THE TOP TEN FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- What is “Civil” law?
Civil law deals with claims based on the duty we all have to one another to act reasonably to prevent injury to others. The law, in its infinite wisdom, debates nuances continually.
- What is a “claim?”
A claim arises from a serious physical, mental or financial injury caused by another’s failure to use reasonable care.
- How do you make a claim?
Generally the claims made are covered by the insurance carrier providing coverage to the wrongdoer, and sometimes corporations and other big businesses are “self-insured,” having established a fund for such claims.
- How is a claim valued?
There is no formula for determining value for claims in civil law. First the extent of the injury, damage or loss has to be determined and then measured against the extent of the fault by using the laws that apply. The laws that apply come from both the state legislature and court cases.
- How is my specific case evaluated?
You should be able to rely on valuation information from your lawyer as the case is developed through the process of communicating with the agents/adjusters for the party at fault (the other side) measured against what has happened before in similar situations.
- What’s my role while the claim is being made?
The client’s job is to work to get things back to normal as much as possible. The attorney’s job is to focus on the claim: Monitoring progress, gathering evidence, and advocating on your behalf.
- What’s the time frame?
Most claims are subject to a Statute of Limitations, passed by the state legislature which sets a deadline for the filing of your particular claim, and, sometimes, deadlines for Notices you must provide. For example, the Statute of Limitation might provide that your claim must be brought within two or three years of when you first knew about it.
- Do I have to file my claim in Court?
Generally, an effort is made to resolve your claim short of filing it in Court. The claim is resolved by settlement when the insurance adjuster or attorney for the party at fault makes an offer to pay an amount of money which is acceptable, all things considered, to you as the client.
- How is my attorney paid?
Often in such claims the lawyer is paid a contingency fee – a percentage, typically one-third to forty percent, depending on complexity, of amounts recovered. Hourly fee arrangements are available. Separate from attorney’s fees are the costs of bringing the claim. Typically, costs are modest before suit is filed, then escalate dramatically if, for example, the case goes to trial. The client always remains responsible for the costs. Because of that, the client should work closely with the attorney in determining what costs are spent to present the claim.
- Who ultimately decides the value of my claim?
The final decision for your claim depends on how it is resolved. If the case goes to trial, a jury of six people will likely decide its value. Short of that, many individuals will put values on your claim, including your lawyers, the agent/adjuster for the other side, or for example a mediator, who typically shows both sides the weaknesses of their cases in an effort to reach a common ground of value. These are resources for you to use in deciding what to do.
- What is personal injury law?
A personal injury claim compensates an individual for injuries. The types of injuries that justify claims generally are those that require treatment and may result in permanent injury, physical impairment, a disability, or an impact on earning ability. The goal is to place the blame on the person responsible. The law provides that compensation be paid to “make the injured person whole,” – while the injured person can never eliminate the injury, compensation is paid to take its place. The responsible insurance company and its adjusters seek to minimize the injury and their obligation to pay compensation.
- What if I am in an automobile accident?
The idea behind the representation for an automobile injury is to allow the individual to focus on medical treatment and recovery, while the lawyer gathers evidence, evaluates the claim, advocates for the injured, and processes the claim for the best result.
- What is a wrongful death claim?
An incident or accident that results in the death of a person can result in a claim brought by that person’s family. Such claims are regulated by statute and depend on family circumstances, as to who can bring the claim, and as to what recovery may be pursued.
- I slipped and fell on ice in front of my accountant’s office, can you help me?
An injury claim can be brought on behalf of an individual who is injured in a slip and fall, generally on defendant’s property as a result of a dangerous condition or hazard that should have been cleared up.
- Our neighbor’s dog bit my daughter, can I sue?
An animal owner may be held liable for injuries that that animal causes. An injury that justifies a claim generally involves an injury that requires treatment, and may result in permanent injury, physical impairment, some disability, or disfiguration. Liability for the person responsible may depend on many factors including the nature of the animal, the history of the animal, the knowledge of the owner, and the care taken by the owner.
- My business suffered serious losses because of somebody else’s mistake, can I recoup these losses?
Small businesses trying to compete in today’s world can sustain losses with serious financial consequences as a result of wrongdoing by others. Financial losses, just as with physical injuries, reflect stories of great personal tragedy for
folks as they work to achieve success in, and contribution to, our community.
- Do you handle legal malpractice cases?
I have included legal malpractice claims in my law practice as a result of clients who came to me for help more than twenty years ago. Unlike physicians, lawyers do feel an obligation to help correct the wrongs caused by other lawyers. Legal malpractice claims against other lawyers are sometimes necessary to remedy compounded tragedies. Our profession can often remedy the problems we cause. Legal malpractice claims tend to be both complicated and expensive due to the time and costs involved in showing what went wrong and what should have happened.
- How long should I wait before contacting a lawyer?
As time passes after an injury or loss, evidence may be lost, destroyed or dissipated. For these reasons it may be important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible or practicable, to assemble and preserve the evidence necessary for your claim.