Q
What are the different types of lawsuits that are handled by personal injury lawyers?
AThere are many different kinds of injuries that are handled by personal injury lawyers and some lawyers specialize in certain types of cases. The most common kinds of personal injury claims include the following:

  • Traffic accidents involving cars and trucks (which can also include motorcycle accidents and bus collisions)
  • Work-related accidents (including those that involve workers’ compensation or workman’s compensation claims)
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Injuries suffered as a result of an assault
  • Accidents occurring in someone’s home
  • Product liability (defective product manufacture or design defects)
  • Medical malpractice claims (negligence by doctors, medical staff, dental accidents which can also include injuries to the brain, head, and spine, and to children during child birth)
  • Toxic torts or industrial disease claims (such as injuries resulting from asbestos, mesothelioma, lead poisoning, chest related diseases (which includes emphysema, pneumoconiosis, silicosis, chronic bronchitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and chronic obstructive airways disease)
  • Job-related stress disorders (such as deafness, occupational stress, contact dermatitis, and repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome)
Q
What does “contingency agreement” mean?
AThis means that the lawfirm will work on your case and usually advance the expenses of litigation, but will not charge you unless and until they recover money damages for you.
Q
Does the law firm or lawyers always pay the up-front expenses of the case?
AYes, most of the time as you’ve just read. There are a few exceptions when a law firm might not pay up-front expenses of a personal injury lawsuit. The first instance is when the case is not very strong but the client still wishes to go ahead with the lawsuit. An attorney may not wish to undertake all the high financial risk of a tenuous case by paying all the up-front expenses and relying only on a contingency fee. Another instance occurs where a reasonable settlement offer is made to the client but the client refuses to accept the offer against the advice of the law firm. If the client wishes to continue to pursue the case in the hope of receiving more money, the client will need to pay for future expenses and may be required to reimburse the law firm for prior expenses.
Q
Will I owe the law firm money if we don’t win my case?
ANo, you will not owe the firm/attorney anything if we don’t win your case, this is a gamble that the firm takes and must consider when taking a new case.
Q
What is the process of the typical personal injury lawsuit?
AAfter the client signs a retainer agreement with a law firm for legal representation, the law firm will spend several weeks obtaining documentation about your case such as medical records, police reports, identification of and statements made by any witnesses, etc. The law firm will also make contact with an insurance company if one is involved (for example, car accident cases, slip and falls in a business location or home with homeowner’s insurance, doctor’s medical malpractice insurance carrier, etc.) and see whether a settlement offer can be negotiated. If an acceptable settlement is not reached, the law firm will then file a lawsuit on your behalf.

For several months, paperwork is exchanged and both the law firm and the insurance company try to assess what potential damages might be as well as the costs of trying a case and the chances of winning or losing. Next is the process of taking “depositions” – where the law firm has the chance to ask questions of the defendant and the other attorney will have the chance of questioning the plaintiff. This process also includes the questioning of any witnesses. All the testimony given at a deposition is “under oath” and can be admitted in a courtroom trial, should one be necessary. The insurance company or defendant may request that the plaintiff be examined by their own doctor (also known as an independent medical examiner or “IME”.) If a settlement cannot be reached, a trial begins in front of a judge and jury. The law firm and defendant’s law firm are frequently in contact with each other and many cases settle long before the end of a trial.

Q
What are the typical expenses involved in a personal injury lawsuit?
AFiling fees for a personal injury lawsuit and depositions. The most significant costs and expenses are for trial, with the testimony of paid experts such as doctors. The need to hire process servers, messengers, investigators, other experts such as people who create presentations and reconstruction of accidents, payments for medical records and other documentation, costs of photocopies and more. The law firm handles the salaries of its lawyers and staff who are involving in prosecuting a personal injury lawsuit as well as the overhead to run a law office. Those expenses are usually paid out of the proceeds of winning or settling a case.
Q
What is my lawsuit worth? How much money can I expect to receive?
AThere is no right answer to this question as no two cases are exactly alike and there are various factors to be considered in evaluating what a lawsuit might be worth in terms of money damages. In some instances there might be difficulty in proving who was at fault (“liability”) and whether evidence exists that suggests the plaintiff might be primarily at fault. In other instances, the injuries suffered by a plaintiff might not be severe and of a type difficult to prove. In those cases, law firms might not be willing to take on the risk of not being able to recover their expenses for trying such a case.
Q
What is an IME and why do I have to have one?
AAn independent medical examination (IME) is a medical examination by an independent doctor intended to give an unbiased medical picture of the plaintiff. In some cases, if there is more than one defendant or if special circumstances exist, more than one IME may be required.
Q
Who pays for an IME?
AThe party requesting the examination, which is almost always the defendant. If the plaintiff is asked to be responsible for this expense, it will be handled like all the other legal costs on the case. The firm will pay all expenses required to get the case ready for trial, and will only be reimbursed if there is a recovery in the client’s case. So, if there is recovery, the client reimburses the firm for this expense out of that recovery.
Q
What is an expert witness and how much do they cost?
AAn expert witness is an individual who has some specialized knowledge in a specific area that the common person does not have. In most of the cases handled by the firm, expert testimony is required by law. Like most people, experts charge for their time, and they do so by the hour. However, like all other legal costs, the firm advances these expenses and you do not reimburse the firm until and unless a recovery is made in your case.