Although everyone’s experience is different, many of the same questions and concerns come up with each of my clients. Here are answers to 5 commonly asked questions from my clients with a personal injury case
1. Do I have a personal injury case?
Whether you have a personal injury case depends on three main factors: fault, insurance, and injuries. First, you can’t be the one at fault. In most states, if you are at least 50% at fault for the accident, then you cannot recover a penny for your injuries. If you are less than 50% at fault, then you can recover for your injuries minus the amount of the percentage of your fault.
For example, if a jury awards you $100,000 for your injuries and decides you are 30% at fault, then you would get $70,000.
Deciding who is at fault is not always easy. Oftentimes, more than one person is at fault. It can take some time to investigate the facts to decide who is at fault. People often do not agree on who is at fault for an accident. Ultimately, your case outcome will depend not only on the facts themselves but also on how well your attorney frames the facts in your favor.
You must have injuries serious enough to pursue a claim, typically at least $3,000 in damages. If you don’t have damages in excess of $3,000, you probably are better off resolving it without an attorney. Never assume your injuries aren’t serious enough until you’ve talked to an attorney.
2. What is my personal injury case worth?
You are entitled to receive money for special (economic) and general (non-economic) damages.
Special damages are damages that you can more easily calculate: past and future medical bills, loss of future earning capacity or the ability to earn money, past and future wage loss, past and future benefits and pensions, property damage, etc. These damages are supported by medical bills and records, tax returns, W-2s, pay stubs, letters from doctors and employers, repair estimates, and more.
General damages are more difficult to calculate: pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of enjoyment of relationship, emotional distress and anguish, deformity, incapacity, immobility, inconvenience, etc. These damages should not be considered less important despite the difficulty of determining their worth.
You or your personal injury lawyer should never overlook these damages. They are supported by medical records, witness testimony of family members and friends, photographs, video, journal entries, and more.
3. Who pays my medical bills if I don’t have health insurance?
Unfortunately, it may take months or years to receive a settlement or award from the responsible party. Until then, without health insurance, you are stuck with the bills. This can cause a great deal of stress, affect your credit score, and even lead to bankruptcy.
It is always best to pay your medical bills as soon as they come due. If you cannot afford to pay your own medical bills and you don’t have health insurance, then most hospitals, doctors, and other medical providers will send your bills to a collection agency and/or file a hospital lien with the local court.
A hospital lien is a legal document that obligates you and your attorneys to pay the outstanding medical bill out of any settlement that you receive. It is always preferable to have a hospital lien placed on your account rather than to have your bills sent to collections.
An experienced attorney will contact all of your medical providers as soon as possible to coordinate the execution of a hospital lien to avoid the hassle of dealing with a collection agency.
4. Are there caps or limits on how much I can get for my personal injury case?
In some cases, Utah law limits how much money you can receive for damages you sustain in an accident. These limits are called “damages caps.”
The two most common examples of damages caps are when suing medical providers and the government. Damages caps limit the amount of money you can receive for general damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, disfigurement, impairment, loss of consortium, and emotional distress.
Damages caps, however, do not limit the amount you can receive for special damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages.
Attorneys have challenged the constitutionality of damages caps, but the Utah Supreme Court has held that such caps are constitutional and are allowed.
5. Will I have to file a lawsuit and go to trial for my personal injury case?
Most of the time, you will not need to file a lawsuit or go to trial to resolve your personal injury claim.
After making a claim for injuries, the parties will work to settle the claim with terms that all parties will accept. These pre-lawsuit negotiations usually lead to a settlement of the claim.
Most people do not want to get involved in a lawsuit. It can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful for all parties involved. Unfortunately, there are occasions where the parties cannot agree on terms, and a lawsuit is necessary.
If a lawsuit is necessary, you will need an experienced attorney that has the tools and skills to effectively litigate your case.