The 12 Most Commonly Asked Personal Injury Law Questions

Being injured by another in an accident or due to negligent acts can be a confusing and difficult experience. As if its not enough to have to deal with potentially life altering injuries, most injured victims struggle to navigate the complex process of dealing with multiple insurance companies, hospitals and injury lawyers. In an effort to provide a general overview, our team of injury attorneys put together this list of 12 of the most commonly asked questions from our personal injury clients. 

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How Much Are Lawyers' Fees in Personal Injury Cases?

To provide you with the best possible representation in personal injury cases, attorneys will charge a contingency fee. This fee differs from hourly fees, because the attorney will not collect the fee until the case is done. If there is no resolution, the attorney will not take a fee. The contingency percentage is usually one-third of the gross settlement. If a trial is involved that fee may increase to forty percent. All costs are your responsibility whether or not there is a recovery. Attorneys can front those costs and recover them after your case resolves. The ethics rules require a signed disbursement sheet showing the breakdown of the settlement.

How Are Personal Injury Settlements Paid?

If someone else injures you and they are liable for the injuries caused, any settlements of possible legal claims will typically be paid to you by either an insurance company that covers the liability imposed upon the potential Defendant(s) or the potential Defendant(s) themselves. Most often, these funds are processed through the attorneys of the respective parties. The settlement funds will often be paid by an insurance company if there is insurance coverage or directly from a defendant or potential defendant in your case if they are personally liable. Personal injury settlements won’t occur until your case either settles or a jury awards you compensation. Once those contingencies occur, the insurance company will typically send a check to your attorney for the settlement or jury award where coverage appliest. The check will be made out to you and your attorney but both of you will usually need to sign the insurance check. Your injury attorney will then deposit the check into their trust account. Once the check clears the attorney’s trust account, you should be sent a disbursement document that shows you how the funds will be disbursed. The disbursement sheet should be detailed enough for you to understand where all the settlement funds will be allocated and should breakdown any medical bills paid, liens, or other costs related to the accident or injury. Once reviewed and signed by you, the attorney will disburse a check to you out of the trust account for the net balance owed to you as shown in the disbursement sheet.

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How Long Does it Take to Get a Settlement in an Injury Case?

If you were injured because someone else was negligent, it’s only natural to wonder how long it will take for the whole ordeal to be over so you can get back to your life. As injury lawyers, the best case scenario for our client is to reach a resolution of their claim, be fairly compensated for their injuries, and return to their life as normal as possible compared to before the injury. How long it takes to reach this resolution, however, will depend on the severity of your injuries. With soft tissue injuries, it usually takes at least six months to recover. If you are better at that time, you can move towards settlement of your case. If you suffer more serious injuries it can take up to a couple of years before you can enter into settlement. It is important to be aware that you should never prematurely settle your case. Once settled, you cannot go back to the insurance company for additional compensation. Remember, all states have time restrictions when you must either settle your case or file your complaint with the court.

How Many Personal Injury Claims Go To Court?

As a practical matter, due to the costs and time to litigate a personal injury case, most cases settle out of court. To assist you, state legislatures have established  time frames within which you will attempt to settle your case before you have to file it. With clear liability,  99% of these cases settle. With a liability challenge, the percentage drops as you must concede to some percentage of fault. If not, you will have to file your case for a determination on liability. Generally, with litigation costs and length of time, it is usually always better to resolve your case out of court.

Is It Worth Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney?

It depends on your liability and injury. If you have a clear case of liability and minimal injuries, you may not need a lawyer. You may be able to settle your case. If liability is contested and you were seriously injured, however, an experienced personal injury attorney will be able to navigate through all the twists and turns in your case obtaining the best possible outcome for you. In that case, the one-third contingency fee will be well worth it. An experienced personal injury attorney will evaluate your case and get you the most compensation for your injuries.

How Long Does an Insurance Company Have to Settle an Injury Claim?

If an insurance company had its way, it would settle a claim with you as soon as possible. Oftentimes, an insurance adjuster will call you soon after an accident and offer a low amount to settle. This is the worst time. You have just been in an accident and are very vulnerable. You are scared, confused, and don’t know what to do. Settling this early, will only hurt you. In fact, the insurance company has until the statute of limitations runs. It differs with each state but generally it is two years. This is the time within which the insurance company will usually attempt to settle the case. After that, you must file your complaint. Because you have this time, never rush into your settlement until you are fully recovered from your injuries.

How Long Does it Take for an Insurance Company to Make a Settlement Offer?

Oftentimes, the insurance company will make an offer soon after the accident. It takes advantage of your vulnerability. Generally, the insurance company will not make an offer until you are finished medically treating. At that time, you will submit all your accident related documentation to the insurance company for review. Once reviewed, which usually takes about thirty days, the insurance company will make an offer. At that time, negotiations with you and the insurance company will take place. Always be proactive and follow up with the insurance company to keep it on task. Never accept the first offer.

Who Gets the Settlement Check in an Injury Case?

If you do not have a personal injury attorney, you would receive the check and release. Once the release is signed and the check is cashed, the case is finished. You need to make sure that you reimburse all health insurance companies who paid you accident related medical bills. If you have an attorney, then your attorney will receive the check. It will be made out to the both of you. Each will sign the check which will be deposited into your attorney’s trust account. Once cleared, the proceeds will be distributed to you and your attorney. Your attorney will make sure that any health insurance reimbursement will be sent to that entity.

Why Do Insurance Companies Delay Settlement?

Actually, an insurance company would love to settle your claim as cheaply as possible. A minimal settlement amount to you is a victory for the insurance company. The reason for the delay is confirmation. It must confirm all elements of your case before it can make an offer. Once it agrees to duty, breach, causation and damages, it will look for evidence from you to support those elements. Once you provide that information with a demand, it will make an offer. Once you both agree on a settlement amount, it will send you a check for that amount.

What Does Gross Proceeds Paid to an Attorney Mean?

In the settlement of a personal injury case, the insurance company will provide you with one settlement check. Out of that check, you will need to pay your attorney fee, costs, and health insurance companies. You will also need to be reimbursed for your wage loss and your pain and suffering. The attorney will take a percentage of the settlement amount before these deductions. In essence, he/she takes the percentage of the gross amount. As an example, your case settles for $30,000. Your attorney will take a one-third fee of $10,000, leaving you with $20,000.

How Are Large Settlements Paid in Injury Cases?

Large settlements from an insurance company can be paid by either a lump sum payment or by a structured settlement. With a lump sum payment, the insurance company will send the check directly to you. With a structured settlement, however, the insurance company will send an initial check for attorney fees, costs, and any reimbursements of medical bills. The balance will stay with the insurance company. At a future date, it will begin to release payments with guaranteed interest. Structured settlements are generally used in minor settlements.

Does the Insurance Company Pay for Pain and Suffering?

Pain and suffering is one element of damages in a personal injury case. Pain is the physical suffering you experience when injured. Suffering is the psychological aspect you suffer due to your pain. Depression, anger, and frustration are just a few of the conditions you can suffer from an accident. When evaluating a claim, the insurance company will take pain and suffering into consideration when making an offer. It will become part of your damages in the case. It is a grey area with room to negotiate.

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Dennis P. Sawan

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Chris Sawan


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