Personal Injury FAQs

What is a personal injury attorney and what can he do for you?

Many folks hear the term "personal injury attorney" thrown about in conversation. However, not everyone truly understands what a personal injury can do for somebody who has been seriously injured. That is in partial due to the fact that personal injury lawyers do more than one thing. While it is true that the personal injury aspect of the law deals with helping people who have suffered physical injury, there is much more to personal injury law than most people think. Personal injury law is also about helping people receive monetary compensation for the injuries they have suffered due to the negligence of another person. However, people are injured in all many different ways.

A personal injury lawyer helps people who have been injured in automobile accidents, defective product injuries, slip and fall accidents, animal attacks, or any other type of injury situation.

Even the most accomplished and respected personal injury lawyer cannot help everybody who has been injured. Of the many misconceptions regarding California law, that there is always a right to recover compensation after someone has been injured, is one that must be clarified. Under California personal injury law, the only time that anyone is entitled to compensation for an injury, is when somebody else's negligence or intentional acts caused that injury. Your injury lawyer will investigate all necessary factors of your case, including the four most important, which are: negligence, causation, damages, and money.

While it may appear that is it not necessary to hire a top personal injury lawyer when it is obvious that an injury was cased by someone else that is not the case. Even though an accident/injury situation may seem cut and dry, it is extremely important that you hire a personal injury lawyer with experience and a lengthy track record of verdicts, settlements, and judgments.

Can I settle my personal injury case now and still receive money later for medical bills and lost wages I incur after I settle?

In almost every California personal injury case, the answer to this question is "no". Settlement in personal injury cases are almost always a one time deal, in part because insurance companies have an obligation to their insured. The individual who is responsible for causing the serious accident does not want to get sued a second time for the same incident. They want to ensure that their insurance company pays the injured party all that is required of them, so that they are not forced to owe any type of compensation in the future.

Let's say that you caused an accident and you had insurance. You had the insurance policy to protect you, and you would expect that the insurance company would do all that they could to get the case settled in a way that would not be negative toward you, where you would not owe any money. You would have a legitimate disagreement with your insurance company if they paid the injured party what they wanted, while leaving you in a position where you could be sued later on down the road without the benefit of having insurance. This would actually be a situation of "bad faith" which would open the insurance company up to serious liability. Remember that the purpose of insurance is to protect you from financial loss if you are ever proven negligent.

Let's get back to the scenario of being the injury victim. As an injured person, you can expect that the insurance company will most likely do what they can to make certain that you sign a "release" before they give you any type of compensation. This means that before the insurance company will give you any money, they want to make sure that you have signed off any legal right to receive more money in the future.

It is understandable that this creates a problem for anyone who has suffered a catastrophic injury or severe permanent injury. For example, a person who has suffered serious injuries in a car accident may want to settle their case within a year or two, although at that time they will not be done with all their medical treatment, and may find out that they may never be able to work again.

As you can see, it is essential to make sure that any settlement includes money for anticipated future medical care, as well as loss of future wages. Often times, this requires the assistance of a skilled California personal injury attorney who can help a car accident victim. For example your lawyer may be able to obtain an honest assessment from an expert witness who can help determine the cost of future medical care, the probability of future medical care or treatment, and the expected wage loss associated the injury that was suffered.

Following a car accident, or any other type of serious accident, it is a huge risk to sign any document before it has been reviewed by a lawyer. Due to the legal language which these documents are written in, even a document that looks like it is not going to waive any future rights could result in serious and unfair ramifications to you. Therefore, it is vital that you do not sign any "release" agreement in which you agree to accept money without first having a lawyer read through the document, in the event that (without you realizing) the document results in you losing the right to receive money for future medical care or other compensation.

How much money does it cost to hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Hiring a personal injury attorney is not the same as hiring most other types of professionals to provide a service for you. In general, if you require the top company or person available to you, you will most likely have to pay them a lot of money out of your own pocket. In other words, hiring the best accountant would be very expensive; therefore even some one who has a legitimate need for the best accountant may not be able to hire one unless they have a large sum of money that they can spend up front. The is also the case for getting a medical specialist that needs to be paid out of pocket for any other type of service or professional.

At Caputo & Van Der Walde LLP, our personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis to ensure that people may utilize our services in the event of a serious accident or injury. Upon the resolution of your case, we will be compensated pursuant to a pre-arranged percentage of your settlement or verdict. There are no up-front or hidden fees.

What is a contingency fee?

A contingency fee is a financial situation which allows you to retain the best personal injury lawyer you can find with no money out of your own pocket. As the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, it is important to understand how a contingency fee works. Contingency fees are particularly good for those who do not have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on hiring an accident lawyer. When you work with a lawyer using a typical fee agreement (NOT a contingency fee) you have to pay for every hour that the attorney works, as well as the hours of work completed by their staff members, such as paralegals. If you are involved in a complicated personal injury matter, it may require thousands of hours of a lawyer's time. To be realistic, even the most seriously injured people would not be able to retain a top lawyer without a contingency agreement.

At Caputo & Van Der Walde LLP, we work on a contingency fee basis. The money that our injury lawyers have earned has been the result of hard work, resulting in successful conclusions to our clients' cases.

There are numerous advantages to hiring a lawyer who works on a contingency fee basis, such as the fact that the lawyer is going to be as focus as you when it comes to the settlement amount. Not all scenarios which involve contingency fees are perfect. Like other lawyers, you may find that a lawyer who works on a contingency fee basis may not try to get the maximum monetary compensation available, or they may not be willing to give it their all and aggressively fight the insurance company when that is what it takes.

However, once you have established that you have hired a lawyer who understands California personal injury law, excels at what they do, has a track record of fighting insurance companies, you will see that a contingency fee usually is to the benefit the client. The contingency fee insures that the personal injury attorney cares about getting the best settlement for their client, not only because that is their job, but because they are paid accordingly to what is recovered for the client.

So how does a lawyer get paid out of a contingency fee?

If the personal injury case is lost our lawyers get nothing. However, if the case is won, the compensation that our lawyers will get is pursuant to a pre-arranged percentage of your settlement or verdict, which is typically 33% to 40% and dependent upon when the case resolves.

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