Since opening, Collins Law, LLC has served hundreds of clients throughout Birmingham, Jefferson County, and the rest of Alabama. While every case is unique, over the years we’ve seen that most new clients ask similar questions. So, we thought we’d take a moment to answer some of these frequently asked questions.
Of course, these answers are not a substitute for official legal advice from a qualified Alabama personal injury attorney. But we hope that they give you some facts that will make it easier for you to navigate your personal injury claim. So, here are the answers to 20 commonly asked questions in Alabama personal injury cases.
1. What should I do after a car accident?
People often wonder what to do after an accident. After a car accident, call 911 immediately. The next thing to do – if you are able – is to gather as much information as possible. Important facts include the other driver’s contact and insurance information, the contact information of any witnesses, and pictures of the scene. Then, seek medical treatment.
2. I was a little sore after the accident but I don’t think I’m injured. Do I still need to see a doctor?
Absolutely. Some car crash injuries – such as broken legs – appear immediately. Other injuries might not show up for several days or weeks after an accident. Some injuries seem minor at first but get worse over time.
3. The insurance company keeps asking me for a statement. Should I give them one?
NEVER give a statement to the insurance company without the help of an Alabama personal injury attorney. Remember, the insurance company’s goal is to deny your auto insurance claim. They will use anything and everything you say to achieve that goal. A personal injury attorney can help you make sure that your statement doesn’t hurt you in the long run.
4. The insurance company offered me a settlement. Should I take it?
Insurance companies tend to offer “lowball” settlements. Nine times out of 10, these initial settlement offers don’t reflect the true value of your personal injury claim. Never accept a settlement from an insurance company before talking to a Birmingham personal injury attorney.
5.What is a personal injury claim?
Personal injury law is a subset of what lawyers call tort law. Tort law is designed to compensate people who have been injured by others. There are two types of torts – those committed intentionally and those committed negligently.
6.What is negligence?
When a person does something intentionally, they mean to cause harm. A driver who slammed into your car on purpose acted intentionally.
On the other hand, a person who is negligent doesn’t mean to hurt anyone. However, they have failed to act in the way that a reasonable person would. For example, reasonable drivers follow the speed limit and stop at each red light. A driver who speeds or runs red lights could be considered negligent.
7.How do I know if I have a personal injury case?
The only way to know if you have a personal injury case is to meet with an Alabama personal injury lawyer. To win an Alabama personal case, you have to prove two things: 1) that the other driver was negligent, and 2) the other driver’s negligence caused your injuries. While these questions might seem simple, they sometimes present tough legal questions. The result in each case depends on its unique facts. Your lawyer will be able to tell you if you have a case.
8. I want to handle my case myself. Do I really need to hire an Alabama personal injury lawyer?
Yes. First, only a personal injury lawyer can fully understand the difficult legal issues that arise in a personal injury case. Second, lawyers have inside knowledge about how courts work, which judges are helpful, and the court staff. Third, the insurance company will certainly have a lawyer, so you should have one too. Finally, studies have shown that the average personal injury settlement for a person representing themself is $17,600. The average settlement for those represented by attorneys was $77,600. Clearly, a Birmingham personal injury lawyer can help you in many ways after a car accident.
9. What if I can’t afford a personal injury lawyer?
If you can’t afford a personal injury lawyer, you needn’t worry. Most car accident attorneys don’t ask for money up front. Instead, they work on a contingency fee basis.
10. What is a contingency fee agreement?
In a contingency fee agreement, a lawyer takes your personal injury case without asking for money up front. Instead, the lawyer agrees that if you win, you will give the lawyer a percentage of your recovery. So, if you recover $100,000 and your contingency fee agreement says that your attorney will take 35%, you will receive $65,000.
11. When should I contact a Birmingham personal injury lawyer?
If you are injured, do not wait to contact a car accident lawyer. Under Alabama law, every case must be filed by a certain deadline. (Lawyers call this deadline the statute of limitations.) The general statute of limitations for Alabama personal injury cases is two years. But some cases – such as wrongful death cases – have other deadlines that are much earlier. Some of these deadlines can be as early as six months after your accident. So, don’t wait to contact an accident attorney.
