Below are the answers to some frequently asked personal injury questions.
How much do you charge?
For most personal injury claims, I charge no fee unless you collect. I charge a one-third contingency fee. When the claim is resolved, I am reimbursed for my expenses out of the award. Next I take my one-third fee. For example, if a claim settles for $34,000, and there are $1000 in expenses, the fee is $11,000 (1/3 of $33,000). The client would get $22,000. In medical malpractice cases, the law requires a more complicated fee schedule that typically makes the fee a bit lower.
Do you always pay the expenses up front?
Usually, but not always. There are two rare situations where I don’t. First, some personal injury claims are not very strong, but I might still be willing to work on a contingency fee basis. In such claims, the client will have to pay the expenses and I may also require an up-front fee. The other situation is when there is a good offer and the client refuses to accept it against the advice of counsel. I would then require the client to cover all future expenses and reimburse me for past expenses.
What are typical expenses in a personal injury lawsuit?
In New York personal injury lawsuits, filing fees usually total less than $500. Deposition transcripts also usually total less than $500. The biggest expense is when a lawsuit goes to trial. Doctors and other experts have to be paid to attend and testify. Doctors can cost anywhere from $300 to $7500 their time, and some doctors may charge more. Other expenses include process servers, investigations, medical records, and meals. I always do my best to limit expenses. This is particularly important in cases with lower values.
Some cases are more complicated and expenses are higher. Typical reasons why you might see increased expenses are the need for additional experts, such as for accident reconstruction, or where more than one doctor has to testify.
What is the process?
First I usually negotiate with the insurance company. If that does not yield results, I will then file a lawsuit. For a few months paperwork is exchanged with the insurance company attorneys. Next come depositions, where they question my client and I question theirs. This usually happens in a lawyer’s office. Other witnesses might also be deposed. Then the insurance company might have the client examined by their doctor (an IME, or independent medical examination). Last is trial. A lawsuit might settle at any point along the way.
How much is my case worth?
Every case is different. Various factors must be considered to assess the value. In some cases, liability (who is at fault) is unclear and the injuries are not severe. These cases may Ill be worth nothing, or have a low enough value that it would not make sense to take the case. In other cases liability is clear and the injuries are very severe. In such cases the amount of insurance becomes an important factor.
If the at-fault driver has low insurance coverage ($25,000 is the minimum in NY) you may have a claim against your own insurance company under “underinsured motorist” coverage.
When there is limited coverage and there is a good case, I will push the at-fault insurance company to settle quickly. If they fail to conduct themselves properly, this can lead to a “bad faith” claim that would allow me to get more from the insurance company than the insurance coverage.
What if I don’t live in New York?
Not a problem. If the case goes far enough you will have to come back to the area. I try to limit the amount of travel a client has to do. In a typical case for a distant client, you would have to come here approximately twice — once for depositions and the independent medical examination, and once for the trial. If the matter can be settled before depositions, you will not have to come at all. Your travel expenses would be an expense of the case and you would be reimbursed for them from any settlement or award.
What is No-Fault?
No-Fault insurance pays for various expenses for people injured in New York car accidents. It applies to the occupants of a car (including pickups, SUVs, and most vehicles, but not to motorcycle drivers or passengers), and also to pedestrians and bicyclists who are hit by a car.
Submit your medical expenses and lost wages to the No-Fault insurance company, which is the insurance company for the car you Ire in (or the car that hit you if you Ire a pedestrian or bicyclist). They should provide you with the necessary paperwork. I can help you figure out which company to contact.
Make sure your doctors and other health care providers know that your case involves a car accident and that all expenses should be covered by No-Fault. They will need to know the name of the insurance company along with the policy number and/or claim number.
You should also be able to get paid for certain other expenses, such as if you have to take a taxi to a doctor’s appointment, cost of prescription drugs, even for housework if you hire someone to help you. If you’re not sure, submit the expense and see if they’ll pay for it.
What damages can I obtain for my injury?
The most common element of damages is compensation for pain and suffering including past and future. Additional elements of damages include medical bills, property damage such as that to an automobile in a car accident, lost earnings, which are economic damages, and emotional trauma.
If my case goes to trial what will I have to prove to win my case?
Liability – who is at fault? The jury will assign a percentage of fault to each party. For example if two cars collide and each driver says the other ran a red light the jury can believe one side and say driver was 1 was 0% at fault and driver 2 100% or they can split it 50-50 or any other degree of fault.
Damages – injuries or losses that Ire cameed by the accident. These include showing a medical diagnosis of injury, a prognosis of how the injury will affect you in the future, and other types of damages such as loss of earnings/wages or future medical expenses and care.