Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury
- What is a personal injury claim?
- Do I need a personal injury lawyer?
- What will an attorney cost me?
- Will I get more money if I handle the case myself?
- Am I entitled to a “free consultation” with an attorney? What does that mean?
- Will I have to sue?
- What can I expect to get from the insurance company?
- What can I get compensated for in a personal injury claim?
- How much money can I get for my injuries?
- Will my case go to trial?
- What should I look for in a personal injury attorney, and why should I choose Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP?
If you have questions about personal injury claims, contact an experienced personal injury attorney at Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP. Call (916) 774-7200 to discuss your issues in a free initial consultation today. Review our initial consultation checklist to prepare for your appointment.
What Is A ‘Personal Injury Claim’?
In our society, we all agree to live by certain rules. One of those rules is that we will not do things that unreasonably or unnecessarily risk injury to others in our community.
For example, the driver of a vehicle cannot run a red light because that creates a risk of hitting another car and injuring other people. The legal term for breaking a safety rule is “negligence.”
When someone in our community breaks a rule that is designed to protect others from harm, the law provides that the person who broke the rule is responsible or “liable” to compensate the injured person or persons for the harm that was suffered.
There are many different situations in which someone can become liable for breaking safety rules, some of which are the following:
- Serious and catastrophic injuries
- Construction accidents
- Premises liability
- Product liability
- Farm accidents
- Third-party claims
- Vehicle accidents, including car accidents, truck accidents, bus accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, boat accidents, and ATV accidents.
- Wrongful death
A “personal injury claim” is a request that the person, company, municipality or another organization that broke the safety rule and caused injury pay the amount of money that is necessary to compensate, or make up for, the past and future medical expenses, lost income and change in quality of life (“pain and suffering”) suffered by the injured person.
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Do I Need A Personal Injury Lawyer?
One of the questions most potential clients ask is whether or not they need an attorney to handle their personal injury claim in the first place. The answer in most cases is an unequivocal “yes.”
Even cases that seem simple can become complicated because of legal issues, disputed factual issues or because the responsible party simply doesn’t want to meet its obligation to make up for what has happened. The more serious the injuries are, the more compensation that is potentially at stake, and the higher the need to hire a professional to protect your interests and maximize your asset.
There are many reasons an experienced attorney may be necessary in a particular case, but some of the most common are as follows:
- In every case, the injured parties should shield themselves from the insurance company or corporate claims adjusters and investigators who will seek potentially harmful statements and pry into their personal lives in an effort to find any reason to deny full responsibility.
- In most cases, especially in any case where there is a question of who was at fault, immediate and thorough investigation is necessary to preserve evidence and identify potentially liable parties.
- In every case, there is a “statute of limitations” that requires legal action be taken within a period of time or the right to recover compensation is lost — some statutes are as short as six months in California.
A good personal injury attorney knows everything you are legally entitled to recover as “damages,” including all past and future medical expenses, lost income or earning capacity, and pain and suffering, as well as how to document or prove those damages to an insurance company, its lawyers and, if necessary, to a jury.
The insurance company or corporation will pay much more money to settle a case without a lawsuit when it knows that you are represented by an attorney with a reputation for fighting for fair compensation by filing suit if a fair settlement is not offered.
In most cases, there are claims to some of your settlement money referred to as “liens,” which can include a claim by a hospital for an emergency room bill, a claim by your own auto insurance for amounts paid for medical bills under a “medical payments” provision of your policy, a claim by your own health insurance company for medical expenses it paid for medical care, or the health care providers themselves for medical bills. A good attorney knows how to reduce or defeat those claims so there is more money that goes to the injured person from the settlement or recovery.
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What Will An Attorney Cost Me?
You don’t have to pay anything upfront to hire Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP to represent you. We represent you on a contingency fee basis, which means that you don’t pay a fee unless and until there is a settlement or recovery in your case.
The fee is a percentage of the recovery, typically one third, or 33.33 percent, of whatever is recovered. When we represent minors under the age of 18, the fee is 25 percent of what is recovered. Keep in mind that the attorney fee is negotiable in some cases, and if you feel there are reasons a lower fee should be charged, you should ask. If for some reason there is no recovery in your case, you do not owe us anything for attorney fees.
One aspect of the contingency arrangement that most firms don’t talk about on their websites is the case “costs,” which are separate from the attorney fee. At Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP, we pay all costs necessary to investigate and prosecute the case as they are incurred. Every cost paid is itemized for the client when the settlement or recovery is disbursed; there are no hidden costs or markups. These costs are deducted from the settlement or recovery separately from the fee earned. If for some reason there is no recovery in your case, you do not owe us anything for costs.
