A personal injury is an injury to a person’s body, mind or emotions (as opposed to an injury to a person’s property). A personal injury lawsuit is a case that alleges this type of injury. Personal injury lawsuits are often filed because the defendant’s negligent behavior caused an injury to the plaintiff.
We represent clients in personal injury lawsuits arising from:
- Car accidents, including uninsured and under insured motorist claims
- Other accidents, including injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists
- Medical malpractice, including birth injuries, misdiagnosis, surgery errors and prescription mistakes
- Unsafe property, including cases of inadequate security, dog bites and slip and fall cases
- Defective products, including automobile defects
- Workplace accidents, including workers’ compensation claims
- Construction accidents
- Nursing home neglect and abuse
- Slip and falls
- Wrongful death
Money damages may be awarded to compensate you for the pain and suffering caused by your injury and for other expenses and costs that flow from it.
You may be able to recover damages for your physical pain and suffering as well as for emotional distress. In determining the amount of damages, the jury takes into account the nature, duration and extent of the injury and whether a pre-existing condition was aggravated by the injury. Factors like any disability, disfigurement or shortened life expectancy resulting from the injury are also considered. If a case settles before trial, similar factors are taken into account in arriving at the amount of the settlement.
An award or settlement may also include economic damages, including medical expenses and work losses (such as lost earnings, profits or time away from work.)
In a wrongful death case, a lawsuit is filed in the name of the personal representative of the deceased person for the benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin. Damages may be awarded for, among other things, grief, sorrow and mental suffering.
Can I fire my personal injury attorney?
In ideal circumstances, you and your attorney will meet your obligations to each other throughout the period of representation. However, as in any relationship, disputes and problems sometimes arise. You have the right to fire your attorney, and it is easy to do.
If there is a dispute between you and your attorney, and if attempts to resolve it have not been fruitful, you may be able to get better results from a different lawyer. If you believe your interests may be better served by a new attorney, contact Philadelphia Injury Lawyers. We will fairly assess whether switching attorneys is in your best interests and, if it is, we will do everything we can do to make sure the transition is an easy one.
If you choose to hire our attorney, we will guide you through the process of switching representation. You will, of course, sign a written agreement for representation with your new attorney. We will make sure that your old attorney is notified that he or she has been discharged and should perform no more work on your case. We will obtain your case files from your old attorney.
You may be entitled to a refund of any fees paid in advance and not yet earned by the attorney, and your previous attorney may be entitled to compensation for costs advanced as well as a portion of the fees when a settlement or award is obtained. When you consult with us, we will discuss the financial consequences of switching representation. However, hiring a new attorney will not cost you more money than what you originally agreed to pay.
The court and opposing counsel will also be informed of the change so that notices and correspondence can be directed to the right place. Depending on how far the case has progressed and what deadlines are approaching, your new attorney may wish to move for a continuance to allow for more time to prepare your case.
How Do I Know If I Have a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Just because you have been injured in an accident doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a successful personal injury claim.
If you have been injured or lost a family member due to someone else’s carelessness, you are probably wondering whether you have a personal injury claim. In order to recover monetary compensation, you must prove three things.
Three Basic Requirements for a Personal Injury Claim
- The responsible party was careless (negligent). For example, if a truck driver crashed into an innocent victim’s car because he ignored a stop sign, the truck driver, under the law, would be considered negligent.
- The negligence caused the personal injury. In the above example, if the innocent victim sustained a broken arm and severe headaches as a result of the crash, the truck driver’s negligence would be considered to have caused the personal injury.
- The injury resulted in harm (compensatory damages). In the above example, if the innocent victim’s broken arm and headaches resulted in medical bills, lost wages, and/or pain and suffering, the injury would be considered to have resulted in compensatory damages (i.e., damages for which an injured party may be compensated). Click here to read more about these and other types of compensatory damages.
Why Hire An Attorney?
If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one due to someone else’s carelessness, you have the right to receive monetary compensation for your injury. Your recovery likely will include compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, past and future medical expenses, and financial and personal injuries that will continue to affect you for months and possibly years to come. An experienced, well-versed personal injury attorney is your best asset to get you the compensation you deserve. The right outcome, however, requires the right attorney. Having the right attorney on your side can mean the difference between winning and losing your lawsuit. It will also help to ensure that you receive maximum compensation for your injury.
4 Essential Characteristics To Look For When Choosing Your Personal Injury Attorney
Choosing the right personal injury attorney can mean the difference between winning and losing your case. Make sure that your personal injury attorney has these four essential characteristics:
1. Experience You Can Trust
There are several stages to a lawsuit, each with its own twists and turns depending on your specific injury and accident. During a lawsuit, an attorney makes countless important determinations and decisions – how much a case is worth, when to settle, when to go to trial, how best to handle an insurance company that refuses to negotiate in good faith, and more – each requiring the kind of expert decision-making that only comes with years of experience. Experienced attorneys are also up-to-date on legal developments and changes in the law, and they likely have credibility with insurance companies and the respect of the opposing counsel.