12. What can I expect at the first meeting with my Alabama personal injury attorney?
At the first meeting, the attorney will ask lots of questions. They will want to know the basic facts of the accident – the time of day, the position of the vehicle, etc. – as well as information about your injuries. If you have medical records or pictures, you should bring them to the first meeting. You should also bring a list of questions to ask the personal injury attorney.
13. How does the personal injury claim process work?
Every personal injury case is different, but in general, here’s how it’s done.
Sometimes, the court is not involved. If the personal injury attorney is able to successfully negotiate a settlement with the insurance company, there is no need to proceed.
If the parties can’t agree on a settlement, a lawyer will file a document called a complaint with the court. The complaint lists the reasons why the plaintiff – the injured person – believes that the defendant – the other driver – caused the injury. The complaint will also include a demand for damages.
After the complaint is filed, the attorneys will begin negotiating again. Often, each side will request information from the other. (This process is called discovery.) If they reach a settlement, the case ends. If they can’t agree, the case will proceed to trial.
At trial, there will be a judge and jury. The judge decides the legal questions. The jury decides questions of fact such as whether a traffic light was red or green. The judge will instruct the jury on the law and the jury will deliberate. The jury will then return and the judge will read its verdict.
Sometimes, personal injury trials are split into two parts. The first part – called the liability phase – will decide whether the defendant’s negligence was responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. If the jury decides that the defendant caused the injuries, they will then proceed to part two where they decide how much money to award to the plaintiff.
14. How long does a personal injury case take?
There is no hard and fast rule. Some cases may be decided quickly. Others may last for months or years. Your personal injury attorney will be able to give you a better idea of how long it will take to resolve your case.
15. How much money is my personal injury case worth?
You may have seen online calculators that claim to provide an estimate of how much your personal injury case is worth. The reality is that every personal injury case is unique. Without knowing the exact facts of your case, no “calculator” can provide you with an accurate estimate. The best way to get an accurate estimate is to ask a Birmingham personal injury attorney.
16. What kinds of damages can I get in a personal injury case?
There are various types of damages available in Alabama personal injury cases. First, there are compensatory damages. These damages attempt to put the plaintiff back in the position that they were in before the accident. Compensatory damages cover economic damages like lost wages, past medical bills, and future medical bills. They can also include non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
There are also punitive damages. Rather than reimbursing the plaintiff, these damages punish the defendant in hopes that other people will not repeat the bad behavior. In Alabama, punitive damages are rare but your Birmingham personal injury lawyer can help you figure out if they might apply in your case.
17. How do settlements work in personal injury cases?
Settlements in personal injury cases come from negotiation. One party – usually the defendant – will open the negotiation by making a settlement offer. The plaintiff can accept the offer, reject it, or make a counteroffer. This process will continue until the parties either reach an agreement or fail to do so. If the case doesn’t settle, the case will go to trial.
18. Can my lawyer force me to settle my personal injury case?
No. Lawyers must follow strict ethical rules. One of those rules says that the client, not the lawyer, gets to make important decisions. The decision to accept a settlement is one of those decisions. So, your lawyer can try to persuade you to accept the settlement, but they cannot force you to do so or accept the settlement without your consent.
19. Will my personal injury case go to trial?
Probably not. On television, every case goes to trial. In real life, about 97 percent of personal injury cases settle. So, the odds are that your case will not go to trial.
20. I don’t want to testify. Will I have to testify in court?
Possibly. Probably, in fact. Whether you have to testify will depend largely on the claims in your case. For example, if your complaint contains claims about your emotional or mental state – such as pain and suffering – you will probably have to testify because no one can speak to how the accident affected your mental state better than you can.
Testifying in court may seem like a scary or difficult thing, but your Birmingham personal injury attorney will make sure that you are ready if you need to testify.
Have We Answered Your Question? We hope that these answers to commonly asked questions in Alabama personal injury cases help you. If you have more questions, the Collins Law, LLC team can answer them. Our firm handles trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and many other personal injury claims. We will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation including a detailed case evaluation, call 205-588-1411 or use the Collins Law online scheduler. We look forward to helping you!