularly handle complex personal injury cases, product liability cases or medical malpractice cases. You may have to search a little harder to find these attorneys. If you speak with a personal injury attorney about your case, find out initially if the lawyer handles the type of problem that you have. If not, ask that lawyer to make a referral to another attorney whom that person respects in the field.
The simple answer is just ask. You are making an important consumer decision when you hire a lawyer to represent you. You would not buy a car without test driving it or asking friends about their experience with similar cars. You would not hire a builder without speaking with references. It is entirely appropriate to ask a lawyer for references. It is also appropriate to ask a lawyer about specific experience with your type of case. You have every right to know if your potential advocate is qualified to handle your case. You simply have to ask.
This is the most frequently asked question by new clients in a personal injury firm. Most experienced personal injury lawyers have a general idea of the range of value of a case when the client first contacts the attorney. However, the final determination of the value of an injury depends on many factors which are probably unknown when the client first contacts the lawyer. For instance, the value of a case depends not only the nature and extent of injuries, but also on the factual circumstances of the accident or incident which gave rise to those injuries. A very significant injury may have less value because the liability issues are unclear. In many cases, the value of a claim is reduced by the comparative negligence of the person bringing the claim. Many of these factors cannot be known until the lawyer investigates the claim. Many lawyers will not reveal their impressions about the value of the case because those impressions evolve as the case develops. The role of the attorney ultimately is to advise and make recommendation to the client as to whether or not to accept a settlement or to go to trial. The client is the ultimate decision-maker as to whether or not to accept an offer. The lawyer's role is as advisor.
An experienced lawyer will be able to give you a general guideline as to how long the case may take to resolve. Generally speaking, the more complex the case, the longer it takes. Sometimes a relatively simple case can take a long time to resolve because of disputed issues. Also, in a personal injury case, most lawyers will not attempt to resolve a case until the client has reached a medical end result. That is the point at which the person is either healed or has reached a plateau where a physician has reported that the patient will not improve any further. The reason the case is not settled until the medical end result is reached, is that the lawyer needs to know the future consequences, if any, of the injury. Your lawyer should be able to tell you at the beginning of the case approximately long it may take to resolve.
Most personal injury cases are settled. However, until the lawyer knows the details of the accident or occurrence which gave rise to the injury and the nature and extent of the injury itself, the lawyer cannot state with any degree of reliability whether or not the case may have to go to trial.
Whether or not a case goes to trial, the lawyer who takes the case and prepares it as if it is going to trial will get the best result by way of settlement. It is the lawyer who tries cases regularly who gets verdicts that the insurance companies and defense lawyers know is someone that has to be dealt with. If a lawyer has a reputation for only settling cases, then an insurance company may be inclined to offer short money just to get rid of the case. Therefore, it is very important to know whether or not your lawyer has experience trying cases.
Most lawyers take personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. In most instances the usual practice is for the lawyer to take a fee of one-third out of the settlement for a verdict received in the case. Many, but not all lawyers, will pay for the out of pocket expenses associated with pursuing the claim. Some lawyers may ask the client to front the lawyer the money for expenses. In that instance if the case is lost, then the client loses those funds. Most lawyers can tell a client in advance if the client has to pay expenses up front. Otherwise, the case should not cost the client any money out of pocket.
The answer is yes. Claims are brought against the person whose carelessness caused your injury. If that person was in the course of their employment at the time, then you would probably bring a claim against their employer as well. In today's society most individuals and businesses have insurance. Even though you name the individual or company, you would seek payment from their insurance company. In rare cases of catastrophic injuries, a lawyer might consider pursuing the personal assets of the wrong doer. However, that is extremely rare. Most people are reluctant to bring claims against friends or family members who may have caused their injuries. However, if insurance has been purchased for this purpose, then an injured claimant should feel comfortable seeking compensation under that insurance coverage.
At the beginning of the case, the lawyer will conduct a detailed interview concerning your incident, your background and any relevant factors to the case. He will probably be asked to sign authorizations so that the attorney may obtain the medical records. Under Massachusetts law, a hospital or doctor is prohibited from releasing your medical records or any information regarding medical care without a written authorization signed by you. The lawyer will also review and have you sign a contingent fee agreement which explains the terms of the representation. There are numerous other form depending on the type of case that the lawyer may ask you to sign.
The next phase of the case is the initial investigation in which the lawyer will determine both the facts of the incident that gave rise to your injuries and the nature of the injuries suffered. Many lawyers will investigate the matter themselves. Others will hire private investigators to collect information, such as photographs, police reports and other relevant documents. Following the investigation, the lawyer will send claim letters to the person or company responsible for your injuries and attempt to establish communication with their insurance company. From that point forward the lawyer will be engaged in exchanging information with the representative or insurance company of the wrong doer. When you have reached a medical end result, the lawyer will attempt to settle your claim. If the claim cannot be settled, then the lawyer may elect to file suit. Once suit is filed, the claim may take a year or more to be reached for trial. While the suit is pending, your attorney will undertake discovery, which is a further investigation of the facts of the case, in order to prepare the case for trial.
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