2. Proven Track Record of Success
Many personal injury cases are resolved through settlement, in which your attorney and the opposing attorney negotiate a financial payment for your injury. Cases that cannot be resolved through settlement go to trial, where a jury determines the amount of damages you recover. Experienced personal injury attorneys will not cave in to opposing counsel or to a big insurance company. Instead of accepting a quick payout or mediocre settlement, the attorney may recommend to push for a better offer or try the case. The attorney you choose should have a successful track record of settlements and trial verdicts. The law firm should be able to point to thousands of successful cases and millions of dollars recovered for their clients.
3. Personal Service
Personal injury lawsuits can last from several months to two or more years, so having an excellent relationship with your attorney is important. Good attorneys will understand your needs and be responsive to them. When you ask a question, they will listen carefully and answer it. When you are feeling overwhelmed or confused, they will steer you in the right direction. When you are hurt and suffering, they will provide you comfort and support. The personal injury attorney you choose should be committed not only to your case, but also to you.
4. No Fees Unless You Win
Avoid choosing a personal injury attorney who charges you for his or her services even if you don’t make a recovery. Good personal injury attorneys work on a “contingency basis,” meaning they only get paid if they are successful in getting compensation for you and your family.
What Happens During A Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Understanding The Personal Injury Lawsuit Process:
From Hiring an Attorney to Having Your Case Tried Before a Jury
Most people have never been involved in a lawsuit. As such, many accident victims and their families are anxious about pursuing a personal injury claim. It is true that a lawsuit could result in a trial before a jury, but most don’t, and the process should not be a stressful one. The steps below will help you understand the various stages of a personal injury lawsuit, from the initial consultation with an attorney through the resolution of your case.
1. Meeting with a Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s carelessness, the first step, after getting medical treatment, is to consult an experienced personal injury attorney to get a professional opinion as to whether you have a valid claim. Bring any supporting documentation, medical records, and notes you’ve taken about your situation. Most personal injury lawyers provide free consultations, so steer clear of lawyers who charge fees just to meet with you.
2. Evaluating the Attorney
Having the right personal injury attorney on your side can mean the difference between winning and losing your case, so choose yours carefully. Ask the attorney about his or her level of expertise and track record handling your type of case, their policy regarding communicating with clients, and any other questions you might have. At the initial meeting, the attorney will ask you many questions in order to get a full understanding of your case. Be wary of any attorney who, during the initial meeting, makes promises about how much money you can expect to receive. Good lawyers need more time to truly evaluate the value of your case, and they sometimes need to get experts involved too.
3. Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney and Understanding How They Get Paid
Most personal injury attorneys are paid on a “contingency” basis, which means there is no fee unless your case is successful (i.e., they don’t get paid unless you get paid). If you are awarded monetary compensation, the lawyer’s fee is based on a percentage of the total recovery, usually 25% to 40%, and is paid at the very end of the case. Once you agree to hire an attorney, you will be asked to sign a client contract that specifies the exact attorney fee. Make sure to ask any questions you have about the fee before you sign the contract.
4. Investigating Your Case
Your attorney will research your case at this stage to fully understand how you were injured and the extent of your injuries, damages, and costs. He or she will then contact and deal with the insurance company directly and possibly with the attorney representing the party who injured you. Your attorney will keep you aware of any negotiations and significant developments throughout the lawsuit process. Your focus should be on getting the medical attention you need and returning to your normal routine.
5. Settling Your Case Prior to Filing a Lawsuit
Many personal injury claims, especially ones involving car accidents, are resolved before a lawsuit is filed. As your attorney negotiates with the insurance company representing the party who injured you, a monetary offer may be presented to your attorney to settle the case. If a settlement offer is made, your attorney will inform you about the offer and give his or her opinion on whether you should accept it. You ultimately decide if the settlement is acceptable.
6. Filing Suit In Court – Pretrial Phases
If an adequate settlement cannot be reached, your attorney will file a lawsuit in court. A judge will then set a deadline for each phase of the lawsuit process. The process can take several months to several years depending on the complexity of your case.
Complaint and Answer Phase. The Complaint is the document detailing your allegations regarding how you were injured and the extent of your damages. It is usually filed in the county where your injury occurred or where the party who injured you (defendant) resides. After filing, the Complaint is personally served on (delivered to) the defendant(s). The defendant must “answer” the Complaint in a set period of time, usually 30 days. The Answer is the document in which the defendant admits to or denies the allegations of the Complaint.
Discovery Phase. During this phase, each party gathers testimony, evidence, documents and information from each other and from third parties regarding the case. Written discovery includes questions, also known as interrogatories, and requests for documents. Oral discovery, known as depositions, also takes place. During a deposition, witnesses, experts, and each party are questioned by a lawyer. Your involvement is crucial, so be sure that your attorney has your latest contact information.
Motions Phase. The defendant can file a motion before or after discovery is complete to get the Court to take action on their behalf. The motion can ask the Court to dismiss one or more of your claims or even the entire case. Your attorney typically has 28 days to file a written response in opposition to the motion. Sometimes a hearing is held so that the Court can consider both sides of the arguments.