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Will I Get More Money If I Handle The Case Myself?
Almost always, hiring an experienced attorney can actually increase the amount of money damages recovered; so the answer is generally yes. So, even after paying the attorney’s fees and costs, the client usually ends up with more money in his/her pocket than if he or she attempted to represent himself or herself.
An experienced trial attorney knows what you are entitled to receive as compensation, and will fight to get the best possible result for you. Having a personal injury attorney on your side shows the insurance company that you are serious about protecting your rights. Simply put, the insurance adjuster will be less likely to make a low settlement offer.
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Am I Entitled To A ‘Free Consultation’ With An Attorney? What Does That Mean?
Most personal injury lawyers offer a “free consultation.” What exactly that means varies from attorney to attorney. At Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP, it means that a lawyer will personally talk with you on the phone and meet with you to review all of the relevant information in your case and provide an honest, straightforward answer to each and every question you may have about your rights, the service our firm has to offer, the terms of representation and the suggested strategy for achieving the best result possible in your case. You will get a thorough assessment of your case without charge whether you hire us to represent you or not.
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Will I Have To Sue?
No. The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled before filing a lawsuit. In fact, in less than 20 percent of all personal injury cases is filing a lawsuit necessary. Of course, every case is different, and depending upon the facts of your case, it is impossible to determine whether your case will settle before filing a lawsuit, before reaching the courthouse steps, or will go all the way to a jury trial. A general rule of thumb, however, is this: “As you get closer to the courthouse steps, the insurance company gets nervous and usually agrees to be more reasonable.”
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What Can I Expect To Get From The Insurance Company?
In short: a low settlement offer. If you are dealing with insurance adjusters, they assume you do not know anything and treat you accordingly. They try to tell you what your case is worth, that you do not need an attorney, and you can trust them to be fair and save your attorneys’ fees. At some point, most people learn the exact opposite and call an attorney. In fact, they realize it was all a lie designed to take advantage of them and get them to accept a low settlement.
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What Can I Get Compensated For In A Personal Injury Claim?
There are two types of damages, general damages — pain and suffering — and special damages — out-of-pocket expenses like medical bills, lost wages, co-payments, mileage, etc.
The amount of damages you are entitled to depends upon the nature and severity of your injuries, the duration of your physical and emotional pain and suffering, the amount of your economic hardship or financial loss, the amount of your decreased earning potential and physical impairment. The following is a sample of some of the typical types of damages you can be compensated for in a personal injury case:
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Lost wages, including overtime
- Out-of-pocket expenses (transportation charges, etc.)
- Pain and suffering
- Physical disability
- Permanent scars
- Emotional trauma
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment
- Loss of love and affection
- Mental disability
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How Much Money Can I Get For My Injuries?
The law says that when someone breaks a safety rule and causes injury, that person must make up for what has happened to the injured individual. “Compensate” means to balance or make up for. The following are the “damages” (the money) that an injured person is entitled to receive in a personal injury case as compensation for what has happened to him or her:
- Past medical expenses: These include the cost of all medical care received as a result of the injury at the time of settlement or recovery. Sometimes, the medical bills would have been paid by your health insurance or auto insurance, sometimes they would have been paid by you, sometimes they remain unpaid and sometimes there is some combination of these scenarios.
- Until recently, the injured person was able to recover the actual billed amount regardless of what was paid. However, the recent California Supreme Court decision in Howell v. HamiltonMeats has changed that and has created a legal maze that makes the calculation of these damages more complicated than ever. At Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP, we know how to work with this adverse decision to your best advantage.
- Future medical expenses: These include the cost of all medical care that the injured person will require in the future as a result of the injury. Determination of these amounts first requires an expert medical opinion by a doctor familiar with your condition to determine what medical care will be required in the future. In some cases, an additional medical cost expert and economist are necessary to calculate these amounts.
- Past lost income or earning capacity: This includes the amount of time you have missed from your occupation due to your injuries times the amount you would have earned during that time. You are entitled to compensation, even if you used sick leave or vacation benefits during the time missed from work since these are earned benefits you lost due to the injury.
- Calculation of lost income can be more complicated in some cases than others — for instance, where the injured person is self-employed or works on a commission basis. In some cases, a vocational expert and economist are necessary to calculate the income lost.
- Future lost income or lost earning capacity: This includes the amount of money you would have earned in the future but will not be able to due to your injury. In most cases, a medical opinion establishing the limitations on the injured person’s ability to work is necessary together with opinions of a vocational expert and economist to calculate the amount of income likely to be lost in the future.
