Frequently Asked QuestionsHow Much is My Case Worth?
This is the single most frequently asked question about personal injury cases, and justifiably so. But it is not a question a good lawyer will be able to answer when initially interviewing you, so be patient. If you meet with a lawyer who makes all kind of promises and tells you what a great case you have in the initial interview, run away fast! All good lawyers will have a general idea about value, but there are a great many factors that figure in when evaluating the worth of a case, such as issues of liability, comparative negligence, the jurisdiction within which the case will be filed, the extent and type of injuries suffered, and whether or not those injuries are permanent, the amount of time loss from work, etc. A good lawyer will thoroughly investigate these issues before making an evaluation of your case, recommendations whether to settle your case, or whether or not to go to trial. But remember, it is ultimately your decision whether or not to accept an offer, or to go to trial.
How Long Will My Case Take, and Will it go to Trial?
Generally speaking, the more involved and complex your case, the longer it takes. But an experienced lawyer should be able to give you a general idea as to how long your particular case may take. In a personal injury case, it generally is not a good idea to attempt to resolve your claim until you are medically stable, or stationary. That is a point where you are either healed, or where your doctor has reported that you will not improve or heal further. An experienced lawyer also needs to know as much as possible about the long range consequences resulting from your injury, and whether you will be needing medical treatment in the future, and for how long. Whether your case settles before trial or proceeds to trial obviously affects the time involved, as well. So although your lawyer should be able to give you some educated projections on how long your case may take to progress through the legal system, there is no way a definite time frame can be guaranteed.
Most personal injury cases are settled without going to trial, but a large number still proceed to trial. The lawyer who prepares your case as if it was going to go to trial will get the best result via settlement. If your lawyer has a reputation for settling all of his or her cases, your chance of maximizing the settlement potential of your claim is diminished because the insurance companies know this. They may be inclined to offer less than the full value of the claim just to get rid of it because they know the lawyer will settle no matter what. Accordingly, it will be to your advantage to choose an attorney who is an experienced trial lawyer.
How Much Will it Cost Me to have My Case Handled?
Most lawyers handle personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis. This means that the lawyer is paid a percentage of the settlement or verdict amount. When you have a contingency fee agreement, you are not liable to pay attorney fees no matter what the outcome of the case. However, be sure to insist on a written fee agreement with your lawyer. It will detail the percentage of fees, and also spell out "out-of-pocket" expenses (not attorney fees) which are the client's responsibility, such as court filing fees, witness fees, costs of medical reports, etc.
How Do I Select the Right Lawyer for my Case?
As with any other important decision, a little research goes a long way in choosing the right lawyer to handle your case. You obviously want to find the lawyer with the best qualifications in the area where you have a need. Many lawyers are general practitioners who handle a wide variety of cases, but you should try to find one with specialized experience in the type of case or problem that you are experiencing.
In the area of personal injury and medical malpractice, there are quite a few lawyers who handle relatively simple cases, but not too many who regularly handle the more complex cases. You may know someone who has used the lawyer you are going to, so ask them if they were satisfied. Ask the lawyer if he or she handles the type of case you have on a regular basis. If not, ask the lawyer to refer you to another lawyer (who is someone that lawyer respects) to fill your needs. A good lawyer will be very candid and honest with you in response to these questions, and will gladly refer you to someone else if your needs are outside their area of expertise.
How Do I Find Out About a Lawyer's Experience & Qualifications?
The easiest and most direct way to find out is to just ask. The decision you make about what lawyer to retain is an important one, and it is entirely appropriate to ask that lawyer about the specific experience he or she may have with your type of case. It is also entirely appropriate to ask that lawyer for references. You have every right to know if the lawyer you choose is qualified to handle your case. The most direct way is to simply ask. As we stated above, all good lawyers will be very candid and honest with you in response to these questions.
What Kind of Monetary Damages Can I Expect When I am Injured?
OK, you've been injured as the result of the negligence of someone else, and you've heard that you're entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering. But you also have medical bills; the doctor says you can't work for the next several months, but you only have 2 weeks of vacation and 6 days of sick leave accrued; you're car is totaled; you know you're going to need money to pay for future medical expenses, etc. So, just what kind of damages are you entitled to seek?
MEDICAL BILLS ~ You are entitled to be compensated for the reasonable medical expenses you incur for the treatment of the injuries you suffered WHICH are caused by the negligence of others. This includes not only the expenses you are incurring now, but also the future medical expenses you will incur, prescriptive medication if prescribed by your doctor to treat your injuries, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, and other types of medical care as well.
COMPENSATION FOR FUTURE CARE ~ The law allows recovery for future expenses that are medically justified due to your injury. With serious injury cases, this can include the costs of nursing care and assisted living, the costs of making your workplace, home and vehicle accessible to you, etc. Other future care costs that may be recovered include the costs of future counseling, further medical treatment and surgery, medications, vocational retraining and other expenses to assist you in the resumption of living your life again.
PAIN & SUFFERING ~ You can recover compensation for pain & suffering, which in Oregon are called "non-economic" damages. This includes compensation for the physical pain you are suffering now, as well as future pain and suffering; this also includes the emotional distress and mental anguish resulting from your injury, the anxiety, loss of sleep and impairment to your normal day-to-day living.
LOSS OF PAST AND FUTURE INCOME ~ You may be able to recover compensation for wages or self-employment income you have lost as a result of your injuries. And if you have suffered permanent injuries interfering with your ability to work and earn income, you may be compensated for your lost earning capacity, possibly for the rest of your work life. It's also possible that your earning ability may be impaired or compromised by a disability caused by your injuries, and you may be able to obtain compensation for that loss as well.
LOSS OF CONSORTIUM ~ In some cases, your spouse may have a claim for loss of consortium, or loss of services and companionship. This might include your inability to assist with normal household chores you did in the past, recovery for loss of companionship, and impairment or elimination of intimacy, etc.
To learn about the full range of the potential damages you have suffered and for which you may be able to seek recovery, go the "contact us" page, and ask for a personal "one-on-one" consultation, free of charge.
There are time limitations within which you must file a lawsuit for your claim or you will lose your right to do so. You should promptly seek the advice of a qualified attorney to protect your rights!