Personal Injury –
12 Questions You Should Ask

Do I have a personal injury claim?

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Generally, if you have been injured, or a loved one has been injured or killed, due to the fault or negligence of another person or company, you or your loved one may have a right to seek compensation in a lawsuit. In America, the law allows compensation for damages arising from personal injuries. There are many countries that do not provide this important right to its citizens.

If you have been injured in a car accident with another vehicle, you may have a claim against the other driver. If you were a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in an accident, you may have a claim against the driver. If a negligent driver was working at the time of the accident, you may have a claim against the employer of the driver.

If you have been injured on someone else’s property, you may have a claim against the property owner as well as other persons who may have been responsible for the property, including snow removal companies, maintenance companies, or property management companies. Claims may be brought for slip and falls, trip and falls, injury from activities being conducted on a property, and certain recreational activities.

If you have been injured on the job, you may have a personal injury claim against certain people or companies, although generally you will not have a personal injury claim against your employer. This is because you will likely receive workers compensation through your employer and the law generally does not allow you to bring a lawsuit against your employer. But there may be other companies or persons with whom you may be working against whom you may have a claim.

You may have a claim if you have been injured by a product. Product liability claims can be brought against manufacturers and sellers of defectively designed products, defectively manufactured products, and products that do not have proper warnings or guards. The kinds of defective products that can lead to a product liability claim are wide and varied. They can include most any product you may use at home or at work that may be dangerous if not designed or manufactured properly or where proper warnings are not given, from lawn mowers to bicycles, ATV’s to power tools, prescription drugs to food, and construction equipment to heavy machinery.

There may be circumstances that may prevent you from making a claim. Sometimes the law does not allow a claim to be brought against certain people. Some claims against the government are precluded by statute. There are other statutes that may preclude some claims against ski area operators and other providers of recreational activities. Releases or waivers can preclude a claim. The passage of time can also preclude a claim if the claim is brought beyond the applicable statute of limitation. If your injuries were caused by your own fault, your claims may be limited or barred.

Every case is different and whether you have a valid claim depends upon the specific facts of your particular case as well as the applicable law. This is why it is important to consult with the experienced personal injury attorneys at Burg Simpson if you have been injured to discuss potential claims you may have.

What is my personal injury claim worth?

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There are many, many factors that go into evaluating what any particular claim is worth. Each case is different and it is impossible to provide a specific dollar figure for any claim. No attorney can ever guarantee you will obtain compensation for your claim or that you will receive any certain amount of compensation. That being said, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Burg Simpson have vast experience in most every kind of personal injury claim and can provide you with an honest evaluation of your claim and provide you with an assessment of what your claim may be worth.

Some of the factors that can affect a claim’s worth include the nature and extent of the injury, the nature and extent of medical treatment received, the nature and extent of preexisting medical problems, the nature and extent of the liability of each person involved, the type of work conducted by the injured person and the ability of the injured person to return to that work, the need for future medical and other life care needs, the location where the injury occurred, and the amount on insurance available, to name a few.

Catastrophic injuries, including spinal chord injuries or brain injuries, are devastating to the injured person and his or her family. They often prevent a person from ever working again. They often require lifetime medical care and treatment. Claims that involve catastrophic injuries may be worth millions of dollars. Other injuries to a persons body such as back and neck injuries, broken bones, and other serious injuries can also lead to extensive damages, including lost income, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Where a person is injured and makes a full recovery, obviously the claim is not worth as much as when the person has ongoing or permanent problems or disabilities.

A claim is worth less when the person who is injured was at fault in the event that caused the injury. That is because the law will generally not allow an injured person to recover for injuries that the injured person caused. Accordingly, in evaluating a claim’s worth, it is important to evaluate how a jury may determine the respective fault of all the persons involved.

Preexisting medical problems will often reduce a claim’s worth, particularly when the preexisting medical problems involve the same part of the body as the injury sustained in the accident. Preexisting conditions must always be taken into consideration when evaluating a claim.

