Personal Injury Law FAQs
Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive:
I Was Injured. Can I File A Lawsuit Against The Party That Caused My Injury?
When a person is injured as a result of another person’s negligence, the injured party may pursue a claim against the party or parties that caused the injuries. You are entitled to compensation for your injuries if it is found that a defendant was negligent and that such negligence was a cause of your injury.Any personal injury case depends on liability, damages, and whether or not you can collect from the negligent party or parties. Even if you were partially at fault for your injuries, you may be entitled to recover a portion of your damages. In Colorado, a claimant’s contributory negligence will not bar recovery if such negligence was not as great as the negligence of the person against whom recovery is sought. The claimant’s recovery will be reduced in proportion to his degree of fault.
Personal injury law attempts to cover all areas and types of injuries suffered by individuals. Some of the most common areas are automobile accidents, premises liability, medical malpractice, and product liability, among others. Whether or not you are entitled to compensation may depend on the type of accident that caused the injury.
In Colorado, the law used to provide for mandatory no fault automobile liability insurance coverage, also referred to as Personal Injury Protection (PIP), for all owners of motor vehicles in Colorado. As of July 1, 2003, Colorado converted to a tort system. PIP paid for a person’s injuries sustained in an accident regardless of who was at fault. Because of the change, most insurance companies raised their premiums on two other coverages contained in their policies, bodily injury (BI) and uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM).
Under the new system, if you injur someone in an automobile accident, his or her medical bills most likely will be paid by your BI coverage, once the entire claim is settled. It is very important that you choose the correct level of coverage based on your personal financial situation. An injured person can still sue you for the cost of medical treatment, pain and suffering, and actual damages.
Most insurance companies offer “MedPay” benefits. If you are injured in an automobile accident, and have purchased MedPay, your insurance company will pay for your medical treatment. If you do not have medical insurance or you medical insurance will not cover treatments such as chiropractic, massage therapy, physical therapy and acupuncture, you may wish to consider purchasing MedPay.
If you are in an automobile accident with an uninsured driver who is at fault, the uninsured motorist provisions of your own policy will apply, if you purchased such coverage. This coverage would also apply if you were hit by a “hit and run” driver. This insurance acts just like the insurance the uninsured driver should have had. Underinsured motorist coverage picks up where the liability coverage of the other driver leaves off. If your personal injuries exceed the amount of the other driver’s liability insurance, your underinsured motorist insurance covers the excess damages under current law.
Generally, people who operate motor vehicles must exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. Failure to use reasonable care is the basis for most lawsuits for damages caused by an automobile accident. In these cases, proof of fault is often contested and requires thorough investigation. A driver may also be liable for an accident caused by intentional or reckless conduct. A reckless driver is one who drives unsafely, with willful disregard for the probability that the driving may cause an accident. Liability claims are usually the subject of negotiation between your lawyer and the liability insurer for the negligent party. Lawsuits are generally filed when negotiations fail. If you file a lawsuit against a negligent driver, your attorney will need to prove that the other party was negligent and that the other party’s negligence caused injuries that resulted in compensable damages. Be careful when dealing with the other party’s insurance company because they may try to rush you into a settlement before you can adequately evaluate the extent of your damages.
How Long Do I Have To Hire An Attorney?
The law requires that you file a lawsuit within a specified period of time depending on the nature of the claim and the entity that caused your injury. This is referred to as the statute of limitations. Failure to file suit within this time frame prevents you from filing suit at all. In some instances, there are various exceptions to the statutes of limitation that may extend or limit the limitation periods. There may be special claims presentation requirements for claims against state and local government. For example, in Colorado, governmental agencies must receive notice within 180 days of the time the claim arises. For these reasons, it is important to consult an attorney as early as possible to be sure you don’t miss a crucial deadline.
In Colorado, most automobile negligence must be brought within three years from the date of incident. The limitation period is two years for most other negligence claims, medical malpractice, product liability as well as wrongful death. In many cases, the cause of action accrues on the date of the incident, but there may be exceptions when the injury could not have reasonably been discovered until a later date. For intentional acts such as libel, slander, assault and battery, the statute of limitations is one year.
If any person entitled to bring any action is under the age of eighteen years, mentally incompetent, imprisoned, or absent from the United States at the time the cause of action accrues and is without spouse or natural or legal guardian, such person may bring said action within the time limit specified after the disability is removed. If such person has a legal representative, such person’s representative shall bring the action within the period of limitation imposed.
How Will My Claim Be Processed?
Although most of us would prefer to avoid filing a lawsuit or going to court, it is sometimes necessary to pursue litigation to get full value for your claim. Lawsuits usually become necessary when there are disagreements with the other party’s insurance company over who caused an accident or how serious the injuries are. You should be sure not to sign any documents without prior review by an attorney. You need to attend all scheduled doctor appointments in order to document your injuries. Accurate records should be kept of time you missed from work, medical bills, and property damage repairs. You can document your damages with photographs of your injuries or photos of property damage.
