Common Personal Injury Questions & Answers
YOU ASK WE ANSWER
Do I have a case? Every case is different and there are many factors that determine whether you are likely to win if you bring a claim for personal injuries. The most important factors are “fault” and “causation.” In Georgia, a jury can assign a percentage of fault to every person who bears fault for causing an injury, even non-parties. If a jury determines that the Plaintiff is 50% or more at fault, the Plaintiff will recover nothing. If the Plaintiff is less than 50% at fault, the Plaintiff may recover if the Defendant’s negligent act “caused” Plaintiff’s injuries.
What is my case worth?
There is no “catch-all” formula for assigning a value to cases. There are several things to consider when attempting to place a monetary value on a case. Examples include:
- whether you have a lawyer,
- the severity of your injuries,
- the relative fault of all parties,
- the location or “venue” where your case will be filed,
- the credibility of witnesses,
- whether the defendant is a person or corporation,
- whether you have any pre-existing injuries, and
- the amount of insurance available
Some lawyers will tell you that your case is worth some multiplier of your medical bills. This is nonsense. Every case is different and you need an experienced personal injury attorney to help you evaluate and maximize the value of your case.
How long do cases take to settle?
A case can settle at any time. First, your attorney will need to investigate various aspects of insurance, obtain medical information, contact witnesses and pursue other “pre-suit” discovery items. That usually takes around 2-3 months. Thereafter, if appropriate, a demand for settlement will be made to the at-fault party.
If the case cannot be settled pre-suit, a lawsuit must be filed. In Georgia, defendants have 30 days to answer a lawsuit and then there is a statutory prescribed period of discovery for 6 months. Discovery is the period when parties exchange information and obtain testimony from the parties and witnesses involved in the case. Once discovery is over, dispositive motions may be filed by either side. If the judge allows the case to proceed to a jury, the case will usually be placed on a trial calendar and your case will proceed to trial.
How much do attorneys cost?
We offer our services on a “contingency fee” basis. This means that you will not pay us a penny unless we obtain a recovery for you. When you are injured by someone else, you will likely face mounting medical bills and the last thing you need is another bill. We will advance all of your legal case expenses and you won’t pay any attorneys’ fees unless there is a recovery.
How do I find the best lawyer?
The best lawyer for you is one that you can trust. How do you know whether you can trust a lawyer to handle your case properly? Ask the following questions:
- Have you tried these types of personal injury cases before? Many lawyers advertise that they handle cases that they have no experience with. Do not assume based on advertising that an attorney has actual experience handling a case like yours. Ask for specific examples of cases similar to yours that the lawyer handled in the past year.
- How many cases do you handle at one time? The most effective personal injury attorneys limit the number of cases they handle at any given time. Why? They realize that they cannot maximize the value of each client’s case unless they are able to devote the necessary time and resources to put every case in the best possible position for success. Be very careful about hiring an attorney that is personally handling more than 50 cases at a time. He or she will not likely have the time or energy to effectively represent you.
- How many cases have you tried before a jury? The best lawyers maximize the value of cases by preparing them for trial. Insurance companies know which lawyers are willing to take a case to trial. They also know which attorneys will settle cases for pennies on the dollar because they are scared to face a jury. Make sure you hire a trial lawyer not just a settlement lawyer.
- Will you personally handle my case? Ask the lawyer whether he or she will be the person handling your case. All too often, clients initially meet with a partner and later realize that their case has been assigned to an inexperienced associate attorney. Sometimes the lawyer will take the case and immediately refer it out to a different law firm. Make sure you know the lawyer’s true intentions before you hire him.
- Can I have your cell phone number? The answer to this question will tell you a lot about whether the lawyer is serious about your case. If a lawyer gives you his cell phone number, you know that he has a sincere desire to stay in touch with you about your case. If you are forced to go through paralegals and associates to get “permission” to speak with your lawyer, you may want to think twice about whether you will get the lawyer’s full attention.
- Will you get me more money than other attorneys? If your lawyer says yes, leave his office and find someone else. Why? No lawyer can guarantee you a favorable result. All that we can guarantee is that we will do everything possible to maximize the value of your case. You should always ask a lawyer about his or her plans to put your case in the best possible position for a favorable resolution.
- What problems do you foresee with my case? The best lawyers are not afraid to tell you about the weaknesses in your case. During initial meetings, many lawyers promise prospective clients the sun, moon, and stars in order to secure the person as a client. False promises are not what you need. You need to know the strengths of your case as well as the weaknesses. You also need to know what the lawyer plans to do to combat any weaknesses. Flush all this out during the initial interview so you will know you are in for.
- What percentage of your cases are referrals from other lawyers? Lawyers know which lawyers are the best in their field and they routinely refer cases to other lawyers they trust. If more than half of a lawyer’s cases come from other attorneys, there is a good change that he or she is well respected in the legal community.
Should I accept the Insurance Company’s Settlement Offer?
The insurance company has one goal in settlement negotiations: Pay you as little as possible. In each claim, the insurance adjuster has a certain amount of “authority.” This is the amount her supervisors have authorized her to settle the claim for. The adjuster’s goal in all settlement negotiations is to settle to claim for less than her “authority.”
Adjusters rarely tell you what their “authority” is. She may refer to her “authority” but if she gives you a dollar figure, chances are that it is not the most she can pay. If the adjuster has $50,000 of authority and convinces you to settle your case for $40,000, she has just saved her company $10,000. Adjusters that save their company a lot of money will likely be rewarded with raises and promotions.
If you receive a low settlement offer, do not panic. The adjuster is probably testing you to see if you are naïve enough to accept the lowball offer. Don’t take the low offer personally. Instead, write the adjuster a letter explaining why your claim is worth much more than the insurance company’s offer.
I highly recommend hiring a personal injury attorney that can help you with these negotiations. Good personal injury attorneys are usually able to substantially increase the amount of the adjuster’s offer. If your claim cannot be settled without filing a lawsuit, you need a trial lawyer that will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Choose your lawyer carefully.
We offer free consultations and will be happy to discuss your case and help you decide your best options moving forward with your personal injury claim.