When a person is unable to go back to work because of an injury, it can cause a significant economic loss that can be worth tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars depending on the job and the remaining work life of the injured individual. For example, a surgeon who can no longer perform as a doctor because of an injury may have many millions of dollars in future lost income over his lifetime. Even a construction worker making $30,000 per year can easily have many hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income. Consider also that the nature of the person’s work may greatly impact the value of a claim. An accountant who breaks his leg in a car crash may not have significant lost income, since she can still likely perform her duties as an accountant. But a concert pianist who breaks his hand may be prevented from ever playing piano again. The impact on employment is a significant factor in evaluating a claim’s worth.

Where an injury occurs can be a factor in a claim’s worth. This is because where an injury occurs may be where a lawsuit must be brought. The laws in each state vary, and some states protect their citizens more than others. Some states allow unlimited recovery of “non economic damages,” like pain and suffering, while some states severely limit the recovery of non economic damages. The laws in each state regarding negligence, comparative fault, and other liability issues may also affect the value of the claim. For claims that must be clearly brought in one state, the value of the claim may be affected by which county the claim is brought in. Some counties have more conservative jurors, while others are more liberal. As there may be several states–or counties within a state–in which a claim may be brought, it is important to evaluate all of those potential venues before filing a lawsuit.

Another factor that must be evaluated in valuing a claim is the availability of insurance. An injured party may have significant injuries, hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, and millions in lost income, but if there is no insurance available to pay for those losses, and the person who was at fault has no significant assets, the claim may be worth very little. Many times insurance information is available before filing suit. In other cases, sometimes a lawsuit must be brought in order to find out what insurance may be available. In any case, the existence and amount of insurance (and potential assets) must be taken into consideration when evaluating a claim.

One additional factor is important to the value of your case: The experience and reputation of your lawyers. The threat and possibility of a case going to a jury is an important asset to an injured party and one that insurance companies and defense lawyers use to evaluate a case. Insurance companies and defense lawyers know which trial lawyers are experienced, aggressive, thorough, relentless, and unafraid to take a case to a jury. Insurance companies and defense lawyers know the reputation of Burg Simpson; your claim may be worth more with Burg Simpson on your side.

Because there are so many factors that go into evaluating a claim and its worth, it is important to speak to experienced trial lawyers, like those at Burg Simpson, who can provide you an honest evaluation of your case.

Will I have to go to trial?

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Most lawsuits end up settling before trial. So statistically the chance that you will actually go to trial is actually quite low. Settlement is an important aspect of any lawsuit and should be considered by you using your attorney’s sound advice. But you have a right to go to trial and a right to have your case heard by a jury. You do not have to settle your case if you think that you are not being offered enough compensation for your injuries. Your attorneys will provide you their legal advice and opinions as to the merits of your case, your chances at trial, and their opinions as to whether a settlement offer should be seriously considered or rejected.

Settlement has the advantage of certainty–you are not relying on a jury to decide the fate of your case. The advantage of taking a case to a jury is the ability to tell your story and to potentially have the jury award you more than what is being offered to settle your claim. Some claims should be settled. Other claims should be taken to a jury. Each case must be evaluated on its own merits in making that decision. Sometimes the defense will refuse to talk settlement, in which case you would have no choice but to take your case to a jury. But generally, whether you settle or take your case to trial is up to you.

I am getting the run-around by the insurance company. What should I do?

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Call Burg Simpson. We are used to dealing with insurance companies and know their tactics. In fact, a number of our lawyers used to be defense lawyers, representing insurance companies.

Insurance companies will sometimes try to pressure you into a settlement. If what they are offering does not seem fair to you, call a lawyer. Be careful that you do not sign any documents or releases without consulting an attorney first. You may be signing away your rights.

Why should I pay a lawyer to represent me?

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You are not required to hire a lawyer. As an individual, you can represent yourself in a court of law. But you must understand that the law can be very confusing. There are many rules applicable to court proceedings. Many laws and rules, if not complied with, can result in your case being barred or dismissed. A lawyer is trained to analyze laws and rules and will advise you concerning the upsides and downsides to actions that may affect your legal rights. That is the number one job of a lawyer-protection of your legal rights.

Also, a lawyer trained and experienced in negotiation is likely to obtain a much better settlement than if you were to try to settle a case on your own. And many times a defendant or insurance company will not do anything at all until a lawyer is threatening them or their insured with a lawsuit. Your case may essentially be worth nothing until you actually hire a lawyer who can stand up for your rights.