After a lawsuit has been filed, both parties will conduct discovery. Pretrial discovery usually takes about a full year during which time both parties investigate all aspects of the claim. This may include taking oral depositions, obtaining pertinent records, propounding interrogatories, and hiring expert witnesses to obtain more evidence about the claim. During this period of discovery and as the trial date approaches, the parties will exchange settlement offers/demands. A large majority of personal injury claims settle before trial. If you agree to accept a settlement, you will be required to sign an agreement stating you absolve the other party of all further liability in this case.
You are entitled to recover for any actual damages that were proximately caused by the wrongful conduct of the defendant. Actual damages refers to the amount of money it would take to fully compensate you and place you in the same position you would have been in had the injury never taken place. You can recover for losses such as costs of reasonable and necessary medical care, property damage, car rental expenses, costs of domestic services, and loss of earnings. The law allows compensation for future medical and care expenses that the claimant can prove will be reasonably necessary to treat the injury. The claim may include income the claimant can prove will probably be lost in the future because of the injuries. Loss of earning capacity is also allowed when the patient proves he or she is less able to earn a living as a result of the injuries
You are also entitled to noneconomic damages for physical pain and suffering, mental and emotional suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium (disruption of your personal relationship with your spouse), etc. A third type of damages that are recoverable are for physical impairment and disfigurement. There is no definite standard of calculating reasonable compensation for these types of damages other than being just and reasonable in light of the evidence. They are assessed in light of the nature, extent, and length of time the injury lasts.
The law in Colorado limits the amount of compensation available for noneconomic damages (excluding physical impairment and disfigurement) in injury and wrongful death cases. For medical malpractice, damages may not exceed $1,000,000 per patient with not more than $300,000 attributed to noneconomic loss or injury. The court may allow an award in excess of these amounts under certain circumstances.
Sometimes a person is so severely injured that he or she cannot care and support loved ones the way he or she did before the injury. In appropriate circumstances, the law permits damages to be recovered by family members of negligently injured people for the loss of the love, care, affection, companionship, and other pleasures of the family relationship that are lost because of the injury.
Family members can be compensated for the wrongful death of a loved one. These damages may include medical and burial expenses, loss of income that would have supported the family members, and contributions the deceased would have made in the way of comfort, assistance, advice, protection, companionship, etc.
Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant for reckless or malicious conduct and deter others from similar conduct. They may be awarded only if it is established by that the defendant acted with fraud, malice, or willful and wanton conduct. The amount of such damages may not exceed an amount equal to the amount of actual damages awarded. The court may increase this amount to up to three times the amount of actual damages under special circumstances.
How Can I Determine How Much My Claim Is Worth?
Attorneys are prohibited from promising that they will obtain a certain amount of money for you. For purposes of settlement, a claim is valued upon an estimate of what a jury would likely believe the case to be worth, taking into account the severity of the injury, the effects of the injury on your life and the negligence of the other party. If you were partially at fault for the accident, the amount of damages will be reduced proportionately. Benefits received from some collateral sources may be used to reduce your recoverable economic damages. Any settlement will be reduced if there appears to be a good chance that the claim will not be successful. Other factors that may reduce the damages include past medical history, preexisting injuries, and prior claims history.
Considerable compensation may be commanded if your injuries are severe requiring extensive medical treatment, absences from work and permanent injuries. This is especially true if you were a healthy, productive, young worker prior to the accident. That is because an important factor in the value of your claim is the difference between your quality of life before the accident as compared to after the accident.
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Do I really need a lawyer?
Insurance companies make money when they deny personal injury claims because they get to keep the premiums without paying any money out. So, when you make a claim for medical care that you need because you are injured in a car accident or by a slip and fall, the insurance company does not try to help. Instead, they either deny your claim, or offer you some small amount of money to go away. They know that you probably do not know all of your rights. In fact, they bank on it.
An experienced personal injury lawyer almost always gets you better results. Prior to establishing Jeffrey Scott Lasswell, P.C., I used to work for the insurance companies. I know the tricks they use. Put that experience to work for you.
Call or e-mail today to get a prompt appointment to see how we can help you get the money you deserve. (719) 635-1245. The initial consultaion is free.
People who hire a lawyer to help them in personal injury cases get, on average, THREE TIMES as much money than those who handle their injury claims themselves. Obviously, hiring a good lawyer is in your best interests.
How much does it cost me?
Jeffrey Scott Lasswell, P.C. almost always accepts cases on a contingent fee basis. That makes sense for you. You pay us no fees (although you may need to advance some costs up front depending on your case). If you win your case or obtain a settlement before trial, you pay one-third of it to the lawyer. That sounds like a lot of money, but it is almost always the case that even after paying your lawyer, you still get more in your pocket than if you try to handle your claim yourself. If you lose, then you owe no fees at all. Call today to discuss the specifics of your case.
How do I choose a good attorney?
Jeffrey Scott Lasswell, P.C. specializes in personal injury. My experience working for the insurance companies gives you an advantage over hiring a lawyer that does personal injury without that experience.
I am a member of the El Paso County Bar Association and the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association. Ask around about my reputation, and then call for an appointment. (719) 635-1245. Remember, there are time limits on when you can bring a case, or lose it forever.