What Should I Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer?
If you’ve suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence, it’s natural to have questions. How can you get your medical bills and other damages paid? Is the insurance company making you a fair offer? What if you’re not even sure who was at fault?
Your personal injury attorney should be able to help you answer these and other questions. This is why it’s essential to find an attorney you feel comfortable talking with, one who really listens to you and your concerns. There may be some situations where your lawyer can’t give you an exact answer, but they should be able to explain the issues and give you a general idea for most questions.
How to Ask Your Lawyer About Your Settlement?
What do you want to ask about your settlement? Here are some common questions our clients have about settlements:
How Much Will I Get for My Settlement?
You should not be embarrassed to ask your lawyer questions about money, including the size of the settlement you can expect. While it will be hard to give you an exact answer due to multiple factors that can affect your claim, your lawyer should be able to help you come up with a ballpark estimate.
First, we list all the client’s damages and estimate the amount of each. We do this by asking you questions like these:
- Do you have your medical bills handy? It’s helpful if you do, but if not, you can send them to us later, or we can get them from your healthcare providers with your consent.
- Is your treatment complete? Are you sure you’re fully recovered? We ask this to ensure you won’t need future medical care for your injuries. If you’re still in treatment, we might be able to give you a general estimate based on your current bills, but your actual settlement may be higher or lower depending on what treatment you need. We usually wait to settle the case until after you’ve completed treatment because we don’t want you to be stuck with additional costs. However, in cases where the client is severely injured and it looks like they will need long-term care, we can assess their expected future costs.
- Did you have to miss any work due to your injuries? If so, we’ll ask if you know how much time you missed or how much money you lost. We will document these specific losses with pay stubs later, but if you can give us a relatively accurate idea of your time off, we can estimate your losses. Also, even if you feel like you didn’t “lose any money” because you had paid time off (PTO), you still deserve compensation because you had to use that PTO.
- Does your doctor expect you to recover fully, or is there a possibility you will have a permanent impairment? We ask this question for two reasons. First, it may affect your ability to return to work or continue working in the future. If your ability to work is impacted, you deserve compensation for lost earning potential. Additionally, you should be compensated for any permanent disability or disfigurement, as these can be challenging even if they don’t affect your work.
- Do you have any property damage? Most often, this means car repairs or replacement in an auto accident, but some people may also have damage to a phone, laptop, or other vehicles like a boat or bicycle.
- How long did you experience physical pain due to your injuries, or are you still in pain? How has your mental or emotional health been affected? We ask about these topics to help us calculate your pain and suffering damages. Unlike most other damages we’ve discussed, “pain and suffering” damages don’t usually come with any paperwork explaining their value, so we have to assign one. Please think carefully about these questions, and be honest with yourself and your lawyer. Many people have difficulties with mental health after an accident, injury, or trauma, and you shouldn’t hesitate to talk with a mental health specialist if you just aren’t feeling like yourself.
- Can you think of any other expenses you’ve had associated with this accident or injury? We will often ask more specific questions based on the details of your case, but the idea is to identify anything that might have been missed.
- How much were your funeral or burial costs? We will inquire about this if you lost a loved one to an accident or injury. Additionally, we may ask for tax returns if you were financially dependent on the deceased so that we can seek compensation for this loss of financial support.
Will I Be Able to Recover All My Damages in My Settlement?
This is a very important question to ask. Once we’ve determined a reasonable amount for your settlement, we’ll consider whether it will be possible to recover the total amount. We will do everything possible to recover all your damages or come as close as possible. However, some issues can affect your ability to collect:
Shared Fault or Modified Comparative Negligence
You may think of your injuries as being 100 percent the fault of another party, such as a driver who hit you, but that’s not necessarily true. In fact, many car accidents and other situations that result in injuries are partially caused by two or more parties. But in some situations, you can be partly responsible for your injuries and still collect damages from the other party, as long as they are more responsible.
Both Colorado and Wyoming use modified comparative negligence statutes in personal injury cases. These rules state that a party who is less than 50 percent at fault for an accident or injury can obtain damages from a party who is more than 50 percent at fault. But, any percentage of fault above 0 assigned to the lesser-responsible party will be deducted from their damages. For a simple example, if you have $1,000 in damages and are 15 percent at fault, you will receive $850 in damages.
These statutes are used in personal injury cases that go before the court, but most insurance companies also assign blame for accidents in a similar manner. That’s important because most personal injury cases are settled out of court with the relevant insurance company or companies.
What does this mean for your case? Your attorney will review the accident report or other documentation about how your injuries occurred. We may ask you questions or assign an investigator to seek further evidence. For instance, we might search for video of your accident, interview witnesses who saw what happened, etc. By doing so, we’re prepared to go to trial, but we’re also prepared to negotiate with an insurance adjuster. It’s common for adjusters to offer a lower settlement based on their belief that the injured party had some degree of fault. Alternatively, they may try to deny the claim entirely because they think the accident victim was mostly at fault. In either case, we can use the evidence we gathered to demonstrate why you deserve a settlement – or a larger settlement.
If you did have some responsibility in the accident, remember that you may still be able to recover most of your damages. Your lawyer will work to show that your errors had very little to do with your injuries and most of the fault lies with the other party. In some cases, we find that while our client did make a mistake or error in judgment, it did not actually cause or contribute to the accident/injury. If this is the case, we can argue that the other party is 100 percent responsible and their insurance company should pay your claim.
Insurance Policy Limits
Even if we can prove you had no fault for your injuries, we may face other challenges with recovering all your damages. In car accidents, the most common issue is that the driver who caused your accident was uninsured or underinsured. Underinsured means they had a minimum amount of coverage that does not cover all your damages. For instance, Colorado requires only $25,000 in bodily injury liability per person. So if you had $50,000 in medical bills, the other driver’s insurance company would only be obligated to pay you $25,000.
When this happens, we search for other options to help our clients get the compensation they need. First, we check to see if they have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on their own insurance. (This coverage is not required in Colorado or Wyoming, but it’s very helpful if someone with insufficient coverage injures you.) We may also look for MedPay or Collision coverage, which takes care of your medical bills and property damage, respectively, regardless of who caused the accident. Sometimes we can use these add-on policies to recover the rest of the client’s damages.
If you don’t have this coverage, we will consider whether suing the responsible party directly is a good option – if they have few or no assets we can seize, it might not be worth the time or expense. Sometimes, we may consider suing a third party if they contributed to the accident or injury.
Ask Us About Your Personal Injury Situation
If you or a loved one were injured and have questions about a potential settlement, please contact Olson Law for a free consultation at 720-410-6188. It’s completely confidential, so you can ask us whatever you want, and we’ll answer your questions and explain the options available to you.