Ten Frequently Asked Questions by People Injured in an Accident
1. What is my case worth?
Assessing the value of a case is a complex process and depends on the specific facts and circumstances. Typically, the more serious the injury, the more the case is worth. One of the most common ways to estimate the value of a case is by the injured party’s medical expenses and lost wages. Serious accidents with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses and lost wages can be worth millions of dollars. Less serious accidents with $5,000 to $15,000 in medical expenses and lost wages are usually worth less than $50,000. The value of a case also depends in large part on who was at fault. If the injured party was partially at fault, the value of the case will be lower and harder to prove. Ultimately, the value of your case is determined by you and the person who caused the accident settling on an amount, or the decision by a judge or a jury after a trial.
2. Why should I hire Ben as my attorney?
If you have more than $3,000 in medical expenses or lost wages, or the case involves a death, the answer is almost certainly yes. Product manufacturers, drug makers, insurance companies, and other large corporations do not take people seriously if they are not represented by an attorney, and they will not offer an unrepresented person a fair value for his or her claims. Also, because the value of a claim is so complex (see #1 above), an experienced attorney is often necessary to determine what a fair value is for a particular case. You should never sign anything without consulting an attorney.
3. What types of damages can I collect in a lawsuit?
There is a long list of losses that may be collected as damages in a lawsuit. An injured party may collect out-of-pocket expenses like hospital and other medical bills, lost earnings from work missed from injuries related to the accident, lost future earnings because injuries prevent the return to work (or a similar line of work), and also non-economic damages like compensation for pain and suffering, impairment, disfigurement, and death. In some cases, where there has been reckless or intentional conduct that causes an injury, punitive damages may be awarded against the party causing the injury as a punishment and to deter that party from acting that way in the future. Punitive damages are rare, however, and should not be expected.
4. What fees do you charge? Do I pay upfront?
We do not charge upfront fees in personal injury cases. Our fees are charged on what is called a “contingency” basis. A contingency fee means that you pay nothing unless and until you receive something in the form of a settlement or court judgment. Our fee will be a percentage of what is collected. It is usually one-third, but in many cases, we offer discounted fees for simple cases and early settlements.
5. How much time do I have?
The time you have to file a claim is called a statute of limitations. In most cases, the statute of limitations is four years in Utah. However, if the case involves a death, medical malpractice, or a dangerous product, the statute of limitations is just two years. In other cases, like claims against the government, the statute of limitations is shorter. It is always advisable to begin your case early so that all of the necessary evidence can be preserved and all of the witnesses for your case have a good memory of the events.
6. How long does the court process take?
A case can take years from the date it is filed in court until the date it is decided by a jury. Very simple cases may be decided within a year, but it is rare to have a case decided in that short of a timeframe. It is more common for a case to take between one and three years from start to finish. Extremely large and complex cases may take longer. Most cases are settled before they reach a trial by jury. Cases may be settled before a lawsuit is even filed, or they may be settled on the day trial starts, or even after.
7. I was injured in an auto accident by someone who had no insurance (or very little). What can I do?
If the person who caused the accident has no insurance or insufficient insurance, you may recover under the uninsured / under-insured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage in your own insurance policy. Check your auto insurance policy to see what the coverage limits are.
8. I was injured by a drunk driver, and he had no (or very little) insurance. Can I recover from someone?
Maybe. If the drunk driver was served alcohol at a business that is in the business of selling alcohol (like a bar, club or restaurant), you may be able to recover from the bar or restaurant. Your case against the bar or restaurant will turn on whether the server knew or should have known that the person served the alcohol was intoxicated.
9. I may have been partially at fault for the accident. Can I still recover?
Yes. As long as you were not more at fault than the other party, you can still recover. However, your recovery would be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if your case went to a trial and a jury decided you had $100,000 in damages, but that you were 30% at fault, your $100,000 award would be reduced by 30%, and you would be awarded $70,000.
10. My injury was while I was at work. Am I limited to workers’ compensation benefits?
Not necessarily. The workers’ compensation laws prevent you from suing your employer or a co-employee, but if there is another person or business at fault, like an employee of another company on a multi-employer worksite or the manufacturer of a dangerous product that caused the injury, you may still sue that person or company. Workplace injury cases are usually very complex.
Do you have other questions? Contact us today to learn more about hiring Ben to represent your interests.