- Past pain and suffering: This includes an amount to compensate for the actual pain experienced and all of the consequences of the injury, including the effort required for recovery, the effect on activities of daily living, and the effect on the injured person’s overall quality of life as a result of the injury. This is one of the most personal and subjective elements of damages and is usually the most contested part of a case.
- Future pain and suffering: This includes an amount to compensate for the actual pain, further effort at recovery, effect on activities of daily living and effect on the injured person’s overall quality of life that will occur in the future as a result of the injury. This is one of the most personal and subjective elements of damages and is usually the most contested part of a case.
At Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP, we understand not only what you are entitled to recover, but also how to document all of your damages and present them in a way that maximizes the opportunity for a fair settlement. If the responsible party will not pay fair compensation, then we are willing and able to prove these damages to a jury during a trial.
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Will My Case Go To Trial?
There are many factors that can affect what happens in your case, but some cases can be settled without a lawsuit ever being filed. When possible, resolving the case without a lawsuit is the best-case scenario because it avoids the time, cost, inconvenience, and the stress of litigation. At Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP, we work to thoroughly document your claim and attempt to negotiate a fair recovery before filing suit.
Within the last 10 years, it has become increasingly difficult to settle cases without filing suit, mainly because insurance companies and corporations have made an industrywide standard procedure to offer minimal compensation to people injured by the carelessness or negligence of their policyholders and employees.
Unfortunately, it is often necessary to file a lawsuit to get fair compensation. Once a case is in “litigation,” Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP works to prepare it as if it were going to trial. This ensures that most lawsuits are settled during litigation on terms that are favorable to our clients without going to trial.
In a small percentage of cases, when an insurance company or corporation, or its lawyers, will not settle a lawsuit fairly, a jury trial is necessary. At Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP, we prepare every case as if it were going to trial so that we can present a case to the jury that will result in the best outcome possible.
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What Should I Look For In A Personal Injury Attorney And Why Should I Choose Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP?
In today’s world, consumers have more choices than ever, including a wide choice of personal injury attorneys. There are several factors that you should consider when hiring an attorney, including the following:
- Experience: It may seem obvious, but having an attorney with extensive experience in the area of personal injury is critical. The type of experience the lawyer has is more important than the number of years in practice. An attorney who does not have extensive litigation or trial experience is unlikely to know the best possible value of your case or how to seek the best recovery through litigation if necessary.
- Results: The results received in those cases are also important. At Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP, we have a successful track record in thousands of cases with every conceivable scenario. We have obtained superior results by prelawsuit settlements, mediations, arbitrations, at the courtroom steps and by jury verdict. We have seen everything and know what it takes to get the best possible recovery.
- Communication: The ability to communicate with your attorney and staff is a fundamental element of the attorney-client relationship. The most common complaint we hear about other attorneys is that they do not tell their clients what is going on with their case. At Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP, we pledge that you will be informed of the status of your case and that you will get clear, easy to understand explanations of your options at each stage of the case so that you can make informed decisions. You pay good money for the legal services you are provided, and you deserve to have the benefit of those legal services.
- Integrity: At Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP, we feel it is important that your attorney conduct him or herself with integrity and with the highest ethical standards. We are all familiar with the “ambulance chaser” stereotype, and it is not a favorable image, to say the least. Those are not our values. We strive to conduct ourselves in a way that gives us credibility and respect both in the legal community and in the public realm.
- Resources: Insurance companies and corporations have nearly unlimited resources. It is very important that your lawyer has resources, too. If your lawyer cannot afford to conduct the right investigation or hire the right experts to prove your case, you will not receive compensation for all your losses. If your attorney is worried about paying his or her monthly bills, he or she may be anxious to settle your case, even if it means accepting less than your case is worth.
At Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP, our success means that we have the resources to fight the insurance companies and their lawyers, all the way to a jury trial if necessary. We have access to the best investigators and experts in the community. The only consideration in your case will be what makes sense for you and what is in your best interest.
- Service: In our modern, fast-paced world, it’s easy to forget that there was a time that “customer service” was the mantra of every business. At Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP, we believe in good old-fashioned customer service. That means getting to know our clients on a personal level and giving them support and compassion during the tough times in their lives, not just processing a legal case. You pay good money for our legal services, and we feel you should get your money’s worth. We invite you to read through past client testimonials and see for yourself our commitment to serving clients well.
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Have A Question About Your Personal Injury We Didn’t Answer? Call Us.
If you have a question we didn’t answer, ask us. It’s free. Talk to one of the experienced personal injury attorneys at Rosenthal & Kreeger LLP, with offices in Sacramento and Roseville. Call (916) 774-7200 or complete our brief online form.