As accident lawyers, we talk to numerous accident victims everyday about their personal injury case. We often hear the same questions and concerns. Although everyone’s personal injury case is different, many of the same issues come up with each of these injured people. Here are answers to some of these common questions. For a more complete list of frequently asked questions, feel free to check out our FAQs page.
Whether you have a personal injury case that needs an accident lawyer depends on three main factors: fault, insurance, and injuries.
First, you can’t be the one at fault. In most states, including Utah, if you are at least 50% at fault for the accident, then you cannot recover a penny for your personal injuries. If you are less than 50% at fault, then you can recover for your injuries minus the amount of the percentage of your fault. For example, if a jury awards you $100,000 for your injuries and decides you are 30% at fault, then you would get $70,000.
Deciding who is at fault for the accident is not always an easy task. Oftentimes, more than one person is at fault. It takes time to investigate the facts to make a determination about fault. Parties often do not agree on who is at fault for an accident. Ultimately, your case outcome will depend not only on the facts themselves but also on how well your attorney frames the facts in your favor.
You must have injuries serious enough to pursue a claim, typically at least $3,000 in damages. If you don’t have damages in excess of $3,000, you probably are better off resolving it without an accident attorney. Never assume your injuries aren’t serious enough until you’ve talked to a personal injury attorney.
Your personal injury case can be worth more with the right personal injury lawyer.
You are entitled to receive money for special (economic) and general (non-economic) damages. Special damages are damages that you can more easily calculate: past and future medical bills, loss of future earning capacity, past and future wage loss, past and future benefits and pensions, property damage, etc. You need to provide support for these damages, including medical bills and records, tax returns, W-2s, pay stubs, letters from doctors and employers, repair estimates, and more.
It is more difficult to calculate general damages for personal injury cases. General damages include the following:
Insurance companies try to minimize general damages. Your personal injury attorney should never overlook these damages. We support general damages with medical records, witness testimony of family members and friends, photographs, video, journal entries, and more.
Unfortunately, it may take months or years to receive a personal injury settlement or award from the responsible party. Until then, without health insurance, you are stuck with the bills. This can cause a great deal of stress, affect your credit score, and even lead to bankruptcy.
It is always best to pay your medical bills as soon as they come due. If you cannot afford to pay your own medical bills and you don’t have health insurance, then most hospitals, doctors, and other medical providers will send your bills to a collection agency or file a hospital lien with the local court. A hospital lien is a legal document that requires you to pay the outstanding medical bill out of any settlement that you receive. It is always preferable to have a hospital lien placed on your account rather than to have your bills sent to collections. An experienced attorney will contact all of your medical providers as soon as possible to coordinate the execution of a hospital lien to avoid the hassle of dealing with a collection agency.
For more information about paying for you medical bills, see our blog post Your Medical Bill Was Sent to a Collection Agency. Now what?
In some cases, Utah law limits how much money you can receive for damages you sustain in an accident. These limits are often called “damages caps.” The two most common examples of damages caps are for personal injury claims against medical providers and the government. Damages caps limit the amount of money you can receive for general damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, disfigurement, impairment, loss of consortium, and emotional distress. Damages caps, however, do not limit the amount you can receive for special damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages.
Attorneys have challenged the constitutionality of damages caps, but the Utah Supreme Court has held that such caps are not unconstitutional and are allowed.
Most of the time, we will not need to file a lawsuit to resolve our clients’ personal injury claim. After making a claim for injuries, the parties will work to settle the claim with terms that all parties will accept. These pre-lawsuit negotiations usually lead to a settlement of the claim.
Most people do not want to get involved in a lawsuit. It can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful for all parties involved. Unfortunately, there are occasions where the parties cannot agree on terms, and a lawsuit is necessary. If a lawsuit is necessary, you will need an experienced accident attorney that has the tools and skills to effectively litigate your case.