Q: Can I afford to hire a lawyer? What should I do?
A: Personal injury lawyers typically get paid only if you recover monetary damages. This is known as working on a “contingency” basis. If your case is lost, the law firm does not receive any money from you.
Q: How do I know if I have a case?
A: If you have been injured or traumatized and believe it is the fault of someone else (including a company, a person, a defective premise, or pet), then you may have a personal injury claim. A professional personal injury firm can determine whether or not you have a personal injury case.
Upon appointment, we will provide you a free, no-obligation consultation. During this consultation, we will examine the facts of your case and make a determination whether or not to proceed with a lawsuit.
Most personal injury law firms work only on a percentage based fee, meaning they get paid a pre-set amount of your award. In Connecticut, the typical contingency fee is one-third of the gross amount recovered, plus expenses such as Court filing fees, deposition fees and medical record and report retrieval fees. The contingency fee tends to reduce the amount of frivolous lawsuits, because lawyers will spend time on cases they think they can secure a successful recovery.
If we agree to handle your case, you typically pay us absolutely nothing until you are awarded a settlement or judgment, and then your payment only comes out of that settlement or judgment award.
Q: How does insurance play a role in the personal injury claim?
A: Nearly every state, including Connecticut, requires automobile owners and drivers to be insured. If you are involved in an automobile accident, the likelihood is that the other driver is insured. What you should also know is, if you are injured by another auto driver, even as a pedestrian or bicyclist, you may be entitled to money. If that person does not have automobile insurance, you may still be entitled to recover money for your injuries through your own automobile coverage you are required to maintain. Every Connecticut automobile insurance policy, including your own, is required to have UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE. That is the coverage you pay for when you pay your premium, which covers you in case you are injured by an uninsured driver. You also have what is called UNDER-INSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE in your auto policy. Under-insured Motorist Coverage applies if the party that hurt you (tortfeasor) has insurance coverage, but not enough to fairly compensate you for your injuries. For example, if you have Uninsured/Under-insured Motorist Coverage of $300,000 and the tortfeasor has only a $25,000 auto policy, and the $25,000 is paid to you, you could be further compensated. You would have an available $300,000 less, $25,000 received, or $275,000 additional Under-insured Motorist automobile coverage to compensate you for your injuries.
Many people don’t know that HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE covers many types of claims in addition to Defective Premises and fall downs. Homeowners Insurance covers the negligent conduct of named insured and resident relatives in the household, negligent and strict liability dog bites, etc. It does not cover intentional acts. So, for example, if a family member isn’t careful and swings a golf club and injures the eye of his neighbor, homeowners insurance provides coverage. If the neighbor’s dog bites your young child, leaving permanent facial scarring, the neighbor’s homeowners insurance covers the incident.
Q: How does insurance play a role at trial?
A: In Connecticut at a trial, the jury is not told whether the person at fault for the injuries to the victim has insurance or not. This antiquated rule dates back hundreds of years where insurance companies were more despised, and it was deemed too prejudicial to let the jurors know there was insurance coverage. Also, because the compensation would not be coming out of the personal pocket of the person at fault. Since jurors are not informed of insurance coverage, jurors sometimes incorrectly assume that no insurance coverage exists and the defendant is personally liable for payment. Most juries correctly conclude that the injured victim and attorney would not be undertaking such a strenuous trial procedure if there was no practical means of actual recovery. Simply put, most jurors understand auto insurance is mandatory and homeowners insurance exists, and hundreds of hours spent preparing and proceeding with the claim is not intended as an exercise in futility.
Q: What kind of monetary compensation will I get?
A: Each case varies, but you may be compensated for a number of things including medical related expenses, past and future (including physical therapy and medication), lost wages, past and future (including overtime and potential future wages), pain and suffering, emotional trauma, embarrassment, (the human aspect of compensation), property damage, and any fees associated with the case in your day-to-day life.
Q: How soon should I file a lawsuit?
A: You should contact a personal injury law firm as quickly after the incident as possible. Try to document the incident with police and medical records and avoid signing any statement or papers from anyone else, or giving a recorded statement until you have consulted with an attorney.
Your case may still be handled even though the incident occurred long ago. However, most negligent personal injury cases must be put in suit within two years of the date of incident. The failure to file a lawsuit in a timely manner may well preclude you from any right of recovery for monetary compensation. There are exceptions, so it is imperative that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
It is strongly advised not to speak with or settle your claim without first speaking to a lawyer. Insurance company adjusters and lawyers are well schooled in trapping unsuspecting victims. The best rule is to seek legal counsel as quickly as possible after an accident. Insurance companies know their rights and you should too. Moreover, after an accident, insurance company claims adjusters are working immediately on the claim. They are not working for you; they are working to minimize payout for their shareholders.
Q: What happens during a personal injury lawsuit?
A: A case can be a lengthy procedure or a relatively short one. It often depends on the nature of the injuries, the extent of the liability, and attitude of the insurance company. Some insurance companies are notorious at low balling claims. Others are more respectful. Some injuries take years to heal. Some court jurisdictions take longer to get to trial than others. What you should know is that in our office every case, whether eight figures or five figures, is prepared as if it will be tried. Approximately 85% of all cases settle, however, we find that a case prepared for trial secures the greatest value. Furthermore, we will not begin to negotiate a settlement until the extent of your injury is determined. This generally means that you have completed medical treatment and have reached maximum medical improvement. Our firm will determine the facts of your case and will contact the legal representation of the company or person against whom the claim is made.
Your participation in the case is usually minimal until trial. You will have to sign answers to certain standard information required to be provided the other side. Thereafter, a deposition is typically noticed. We will prepare you for the deposition and be present with you at your deposition. The deposition is a standard procedure and usually not like what you see on television.
Q: What should I do if I’m ready to seek legal advice?
A: The most important thing to do is to contact a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation. Only with experienced and professional legal counsel can you truly reclaim your rights.
Q: What’s the difference between a civil suit and criminal suit?
A: A civil suit is any lawsuit filed against someone else (or some entity) seeking monetary compensation. Personal injury lawsuits are a type of civil suit brought by the injured victim, or his or her representative against another party responsible for causing the injury.
Criminal lawsuits are a kind of suit filed by the government against individuals or entities (such as companies) seeking social redress. Criminal lawsuits seek some form of punishment not limited to monetary fine, including incarceration, probation, or other forms of law enforcement action.
Q: Do I need to hire a personal injury lawyer in my city or town?
A: No, but it is recommended that your personal injury law firm should at least be from your state. Personal injury law firms who operate in your community, or in the community where the injury took place, may also know more about the area, and thus, more about your case. Personal injury lawyers have many contacts in the community, police and government that can help your case as well.
We recommend that the personal law firm you choose have a high level of experience in trying personal injury cases.
Q: What if I was partly at fault for the accident?
A: Connecticut negligence law applies comparative responsibility law. This gives injured victims the right to recover personal injury damages even if they themselves were partly at fault. Comparative responsibility means that as long as an injured victim was not more than 50% at fault for the accident the victim may recover, however, the recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault found against the victim. In other words, if the full recovery was $100,000 and the injured victim was 25% at fault for the accident, the victim would recover $75,000.