F A Q

Paul Benson car accident attorney

How do I know if I have a personal injury case?

First, you must have suffered an injury to your person or property. Second, you should consider whether your injury was someone else’s fault. It is not always necessary to have a physical injury to bring a personal injury lawsuit — some personal injury claims can be based on a variety of nonphysical losses and harms. In the case of an assault, for example, you do not need to show that a person’s action caused you actual physical harm, but only that you expected some harm to come to you. Similarly, you also may have a case if someone has caused injury to your reputation, invaded your privacy or intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon you.

How soon after I am injured do I have to file a lawsuit?

Every state has certain time limits, called “statutes of limitations,” which govern the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you miss the deadline for filing your case, you may lose your legal right damages for your injury. Consequently, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as you suffer or discover an injury.

 What should I bring with me for my meeting with a lawyer?

You should provide a lawyer with any documents that might be relevant to your case. Police reports, for example, contain eyewitness information and details about the conditions surrounding the event from which your claim arises. Copies of medical reports and bills from doctors and hospitals will help demonstrate the extent and nature of your injuries. Information about the insurer of the person who caused your injury is extremely helpful, as are any photographs you have of the accident scene, damaged property and your injuries. The more information you are able to give your lawyer, the easier it will be for him or her to determine if your claim will be successful. If you haven’t collected any documents at the time of your first meeting, however, don’t worry; your lawyer will be able to obtain them in his investigation of your claim.

What if a person dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?

If a person injured in an accident subsequently dies because of those injuries, that person’s heirs may typically recover money through a lawsuit known as a wrongful death action. Also, even if a person with a personal injury claim dies from unrelated causes, the personal injury claim survives in most cases and may be brought by the executor or personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.

What is “negligence?”

The critical issue in many personal injury cases is just how a “reasonable person” was expected to act in the particular situation that caused the injury. A person is negligent when he or she fails to act like an “ordinary reasonable person” would have acted. The determination of whether a given person has met the “ordinary reasonable person” standard is often a matter that is resolved by a jury after presentation of evidence and argument at trial.

What if I can’t prove someone’s negligence caused my injury? Is there any other basis for personal injury liability besides negligence?

Yes. Some persons or companies may be held “strictly liable” for certain activities that harm others, even if they have not acted negligently or with wrongful intent. Under this theory, a person injured by a defective or unexpectedly dangerous product, for instance, may recover compensation from the maker or seller of the product without showing that the manufacturer or seller was actually negligent. Also, persons or companies engaged in using explosives, storing dangerous substances, or keeping dangerous animals can be strictly liable for harm caused to others as a result of such activities.

Will the person who caused my injury be punished?

Not in the traditional sense of the word. Defendants in civil actions for personal injury do not receive jail terms or criminal fines as punishment. Those are criminal sentences, and personal injury cases are civil actions. However, in some cases, juries and courts can award what are called “punitive damages,” which are designed to punish defendants who have behaved recklessly or intentionally against the public’s interest. The goal in ordering the payment of punitive damages is to discourage such defendants and others from engaging in the same kind of harmful behavior in the future.

 

Do I need an attorney or should I try to handle my claim on my own?

An attorney can often obtain more money for your claim than you can obtain on your own. It is the goal of every insurance adjuster to minimize claims payouts to increase the profits of the company. Adjusters are often rewarded by their employers for resolving claims quickly for a minimal sum or no compensation at all to the injured claimant. Therefore, the goal and purpose of an insurance company is in direct conflict with your best interests. The job of your attorney is to obtain the maximum amount of compensation for your injuries. Your attorney’s sole job is to work on your behalf and fight the insurance company, in court if necessary, to obtain the best possible outcome for you.

In cases where you have a severe injury, (broken bones, surgery, scars, a head injury, or other permanent injury), and in cases which involve criminal activity (hit and run, DUI, DUS, reckless behavior, or violations of laws and regulations, etc.), it is critical to retain an attorney to ensure that you are receiving the full value of your claim. Under these and other exceptional circumstances, you may be entitled to an award of punitive damages in addition to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. An attorney knows when to make a claim for punitive damages on your behalf.

In addition, you may be entitled to a recovery under multiple policies of insurance provided by other insurance carriers, including your own, who my provide coverage applicable to your claim. The attorneys at this firm have years of experience handling personal injury cases. We know how to assess the value of a case and we know how to locate other sources of recovery for you. This is where the services of an attorney prove to be most valuable. It is critical that you consult with an attorney prior to signing any document presented to you by an insurance company. Without an attorney, you may be signing away your right to additional compensation for your injuries.

The insurance company wants to send someone to my house to write me a check and settle my case. Should I accept the money?

It is the goal of every insurance adjuster to minimize claims payouts to increase the profits of the company. Adjusters are often rewarded by their employers for resolving claims quickly and for a minimal sum or no compensation at all to the injured claimant. Therefore, the goal and purpose of an insurance company is in direct conflict with your best interests.

Insurance companies often send adjusters directly to your home with a checkbook in hand within days or hours of your accident. They know you are at your most vulnerable at this time. They want to settle your claim before you can consult an attorney or even a doctor regarding your injuries. Under the laws of your state, you often have a period of years within which to bring your claim. Thus, there is no reason to feel pressure to accept a quick or unreasonable settlement offer. Take your time, consult your doctor and seek the advice of counsel before accepting any money or signing any documents from the insurance company. Once you sign a release, your claim is over. If you change your mind, or your injuries worsen, the insurance company will not be responsible for any additional payment on your claim.

The insurance company wants me to give them a recorded statement. Should I do that?

Recorded statements are taken for the sole purpose of utilizing your own words against you at a later date. Even a seemingly innocent comment can be misconstrued and can be used to deny payment on your claim. These statements are recorded to preserve your testimony for use at trial. Under no circumstance should you ever provide a recorded statement without first seeking the advice of an attorney. In most instances, the recording can be avoided.

The insurance company wants me to sign a medical authorization. Should I do that?

Unlimited medical authorizations enable insurance companies to obtain and investigate your most personal information to include medical records, employment records, educational records, and financial records. They are used to find evidence which in many instances the insurance company will use against you to deny payment or reduce your recovery. Under no circumstance should you ever provide an unlimited authorization to an insurance company without first seeking the advice of an attorney. When you retain an attorney, the attorney will obtain only the records necessary to support your claim and will provide only those documents to the insurance company in order to protect your privacy.

What is my case worth?

Every case is different. The value of your case will turn on a variety of factors which your attorney can assess to determine a range of acceptable settlement values. The severity of your injury, the length of your medical care, the amount of damage to the vehicles involved in the collision, the amount of your medical expenses, the conduct of the defendant, and the jurisdiction in which your case would be filed, all play a critical role in determining the ultimate value of a claim.

You cannot determine the value of your case based on a simple formula nor should you evaluate your case based upon stories of settlements obtained from unreliable sources or even settlements obtained by friends and relatives under different circumstances. No two cases are alike and each should be evaluated on its individual merits by an attorney with experience in handling personal injury claims in your area.

How do I know if I have a personal injury case?

First, you must have suffered an injury to your person or property. Second, you should consider whether your injury was the result of someone else’s fault. It is not always necessary to have a physical injury to bring a personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury claims are often based on a variety of non-physical losses and harms. In the case of an assault, for example, you do not need to show that a person’s action caused you actual physical harm, but only that you expected some harm to come to you. You also may have a case if someone has attacked your reputation, invaded your privacy, or inflicted emotional distress upon you.

Do all Personal Injury claims go to trial?

No. In fact, most Personal Injury claims are settled with the insurance company of the party the “at-fault”.

Who can I sue to recover my damages?

In some cases, an accident victim may be able to sue parties other than the at-fault driver. For example, if the at-fault driver did not own the car, the car’s owner may also be liable
for your damages. If the at-fault driver was impaired from consuming too much alcohol, you may be able to bring a “dram shop” complaint against a business that served alcohol to the driver even though he was visibly impaired. In some cases, you may be able to bring an action against another party, such as an automobile manufacturer or construction company, if a defect in the vehicle or the roadway caused the accident. If the accident involved a tractor-trailer, the driver’s violation of rules and regulations may be the basis for a lawsuit

What is my case worth?

The value of a case depends on a variety of factors and cannot be determined without analyzing information regarding the injury, medical bills, loss of income, and permanency of the injury.
There is no rule of thumb, and each set of facts results in a different amount of damages.

Will I have to go to court?

Not necessarily. Many motor vehicle accident cases are concluded without even filing a lawsuit. Most lawsuits are settled without an actual trial. A settlement avoids the costs and delays of a trial and may result in a greater net recovery. However, if the case cannot be settled on satisfactory terms, it may be necessary to try it in court.

Where will the money come from to compensate me?

The at-fault party’s insurance typically pays for your damages in many states. If you are in a no-fault state, your own insurance may pay for some of your damages. If the at-fault party is not adequately insured, your own insurance policy may contain coverage that will compensate you for your injuries.

How long will it take me to receive my money?

The length of time necessary to conclude your automobile accident injury case depends upon a number of factors. For example, if you received a serious injury, you do not want to settle your claim until you have received sufficient medical care so that either your physician has released you or your future medical expenses related to the accident can be determined with reasonable
certainty. Therefore, the amount of time you need to heal may determine the length of time necessary to conclude your claim. The amount of time before you recover also depends on whether your case is settled or goes to trial.

What should I do if I can’t afford an attorney?

Many law firms will agree to pursue a personal injury claim for a contingency fee, which means that the law firm’s fee is subtracted from any amount that the firm collects for
you. If no amount is recovered, then the firm receives no fee, but the client is typically responsible for actual expenses, such as court filing fees or witness fees, whether he or she wins or loses.

Do I have to see a doctor?

If you are injured in an automobile accident, you should seek medical attention. Whether or not you have a claim, you should be examined by a doctor, both for your own peace of mind and to
document the injury in order to support your claim. Frequently, an automobile accident injury will not appear immediately. Whenever symptoms first appear, go to your family doctor, a hospital emergency room, or another medical professional to obtain medical help.

How soon must I bring my claim?

Each state sets a time period during which a person must bring a personal injury claim. Both the length of that period and the way it is measured in motor vehicle accident cases varies from
state to state. Even within a state, the time period may vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, such as the plaintiff’s age, the type of personal injury claim, the particular facts giving rise to the injury, and when the injury is discovered. You must be absolutely certain that you know the time limitation period that applies to you, or you risk jeopardizing your legal rights.

Should I accept a check from the at-fault driver or his or her insurance company?

Accepting a check may be construed as a settlement that prohibits you from obtaining any additional amounts from the at-fault driver or his or her insurance company. Therefore, you should not accept a check or sign a release from the at-fault driver or his or her insurance company until you have conferred with an attorney. Typically, an attorney will encourage you to wait to accept a check until you have completed your medical treatment and have been released by a doctor, so you know you have received an amount that adequately covers your medical bills and
other damages. An insurance adjuster may push you to settle the claim for the lowest possible amount and may discourage you from contacting an attorney. If so, you should ignore his or her advice, and consult an attorney immediately before accepting any payment, signing any release, or otherwise settling your claim to insure that you are receiving fair compensation and not jeopardizing your right to a full and fair recovery.