There are a lot of misconceptions about Personal Injury law – in this post, find out the answers to 3 common questions about Personal Injury law.
If you’re like most people, you’re not going to take the time to research personal injury law until it actually affects you. So if you’re reading this it’s likely that you’re considering filing a personal injury claim. Here’s some answers to the three most common questions we hear concerning the personal injury claim process:
What is my Personal Injury Claim worth?
This is the fundamental question at the end of the day and a question we often get at the very beginning of the case when it’s unlikely your attorney will know the answer. To understand why, here’s a brief explanation about how the value of your personal injury claim is determined. To begin with, every single personal injury case has three essential elements:
- Liability – Who was at fault for the accident;
- Causation – What injures do you have that were caused by the accident; and
- Damages – How did your injuries affect your life (i.e. medical bills, lost earnings, pain & suffering, physical impairment, etc.).
The value of the claim will not only depend upon all three of these elements, but also upon the availability of insurance or assets that will pay in the event of a successful judgment. In other words, you can have the best case in the world with clear fault and big damages, but if there’s no money to get at the end of the day then your claim will be worthless.
So, given the above, at the beginning of the case your personal injury lawyer will be evaluating whether they can prove the accident was the other person’s fault (and not also your fault), as well as the amounts and types of insurance that are available to recover. However, in the beginning it’s unlikely we will know your damages until all of your injuries have been diagnosed, you have received medical treatment, and we know how your injuries are affecting your life.
Only after all of the above is known will your lawyer be able to accurately gauge what your claim is worth. Please be very careful if a lawyer tells you they know the value of your claim in the very beginning. Often unscrupulous lawyers will promise you the moon just to get you to hire them, only to find out at the end that your case was not worth what you were initially led to believe.
How long will my Personal Injury Claim take?
How long the claim will take will largely depend upon the extent of your injuries and how long your medical treatment lasts. Typically, from the time you complete medical treatment you can usually count on it taking about an additional 60 days or so to gather all of the records, submit the demand and negotiate the insurance company’s highest offer. Once you receive the highest settlement offer it will be up to you whether you want to take the settlement offer or hold out for more money, which will require filing a lawsuit. A lawsuit is the only weapon your lawyer has to use against the insurance company to hold it accountable.
If you decide to file a lawsuit, then be aware this will take some time. The typical time it takes to get from filing the lawsuit to getting to trial in Dallas County is about 18 months. However, you can usually get to mediation where cases are often settled in about 10 months from filing the lawsuit.
It’s important that you know that most insurance companies are now using a strategy where they severely under-offer on your claim to try to force you to take far less than what your claim is worth to avoid the time a lawsuit will take. With some insurance companies this practice has become so prevalent that a good injury lawyer will know that trying to negotiate a settlement is a compete waste of time and instead will immediately file a lawsuit to recover fair compensation for your injuries.
For example, lets say you’re in an auto accident and have whiplash injuries to your neck. You’re referred out to physical therapy that lasts 12 weeks. During this time, while some of your symptoms are improving, you’re continuing to have some occasional numbness into your right hand. Because of these symptoms your doctor recommends an MRI of your neck that shows you have a small disc herniation at one level. You’re sent out to an orthopedic specialist who suggests you undergo an epidural steroid injection. You get the injection and it helps your symptoms. At this point it’s been about 4 months since your accident. You’ve completed medical treatment and have been released by your doctors. Now your personal injury lawyer will gather all of your medical and billing records, submit a settlement demand and negotiate the highest offer from the insurance company.
This takes a couple of months to accomplish. It’s now been about 6 months since your accident. If the offer of settlement from the insurance company is reasonable then your case settles and will be completely resolved in 1-4 weeks from accepting the settlement offer. If not, then your car accident attorney will file a lawsuit. You can expect the case will resolve in 10-18 months from filing the lawsuit in a case like this. While some lawsuits take longer, few will take shorter than this and you can count that it will take at least this long, if not longer.
How are Personal Injury lawyers paid?
I’m sure you’ve seen all the lawyer ads that say “No Fee Unless We Win.” That’s because personal injury lawyers are paid on what’s called a “contingency fee,” which means they get paid a percentage of all money they recover for you on your injury claim. This percentage is usually 33.33% but commonly goes up to 40% if a lawsuit is needed. For more detailed information about how personal injury lawyers are paid, you can check out our blog article How Personal Injury Attorney Fees Work.
Jason Franklin is founder of The Franklin Law Firm, a Dallas Personal Injury law firm that specializes in providing Real Help for Real Injuries to North Texas accident victims injured in a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accidents, or other personal injury cases. Because of his years of experience and record of success, Jason Franklin is frequently invited to speak to lawyer groups about Texas personal injury law. Franklin has been repeatedly recognized by Super Lawyers as being one of the best personal injury trial lawyers in the State of Texas.