This section provides general information about the legal process for a personal injury victim, from the decision to retain a personal injury attorney all the way through trial. This section is not intended to be comprehensive, only to answer some general questions that many personal injury victims often have.
Deciding whether to retain a personal injury attorney is often a difficult and stressful decision. If the information provided below does not answer a question or concern you may have, do not hesitate to contact the Crow Law Offices for a free consultation with no obligations.
Do I Have a Valid Case?:The only way to determine if your specific case is valid is to consult with our lawyers. Along with a team of medical professionals and accident recreation experts, our lawyers will investigate your claim and determine your legal options.
Retaining an Attorney: If you have questions about whether you have a personal injury case or whether you need the assistance of an attorney, contact the Crow Law Offices right away. There is no obligation and the initial consultation is free. Even if it is determined that you do not have a case, it is better to get expert advice.
Initial Consultation: At the initial consultation, it is important that you bring everything you have related to the case. It is better to bring too many documents to the initial consultation than too few. If you do not have some necessary documents, we will be able to obtain them for you. Among the documents you should bring if available are: the traffic collision report, accident or injury report, any relevant medical records and billing you have received, any and all information you have pertaining to the other driver and their insurance company, witness names and phone numbers, photographs of the property damage, injuries and scene of the accident, your insurance information including your declaration page which outlines the coverage that you have, the names, phone numbers and address all of the doctors, therapists, chiropractors and hospitals you are treating with currently, those you have treated with for similar injuries in the recent past and a copy of your statement, if you have given one to the other driver’s insurance company, which we strongly recommend AGAINST.
Attorney-Client Privilege: Anything you tell your attorney is privileged. Your attorney is not allowed to share your communications with anyone without your approval. You are the only one who can waive this privilege. Because of this, it is critical that you are completely honest and forthright with your attorney. The insurance company and their attorneys have access to insurance indexes that provide them with your past claims history. Your attorney does not have access to this information. Therefore it is essential that you are completely honest and forthcoming with your attorney. This way your attorney can prepare for any harmful information by potentially keeping it from the jury, limiting the amount of the information the jury is allowed to hear or at a minimum preparing a strategy to limit its damage to your case.
Contingency Fee: The Crow Law Offices work on a contingency fee basis. What this means is that in the event of a successful outcome to the case, the attorney gets a percentage of the settlement. If the case is lost, the attorney does not get paid. The percentage is outlined in the signed contract between the attorney and the client, but is generally 25% for minors, and 33.3% for adults. In other words, you pay nothing until the case is won. All fees are taken out of the settlement proceeds.
Case Funding: All lawsuits cost money. Often times a person who is injured through the fault of others is left with bills and cost he/she cannot afford. In a contingency fee contract, the attorney agrees to front all of the case funding. This in essence means that we will front all of the money needed to fund the case. Examples of a cost would be court filing fees, service of process charges, photocopy services, obtaining medical records from your providers, deposition transcripts, investigation expenses, and expert witness fees. When the case is resolved, the costs are paid back. There is no interest charged to you on these costs. In the event of a successful outcome, the attorney will get reimbursed the amount he has spent funding the case.
How Much Is My Case Worth?: Case values vary greatly on a case by case basis. Each case is unique and has its own set of facts that help drive the value of the case. Although most lawyers may have a sense of the value of each case at the beginning, evaluation of many factors is essential. Once a case is far enough along, based on thoroughly reviewing the evidence and a proper work up of the case, an opinion of the value of the case may be given by the handling attorney. Generally this occurs later in the case. This opinion of the value of the case does not mean that is what the case will ultimately settle for. No competent lawyer should tell you what your case is worth at your first visit. Your lawyer will need to determine the extent of your injuries, including pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, the cost of medical treatment, and lost wages.
How Long Will My Case Take?: The true answer is that no one knows. Some cases are resolved within a few months, others can take a few years. There is no set rule. The extent of the injuries and rehabilitation play a role in the length of a case as do the availability of a courtroom, the facts of the case, experts' availability and the abilities of the sides to enter into a settlement. Some cases can be settled before filing a lawsuit while others have to go to trial. If the insurance company considers it a valid claim, the case is likely to be resolved early and won’t be tried in court. But, a lawyer must assume and prepare as if all cases will go to a trial.
Once a Lawsuit is Filed, What Next?: If a case cannot be settled informally between the parties, a lawsuit has to be filed. Once all the parties to the lawsuit have been served and have appeared in the case, discovery will begin. Discovery is the time for the parties to gather information from each other to help them evaluate their cases and to prepare for trial. Discovery usually involves the exchange of the following written discovery:
Motions: A motion is an application made to a court or judge for purpose of obtaining a ruling or order directing some act to be done in favor of the applicant.
Case Settlement: Settling a case means that you agree to accept money in return for dismissing your claim against the person who injured you. You will actually sign documents releasing the other side of any further liability. Any time the defendant makes an offer, your lawyer will inform you of that offer and give you their advice as to whether the offer is fair.Settlementcan take place prior to a lawsuit being filed or at any point in a lawsuit once it is filed, including before trial or even after a case has been tried, but before a jury reaches a verdict and after trial when the case is on appeal. YOU are the person who must make the final decision to accept or reject an offer to settle. We will only give you our advice. Sometimes we will recommend a settlement and sometimes we will recommend that you reject a settlement offer, but the final decision is always yours to make.
Trial: Most personal injury cases never go to trial. The better the case, the better the chance the case will resolve. If the case cannot be resolved fairly, the case will be tried. At any time you can choose to settle your case prior to trial. In a personal injury action, the case can be taken to a jury trial or a bench trial. In a jury trial, the issues in dispute are determined by a panel of 12 people who are impartial and reside within the jurisdiction of the court. In a bench trial, the trial judge alone decides the outcome of the case. This is only done when both the plaintiff and the defendant waive the right to a trial by jury.
There is risk involved with going to trial. Although you will not have to pay your lawyer for their fees and costs, you may be required to pay the Defendant his or her cost. This will be discussed in detail to each client prior to trial. It is important that the client is fully informed so that they can make the right decision.
Discovery: This is the process of gathering information. In a personal injury case, once a lawsuit is filed, the court allows a period of time for the parties to “discover” information from the other side and other sources. The discovery must be completed within certain time limitations. Below are some of the main types of discovery that take place in a lawsuit:
Alternative Dispute Resolution: There are many types of alternative dispute resolution, also known as ADR. Each one is designed to resolve a case prior to the expense and stress that is involved with a trial. ADR is a cheaper and quicker way to resolve a case. Some form of ADR is often ordered by the court, but ADR can also be agreed to voluntarily by the parties to a case. Some types of cases, like an uninsured or a underinsured motorist claim against the injury victim's own insurance company are required to go to a binding arbitration instead of a jury or bench trial. Among the most common types of ADR include: