The first step toward pursuing your personal injury case is selecting a lawyer or law firm and scheduling an interview with the attorney who will review your
The attorney will ask you a series of questions designed to gather information about how you were injured. These questions will address when your symptoms began, what doctors you've seen, what hospitals you've been treated at, and
whether you've been treated by any other health care providers. You should provide as much detail as possible: The attorney will use this information to
evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
Hiring A NY Personal Injury Attorney
You will benefit from hiring an attorney early in the process. An attorney can offer protection, shielding you from numerous phone calls from the other party's
insurance adjustor or lawyer. Your case may require that certain activities (e.g., preservation of evidence or reconstruction of an auto accident) be taken care of
immediately. Your attorney can handle these activities, as well as provide legal guidance.
When you hire the attorney, you'l be asked to sign a fee agreement. Some attorneys charge by the hour, while others charge a contingency fee. A contingency fee means that the attorney gets a percentage of the final settlement.
You will need to understand which fee structures are available from your attorney, as well as how other expenses (e.g., filing fees, photocopying costs, court costs) will be handled. Before you sign a fee agreement, make sure you understand exactly what is inc
Proceeding With Your Personal Injury Case
If you proceed with your case, you may be asked to sign wage loss, medical, pharmacy, and tax return authorizations. These authorizations allow your attorney to obtain copies of your records to identify information that is relevant to your case.
During your personal injury case, you will be referred to as the victim (and as the plaintiff if you file a lawsuit). The party from whom you are seeking compensation will be referred to as the tort·feasor (and as the defendant if a lawsuit is filed). Your attorney will determine who the potential defendants are and whether they are legally liable. To identify the defendants, your attorney will start by examining the facts of a case--those that were presented in the initial interview as well as those uncovered during the investigation phase. In addition, your attorney will review the law regarding legal issues in your case and will consider whether you and the defendant acted reasonably under the circumstances (i.e., whether you were negligent).
To gather information about your case, your attorney may ask you to prepare a client statement. This can take different forms. One form of a client statement is a letter from you to your attorney. In this letter, you describe how you were injured, the extent of your injuries, and anything else you think is relevant to your case, including how your life has been affected. Only you know what happened and how you feel. By preparing a client statement, you'll guarantee that your attorney knows the details of your experience.
Because it is a letter from you to your attorney, it is protected by the attorney/ client privilege, which means that the opposing attorney cannot access any information between the attorney and client.
While you prepare your client statement, your attorney will be investigating your case. This process can include interviewing witnesses, reviewing medical records, reviewing statements you've made about your injuries to others (e.g., the police), evaluating your wage loss, investigating the sources of money that are available for compensation, and identifying any expert witnesses you may need.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Personal Injury Settlement
In most instances, your case should not be settled until you have finished all medical treatment. By waiting until treatment is finished, you will know exactly how much injury you sustained, how much treatment was required, and how much permanent damage you suffered. If you settle before you finish treatment, you won't know the true long-term effects of your injuries, and you won't be compensated for those long-term effects that you cannot yet prove.
When you finish treatment, your attorney will contact your doctor for a final report. This document will explain your physical condition at the time the reportis made, how much disability is present, whether your injuries are permanent, whether your injuries will limit you in your profession, and whether you'll need surgery or additional medical treatment in the future. In addition, if a previous injury is involved, the doctor will indicate which symptoms or disabilities are due to which injury.
However, you cannot wait indefinitely to decide whether to settle your case or proceed with a lawsuit. Your state's statute of limitations dictates how many years from the date of injury you have to file a lawsuit. Be sure to ask your attorney about your state's statute of limitations. If the deadline is approaching, your attorney will ask your doctor for a final report and will advise you whether to settle or file a lawsuit.
The length of time it takes to settle a personal injury case is almost impossible to predict. It could easily be up to a year before you and your attorney decide whether to settle your case or file a lawsuit. It could be even longer if you are still receiving medical treatment. And if you proceed with alternative dispute resolution or go to trial, it could be many additional months.
Value Of Your Personal Injury Settlement
Your attorney will not be able to give you an estimate of how much your case is worth until you are ready to settle. Many factors affect the value of your case. These range from your percentage of fault and liability to the long-term effects of your injuries to where your case would be tried if it goes to trial. Also, avoid comparing your case to other cases. Remember, no two cases are alike. Predicting your case's value based on another settlement is unreliable.
If you and your attorney agree that it is best to settle your case, your attorney will submit a settlement brochure to the other party's insurance adjuster. The brochure will present all of the information about your case, describe how your life has changed, and make a demand. Then, you'll wait for the insurance adjuster's answer. Your attorney will help you decide whether to accept or reject the insurance company's offer by reviewing the bottom line financial benefit. Your attorney will arrive at this bottom line number by:
- making a list of your claims, highlighting all of the strengths and weaknesses and important issues
- calculating the chances of winning and losing each claim
- estimating the chance that a jury will decide in your favor if your case goes to trial
- deducting applicable costs, such as litigation fees, reimbursement of your insurance company for what it has paid, and payment of outstanding medical bills.
You should also consider non-economic factors, such as whether you want to avoid the time, expense, and distraction of a lawsuit, as well as how much risk you're willing to assume. Remember, if you go to trial, there is a chance that you will lose your case. In addition, even if you win, there are still costs that you may be required to pay.
Be sure to let your attorney know if your case involves worker's compensation. A special formula dictates the percentage of a settlement that you would receive if your case involves workers' compensation. Your attorney can explain the specifics of the formula to you.