And should you have to go to trial, a good lawyer is critical. Trial and pretrial procedures are vast and complex; someone who is not familiar with all of them is likely to trip up and lose rights and opportunities to present their best case to a jury. A lawyer knows the system, knows the judges, and knows how to present a case to a jury.

What are contingency fees?

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Contingency Fees are paid by a client to a lawyer when the lawyer is able to secure a settlement or a paid judgment with a defendant. Contingency fees are very important in personal injury cases because they allow a person who may not have the money to pay for a lawyer to actually bring a lawsuit to recover compensation for their injuries. Most people could not pay an attorney’s hourly rate to bring a lawsuit because of the hundreds and sometimes thousands of hours that it takes for an attorney to do all the necessary tasks to bring a successful lawsuit, obtain a settlement, or take a case to trial. Thus, the lawyer will take a contingency fee on any recovery, typically from thirty-three percent to forty percent.

Contingency fees are only paid if you obtain a recovery. If you do not obtain a recovery, the lawyer does not get paid for his work.

Does Burg Simpson work on a contingency basis?

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Yes, we handle our personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. If you do not recover, we do not get paid.

What will it cost me to file a lawsuit?

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There are a number of costs (as opposed to fees) that the client is typically responsible for. For example, court filing costs, expert witness costs, deposition costs, and document reproduction costs are costs that are typically incurred in a case. For personal injury cases, Burg Simpson has the resources to front those costs, so that you will not have any out-of-pocket expenses in your case. This is important because case costs may be many thousands of dollars. When your lawyer is able to obtain a recovery for you through settlement or judgment, those costs are paid back to the lawyer.

The rules in some states, like Colorado, allow costs, like attorney fees, to be paid on a contingent basis. Thus, if there is no recovery, the client and the attorney can agree that those costs do not have to be paid back.

One important point to be made concerning costs is that if you bring a lawsuit and you lose, you may be required to pay the defendant’s costs. While sometimes defendants do not seek those costs, many defendants do, and it is an important issue to discuss with your attorney when you bring a case and when settlement is discussed.

How do I get medical care for my injuries?

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You should always follow the directions and recommendations of your doctors and other health care providers. Your attorneys may sometimes recommend health care providers if they feel that you have not received the proper or necessary care or treatment for your injuries. Your attorneys, however, cannot pay for your medical care or treatment. You should use your own insurance or finances to pay for your treatment. If you have no insurance or means of paying for necessary health care, Medicaid may be an option. Certain individuals may also be eligible for Medicare. Some doctors may provide treatment on a contingent basis, so that you do not have to pay them unless you recover in your lawsuit. Family and friends may be able to provide financial assistance. Whatever you do, remember that your health is what is most important.

Will Burg Simpson pay for my medical care?

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No. The ethical rules governing lawyers do not allow a lawyer to pay for a client’s medical care.

How long will I have to wait to get compensation for my injuries?

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This is a difficult question to answer because it depends on so many factors. Sometimes a settlement can be reached quickly with an insurance company without having to file a lawsuit if the liability is clear and the injuries are undisputed. If a lawsuit must be brought, then settlement will typically be delayed by many months while the parties engage in discovery. Cases many times will settle very close to trial, which can be a year or more after the case is filed. If a verdict is rendered in your favor, and a judgment is entered, the Defendant will sometimes pay or settle at that time, but many times the Defendant will appeal the judgment, in which case the ultimate recovery can be delayed by several years while the case proceeds through the appeal process. If you lose at trial, you have the right to appeal. Again, the process can take several years, and if you win the appeal, you will likely need to go through another trial, and potentially, another appeal. If may be many years until you obtain compensation for your injuries.

In short, you should expect to settle your case within approximately a year after you file a lawsuit, but you should be prepared for the possibility that you may not obtain a recovery for many years.

A family member was killed in an accident. What should I do?

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You should immediately call a lawyer to help you understand your rights and the rights of the deceased family member’s estate and heirs in bringing a wrongful death claim or survivorship claim. Burg Simpson has extensive experience in handling death claims arising from many different kinds of accidents and events.

If the family member was injured or killed on the job, you should retain an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to make sure the proper workers’ compensation benefits are obtained.

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