Frequently Asked Personal Injury Questions:
What is a counterclaim?
A claim that the defendant in a suit has against the plaintiff from the same transaction.
What is discovery and what is its purpose?
Discovery allows both parties to “discover” information in the case. The purpose is to narrow the basis of the complaint and to eliminate surprises to both parties.
What are interrogatories?
Written questions by one party to the other, which are answered under oath.
What is a deposition?
A formal interview under oath in the presence of a court reporter. The answers in a deposition are oral.
Will I end up at trial?
Only about 25% of all personal injury cases end in a court; most will settle.
I was ordered to pay “costs;” what does that include?
Usually it will include attorney, clerk, witness, and docket fees.
What is civil law?
Principles that govern relationships between people, where no crime has been committed.
What is a class action lawsuit?
When a large group of plaintiffs sue a large group of defendants naming a representative in place of the entire group. Examples would be the tobacco industry suits and the suits against the drug manufactures of the popular diet medications, such as fen-phen.
What is negligence?
A failure to act reasonably in a situation. Doing something carelessly or failing to do something; i.e. driving without your headlights on.
What are punitive damages?
Damages awarded to punish the defendant.
What does pain and suffering include?
This would generally be money awarded over and above medical costs and lost wages.
What is loss of consortium?
A loss of companionship and care for the victim’s marital partner.
What is contributory negligence?
A defense to negligence stating that the plaintiff’s negligence contributed to their injuries.
What is a tort?
Conduct intended to harm another person or their property. Examples include fraud, misrepresentation and slander.
I fell in a puddle of water at the grocery store. I can sue and win a lot of money, right?
Not necessarily. You must first prove the grocery store either created the hazardous situation or had previous knowledge of it. If you can prove both these things, the amount of your “award” will be directly related to your injury, medical costs and loss of income.
I didn’t have any medical expenses or lost income when I fell in the store; can I still collect a settlement?
This is a big misconception. If you don’t suffer an injury or incur financial losses, chances are slim that you’ll collect any monetary award.
How is negligence determined?
Negligence does not simple mean doing something wrong. All of the following elements must exist for an act to be considered negligent:
- Lack of reasonable care
- Breach of duty
- Injury to the victim
- Forseeability (knowing an act would occur based on the circumstances)
What is the statute of limitation in a civil case?
Generally 2 years from the date the incident occurred.
I was burned by a curling iron; can I sue the manufacturer?
This would be a products liability case and you may be able to sue but know that although the manufacture is responsible for defective products, the following will be considered in your case:
- Was the defect unreasonably dangerous?
- The seller, where you bought the iron from, must be in the business of selling that particular product
- The item must not have been substantially changed between the time it left the seller to the time the user had it
- The defect directly caused the injury
- The product was used properly
I’ve heard the phrase “assumption of risk.” What does it mean? It is used as part of a defendant’s defense. It states that a user assumes risk in the following ways:
- If you’ve discovered the risk, but disregard it
- If you’ve failed to properly maintain an item
- If you’ve failed to follow the enclosed directions
What is wrongful death?
Laws that give survivors a cause of action against someone who’s negligence resulted in the victim’s death.
What is an appellant?
The party who lost at trial is called an appellant on appeal.
What is emotional distress?
What are injunctions?
Court orders for defendant’s to stop them from doing something (i.e. temporary restraining orders).
What is litigation?
What does “res ipsa loquitor” mean?
It is a Latin phrase meaning, “the thing speaks for itself.”
Vehicle Accident FAQ's
What should I do if I’m involved in a car accident?
Document the entire situation making daily notes of the effects of your injuries. Also report the accident to the DMV and never admit responsibility.
Why do I need no fault insurance?
Almost ½ of all states legally require this insurance. It helps to eliminate liability claims in smaller accidents by exchanging direct payment by the injured’s insurance company. It doesn’t, however, cover auto damage so a claim should still be filed for this.
Is it true that if I rear end a car that I’m at fault?
Almost always the answer is yes. The law says that you have to be able to stop safely if a car stops in front of you.
How long will it take to get money in my case?
Getting to court for a vehicle accident can take 3-5 years in most cases.
I didn’t go the doctor right away and now I have pain?
You should always see a doctor after an accident even if you’re not feeling pain right away. Be sure to document when you noticed the pain and when you went to the doctor.
Do I need an attorney?
It is in your best interest to hire an attorney.
The other driver doesn’t have car insurance; how am I supposed to collect money from him now? Often times a person’s personal assets will come into play in a case such as this.
Will my insurance company pay for my medical bills while I wait to go to trial?
Often times, yes, to a certain amount and then they will get reimbursed once the case is complete.
How am I supposed to get back and forth while my car is in the shop?
Check your insurance policy; many will have a clause that allows you to rent a car. Be sure to track the expense involved as this is considered a cost that you suffered.
I can’t work; can I file for unemployment even though litigation is pending?
My car hit a pothole; who is responsible?
How much money can I expect to get in a settlement?
The award is directly related to the costs incurred.
Should I settle ahead of time?
This varies from each case and each individual. Know that going to trial can take years, but many times in return the judgment in court is larger than in a settlement.
The other driver’s insurance company offered me money. I haven’t even hired an attorney, but I could really use the cash. Should I take it?
No. Tell the insurance company that you’ll get back to them. In the meantime, contact an attorney immediately. Often times an insurance company will offer a minimal amount of money in return for your signature stating that you won’t sue them. Never take an insurance check without first consulting an attorney.
I can’t afford an attorney!
Normally, in cases such as these, you don’t pay the attorney any money until, and if, you win your case. If you do win, they are likely to request 33% of the settlement.