FAQs - Personal Injury Cases
FAQs - Personal Injury Cases
I have just been injured, what should I do now?
At the outset of a personal injury case, it is important to get prompt and proper medical care, preserve evidence, and decide whether to retain an attorney skilled in personal injury litigation. A qualified personal injury lawyer will be an accomplished negotiator and possess the skills and resources needed to aggressively pursue the maximum result for each client. You will find such a lawyer here at Ridge & Associates and we urge you to contact us immediately regarding any issue on a personal injury accident.
The most important thing to do at the outset of a personal injury case is to get immediate medical treatment, if that is necessary. It is important when seeking medical treatment that you give a clear and concise history of the accident. The first medical record after an accident is the most crucial evidence to a successful resolution of the claim.
The top ten things to do immediately after you are involved in a car accident.
1. Do not panic.
Try to stay calm. Panic often makes the situation worse. There needs to be a calm person to determine the extent of damage and to determine if there are any injuries that need immediate medical attention. NEVER leave the scene of an accident. Make the scene as safe as possible.
2. Seek immediate medical attention.
If you or someone is in need of medical attention call 911 immediately.
3. Report the accident to the Police:
All motor vehicle accidents should be reported to the Police, even if there are no or only minor injuries. Often times an injury from a car accident will not manifest itself for some time after the collision and it is important that a proper report of the occurrence be made in the event that further action does become necessary.
If possible, do not leave the scene of an accident until the police complete a report. If you are physically able, speak to the Police and tell them your version of what happened.
4. Do not volunteer too much information.
It is important to limit your discussion of the accident and not to admit any fault or liability to anyone, until such time as you have had a chance to discuss the facts of the accident with a lawyer.
Immediately after the accident you should only talk with the police and your insurance agent. Even then it is important that you do not admit any fault or liability for the accident, even to your own insurance company. You are not required by law to give a statement to an insurance company, and you should never do so until you have discussed the case in more detail with one of our experienced lawyers.
5. Gather as many facts as possible.
This step is often overlooked. You might assume the police will gather the information for you, but do not rely on them to do so. It is important to get names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone involved in the accident, including available witnesses.
A description of the car and license plate number can also be helpful, but make sure you also try to obtain the insurance company details, a policy number and the vehicle identification number (VIN) of the car. Many insurance companies only record the type of car and the VIN number.
If you are in a position to do so, take photographs of both the area where the accident occurred and of the damage to your car and any other cars involved. Make note of the weather and lighting conditions at the time of the collision.
6. Call your insurance agent.
Call your agent or insurance company's 800-number immediately, even at the scene of the accident, when possible. Notification to your insurance company is absolutely vital, regardless of fault. This can save you time later, waiting for your claim to be processed.
7. Call Ridge & Downes.
At Ridge & Downes, we are experienced in handling all types of motor vehicle accidents. It is important that you talk to us as soon as possible after the accident so that we can get all the facts and investigate the case on your behalf. Sometimes a scene will have to be viewed and/or immediately preserved, a vehicle may need to be inspected and photographed, etc. This must be done before repairs are made or any defects at the accident scene are corrected.
We will be able to advise you on whether you should be concerned about the liability aspect of your case, and we will be able to assist you in successfully navigating the case. Our advice is free and we are only entitled to a fee in a personal injury case if we recover something on your behalf.
As soon as you retain Ridge & Downes to act on your behalf, you will no longer have to deal with the insurance company. This takes a lot of stress off you and lets you concentrate on more important things, like your injuries and obtaining the medical treatment that you need.
8. Keep a written journal.
Write down your recollection of the accident immediately when you get home. Note the weather, the lighting and any other important conditions. This basic information is very easy to forget with the passage of time.
It is important to write down how you are feeling in the immediate aftermath of the accident and note all aches and pains that you feel, even those that you think are relatively minor.
Start a timeline following the accident and every time something happens concerning the case or your injury update the timeline, noting conversations you have with your insurance company, the other party’s insurance company, your doctors, the police, your lawyer, etc. Detail the treatment you receive and the contact information for the facilities that provide treatment, noting all dates of appointments and follow-ups. This timeline becomes an invaluable tool to a lawyer presenting your case, sometimes many years after the event.
9. Keep track of your out-of-pocket expenses.
You are entitled to be compensated for not only the pain and suffering you incur as a result of an accident, but also for any out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of having been involved in the accident.
It is important to keep track of these expenses from the beginning as it can be difficult to prove them at a later stage. Add details of the trips you take for medical appointments to your journal and note the average number of miles travelled, etc.
You need to retain the receipts for all co-pays, deductibles, and prescription costs so that a claim for reimbursement can be made.
If you are off work as a result of the accident, you will inevitably suffer a loss of earnings. Ask your employer to give you a letter on the company letterhead, detailing your rate of pay and the days that you have missed as a result of the accident. If you collect sick time or short-term disability benefits, give your lawyer the details about the fund or policy paying those benefits.
10. Do not accept any settlement offers.
It is common in the immediate weeks after a car accident for an insurance company to call you and make an offer to settle the claim. NEVER accept such an offer without first seeking legal advice.
Shortly after the accident it is too soon to entertain settlement of a claim. It can be hard to refuse a settlement offer because an injured person is in a vulnerable situation both physically, emotionally and more importantly financially. Remember, however, that the insurance company has one goal and one goal only that they want to close their file having paid as little money as possible.
Once you accept an offer of settlement there is no going back. In the event that your injury worsens or you incur additional medical bills, you will never be able to go back to the insurance company seeking additional monies. That is why it is so important to seek competent legal advice before agreeing to any settlement related to your accident.
Should I speak to the other party's insurer? What do I say if I do?
Many personal injury cases have been compromised or defeated by people speaking to insurance companies. Insurers have highly skilled professionals representing their interests and as soon as an accident occurs, those insurance professionals may reach out to you and ask for a statement from you outlining your version of events. Insurance adjusters owe a duty to the insurance company, not to any injured party. They know how to ask questions and how to elicit responses which are meant to help the insurance company.
If an insurance adjuster contacts you after an accident, you can inform them that you are represented by an attorney or that you intend to hire an attorney. It is likely the claims professional will understand and respect this answer, and will generally not be surprised by your desire to seek legal representation. You should therefore never feel under pressure to speak to an insurance agent if you are not comfortable doing so.
Often an insurance agent will contact an injured party and make an offer to settle their claim out of court. Such an offer can come very early in a case, even before an injured person has completed their medical treatment. Often an injured person, who has mounting medical bills and is losing wages, will be tempted by such early offers, but we would urge you to never agree to any such offer, without first seeking legal advice. It is crucial to remember that if a case is settled at such an early stage and an injury sustained subsequently turns out to be more serious than initially thought, it will not be possible to then go back to the insurance company and seek further compensation. The accepted offer will be final and will be the end of your claim. This is where a qualified personal injury attorney with substantial settlement and trial experience in personal injury cases can make a big difference.
Will I have to pay a fee to have an attorney at Ridge & Downes review my case?
If you feel that you or a loved one may have a personal injury lawsuit, rest assured that there is never a fee to have the circumstances reviewed by one of our experienced attorneys.
What does it cost to hire a personal injury attorney?
In a personal injury case, clients do not pay any money up front to retain the services of an attorney and there is no hourly fee. Instead, the attorney is paid a percentage of the amount recovered at the time the case is concluded. This is referred to as a contingent fee arrangement. The percentage can vary depending on the circumstances of the case, although a one-third contingent fee is generally the most common. Additionally, the personal injury law firm will usually pay all necessary out-of-pocket expenses, subject to a right of reimbursement, at the conclusion of the case.
In a contingent fee arrangement, if there is no financial recovery in a lawsuit, there is no fee paid to the attorney.
How do I know if I have a valid personal injury case?
In order to be successful in a personal injury action, you must first show that you have been harmed in some way, by the action or inaction of a third party. The harm caused can be physical, emotional or financial or it can be a combination of all of the above.
The injured party must be able to prove that the injury sustained was at least partly the fault of another party. In order to be able to prove injury and negligence it is not necessary for you to establish that this person intended to cause you harm. In fact, most personal injury cases involve mere mistakes on the part of the other party.
The critical issue in many personal injury cases is the concept of “Negligence” and this is established on what has been termed the “reasonable person standard.” A person will be deemed negligent if they fail to act like an “ordinary reasonable person” would have acted, in the same situation. The determination of whether or not a person has acted as a reasonable person and met this standard is one that is often times resolved by a jury at trial after presentation of all the facts, evidence and argument at a trial.
It is important to remember that the party from which you seek to recover must be financially viable. There is little point in pursuing a personal injury case against a person of no financial means or without insurance. We will be able to assist you in determining this information at the outset of a case
In some cases, an injured party can file a lawsuit even if they themselves were partly at fault in causing their own injury. This is because many states allow partially at fault Plaintiffs to still recover some damages. However, the more fault attributed to the injured party, the lower the recovery will be. In Illinois, if an injured party is 51% or more at fault in causing their own injuries, then they will not be entitled to any recovery whatsoever. The determination of fault is usually made by a jury when a case proceeds to trial or through negotiations if a case settles outside of court.
How long do I have to file a personal injury action?
Every State has certain time limits within which to file a personal injury action. These limits are referred to as the “statute of limitations.” If a claim is not filed before the expiration of a statute of limitations, you may lose your legal right to damages. There are different statutes of limitations for different types of personal injury cases. The statute is also different depending on the injured party involved. For example, there may be different statute of limitations for minors who have been injured as opposed to adults involved in the same accident.
The statute of limitations is one of the most important factors to consider in a personal injury action and we urge you to contact our offices as soon as possible after an accident or injury occurs so that we can ensure that the statute will not run on your case and bar your recovery.
If I bring a personal injury lawsuit, will I have to go to court?
You might have to appear at court for your personal injury case, and it is essential that you be prepared to do so. Many personal injury cases are settled out of court. Because any case might proceed to trial, it is vital that you choose an attorney qualified to represent your interests and protect your right to recovery in front of a judge and jury. Moreover, qualified attorneys with a track record of success are usually more feared by the insurers and able to obtain better out of court settlements for their clients than attorneys who lack these qualifications. You will find such experienced lawyers here at Ridge & Associates and we again urge you to contact our offices immediately if you or your loved one has been hurt in a personal injury accident.
What am I entitled to recover if I have been injured as a result of another person’s negligence?
The compensation that an injured person may be entitled to includes lost wages, past and future medical expenses, monetary compensatory damages for both physical and emotional pain and suffering, damages for disfigurement and scarring and out of pocket expenses, including travel expenses to and from medical appointments. Sometimes an injured person’s spouse or partner may also be entitled to compensation called consortium damages. Its intention is to compensate the person closest to the injured party for the loss of that person’s companionship or services.
Punitive damages may be awarded when a negligent party’s conduct is considered by a court or a jury to be particularly reckless or intentionally negligent. A court or jury may determine that the particular Defendant(s) should be additionally punished by paying an amount of money over and above the Plaintiff’s actual damages. This type of damages is often used in cases when a court wants to send a message and deter other people from engaging in the type of conduct engaged in by the Defendant.
If I recover damages for my personal injuries, is that money taxable?
Amounts recovered for personal injuries caused by the wrongful or negligent conduct of another are generally not taxable.