7. Going To Mediation
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can be requested at any time during the court case. It involves both parties, their attorneys, and a neutral mediator who acts like a referee between the parties. During mediation, both sides present their case and engage in settlement negotiations as facilitated by the mediator. Mediations are non-binding, meaning that the parties can accept or reject the offer.
8. Going to Trial
When a case goes to trial, your attorney presents his or her side to the judge or jury, then the party who injured you (defendant) puts on their defense. After each side presents their arguments, the judge or jury determines: (1) if the defendant is liable (legally responsible) for your injuries and harm, and (2) if so, the amount of damages the defendant must pay you.
A personal injury trial usually consists of six phases:
- Jury selection
- Opening statements
- Witness testimony and cross-examination
- Closing arguments
- Jury instruction
- Jury deliberation and verdict
9. Post Trial
Sometimes your case is not over even if a jury gave a verdict in your favor. The defense could appeal the case and ask a higher (appellate) court to reconsider the verdict. If an appeal is not brought, it can still take some time to distribute the monetary award. Before you get paid, your lawyer is required to first pay any companies that have a legal claim to some of the money, known as a lien, out of a special escrow account. After that, your attorney simply writes you a check and the money is yours to keep. Your personal injury lawsuit is now over.
The lawsuit process is complex, with many twists and turns, each requiring expert decision-making skills on the part of an attorney. Be sure your personal injury attorney has expertise in cases like yours and a proven track record of success. And since your lawsuit may last for months to years, make sure you have a good rapport with your attorney. Remember, you have only one opportunity to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries or loss, and having the right attorney on your side can mean the difference between winning and losing your lawsuit. Choose yours wisely.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s carelessness and are considering filing a lawsuit, you’re probably asking yourself: “How much is my case worth?”
As explained below, there are two basic types of damages for which injury victims can be awarded monetary compensation – “compensatory damages” and “punitive damages” – and two potential limitations on these damages.
Types of Compensation
1. “Compensatory” damages. Compensatory damages are, as its name implies, damages that compensate you for your injuries and related financial loss. Depending on the nature and extent of your injuries, you may be entitled to recover the following compensatory damages:
Medical bills. You are entitled to recover the total amount of your medical bills incurred as a result of your injuries. You are also entitled to recover the cost of future medical care, if any, you require as a result of your injuries.
Lost wages. If you are unable to work because of your injuries, you are entitled to recover your current and future lost wages.
Pain and suffering. You are entitled to recover damages to compensate you for your physical discomfort and distress, as well as your mental and emotional trauma. In some states, such as Wisconsin, there are limits on the amount you may recover for pain and suffering.
Loss of normal life. If your injuries prevent you from enjoying the pleasurable aspects of life, such as hobbies, exercise, and the like, you may recover damages for what is referred to as “loss of normal life.”
Other damages. In addition to the common categories of compensatory damages listed above, other damages may be applicable depending on the nature of your injuries. These include loss of consortium, disfigurement, increased risk of future harm, shortened life expectancy, and future care-taking expenses.
2. “Punitive” (or punishment) damages. Punitive damages refer to a sum of money, often very significant, that goes above and beyond compensating you for your injuries. Punitive damages are intended to punish the guilty party for extremely reckless or intentional behavior. Examples include a car company that leaves faulty brakes in a car model rather than issuing a recall, or a doctor that intentionally performs an unnecessary surgery. Punitive damages are reserved for only the most extreme cases of reprehensible conduct. An attorney will be able to tell you if your case may qualify for punitive damages.
Potential Limitations on the Extent of Your Monetary Recovery
There are two major factors that can affect the extent (maximum or partial) of your monetary recovery:
1. Who is at fault for your injuries? The extent of your monetary compensation will depend, in part, on who is at fault for your injuries. If someone else is entirely at fault, then you are entitled to receive all of your compensatory damages. If you are entirely at fault, then you are not entitled to recover any compensatory damages.
But what happens if you are partially at fault and someone else is partially at fault for your injuries? That depends on the law in the state where your injuries occurred. Illinois is a “comparative negligence” jurisdiction, which means that a judge or jury will examine the facts of your case and assess each party’s relative fault.
As long as you are no more than 50% at fault for your injuries, you are entitled to recover compensatory damages. Your damages will, however, be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you were awarded $1 million in damages, but were found to be 30% at fault for your injuries, then your damages would be reduced by 30%, or $300,000, and your total recovery would be $700,000.
2. Did you attempt to “mitigate” your damages? When you’ve been injured because of someone else’s carelessness, you have an obligation to “mitigate” your damages, which means you must avoid aggravating your injuries. Generally, an injured party must attempt to minimize his or her injuries by seeking prompt medical attention and following through with the medical provider’s instructions.
To schedule a free consultation about your case, call us at (215) 298-9143, or send us an e-mail and one of our Personal Injury Attorneys will respond promptly.