Frequently Asked Questions about Colorado Personal Injury
The only thing more frustrating than suffering an injury is trying to figure out how to pay for the costs of it. This is especially true when you did not cause the injury. Our attorneys have decades of experience helping Colorado residents, throughout Colorado Springs and Vail, recover compensation for personal injuries and we want to help you too.
Before you give us a call to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, read through the following FAQs about personal injury:
- What is personal injury?
- How many personal injury cases go to trial?
- What types of personal injury claims are there?
- When is another person legally required to pay for my injuries?
- What type of damages can I file for in a personal injury claim?
- How much is my case worth?
- From whom do I recover compensation?
- How do I know the insurance company’s settlement offer is fair?
- Do I have to go to court?
- How long will it take to settle my personal injury claim?
- Who’s an “adjuster” and what should I do when they call?
- What can I do to help my personal injury claim?
- What should I bring with me for my first meeting with my lawyer?
- Do I need to hire a personal injury attorney?
What is Personal Injury?
When a person is injured through no fault of their own, a personal injury claim could possibly be appropriate to receive compensation for sustained injuries. Personal injury claims involve not only injury to a person, but also the wrongful, negligent acts of another person or entity. Car accidents are responsible for the largest number of personal injury lawsuits, followed by medical malpractice injuries, product liability injuries and “other” injuries—a category which includes construction accidents and slips and falls.
The majority of those who file a personal injury lawsuit have suffered moderate to severe injuries that have altered their lives and their futures. If you were left with serious injuries following an accident which was caused by the negligence of another, it is important that you have a thorough understanding of the personal injury laws specific to the state of Colorado. Speaking to a knowledgeable Colorado Springs personal injury attorney can give you the answers you need during this difficult time.
You may wonder what constitutes “negligence”. The law of negligence requires that people conduct themselves in a manner conforming to accepted standards of conduct. Negligence is present when a person fails to do what another normal, reasonable person would have done, under the same set of circumstances. There are five elements which must be shown to prove negligence was present:
- The defendant had a duty of care to you;
- That duty of care was breached by the defendant;
- The defendant’s breach of duty resulted in harm to you;
- The resulting harm was foreseeable, and
- Your injuries were the direct result of the breach of duty by the defendant.
How Many Personal Injury Cases Go to Trial?
Recently available statistics conclude that almost 95 percent of all pending personal injury cases end with a pre-trial settlement. This leaves only a small number of personal injury cases which will actually go to trial. The reasons so many personal injury cases settle prior to trial include:
- The plaintiff has more control over a settlement than a trial while accumulating fewer legal costs;
- A settlement is private, a lawsuit is not;
- A settlement is a guaranteed victory, and
- A settlement avoids trials that can drag on for months—or even years, when you factor in appeals.
What Types of Personal Injury Claims are There?
There are a number of personal injuries which qualify for a personal injury lawsuit, including:
- Injuries resulting from a slip and fall;
- Injuries resulting from a dangerous product or drug;
- Injuries resulting from an automobile accident;
- Injuries resulting from a large truck accident;
- Injuries resulting from a motorcycle, bicycle or pedestrian accident;
- Medical malpractice injuries, including birth injury;
- Industrial accidents, oil rig explosions or fires;
- Injuries sustained by the elderly in a nursing home due to neglect or abuse;
- Certain injuries sustained at work which may not fall under workers’ comp laws, and
- Any life-changing, catastrophic injury received as the result of the negligence of another.
When is Another Person Legally Required to Pay for My Injuries?
It can often be difficult to determine when another person is to blame for your injury. After all, some accidents are simply that—accidents. These accidents are unavoidable and would have happened regardless of the actions of another person. If your injuries are the result of an accident in which no person exhibited negligent behavior, your damages will be paid by your insurance company or out of your own pocket. If, however, your accident was the result of the negligent, reckless or intentional actions of another person, then you are legally entitled to recover compensation from that person—or that person’s insurance. While this sounds relatively simple, in some cases proving negligence can be difficult. This is why it’s important to consult an experienced Colorado Springs personal injury attorney to provide the necessary guidance to receive the compensation you deserve.
What Type of Damages Can I File for in a Personal Injury Claim?
You may wonder what type of damages you will be entitled to should your personal injury case be successful. Compensation for your losses will almost certainly include medical expenses, past, present and future. Medical expenses can encompass hospital expenses, physician expenses, prescription drug expenses and rehabilitation and therapy expenses. You may be entitled to lost wages, including the time you were required to take off from work in order to obtain medical treatment.
If you will never be able to work again—or you will not be able to return to your former career—you could be entitled to collect lost future wages, known as earning capacity. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may also be able to collect for disfigurement or disability due to the accident, property damage, any emotional distress related to the accident (including depression and anxiety), pain and suffering and damages associated with the interference of your family relationships, including loss of consortium. In order to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve, it’s important to consult an experienced Colorado Springs personal injury attorney that will fight by your side.
How Much is My Case Worth?
It is difficult to definitively say how much a Colorado Springs personal injury case is worth, since every case is different, with different facts and circumstances. If you are successful in your personal injury claim, you may be eligible for one or more of the following:
- Your past and current medical expenses;
- The cost of any future medical expenses, including physical therapy, surgeries, and medications;
- Lost wages or decreased ability to earn income;
- The cost to repair damaged property;
- Other financial losses, and
- Pain and suffering and/or loss of enjoyment of life.
From Whom Do I Recover Compensation?
The answer to this question depends on how your injury occurred. If you were injured in a car accident which occurred because of the negligence of another driver, you would file with the at-fault driver’s insurer. If you were injured on another person or entity’s property, you would file with the property owner’s insurance—homeowner’s insurance or the liability insurance of a store, restaurant, bar or other public entity. Before you attempt to deal with an insurance company on your own, be sure to check out the Sears & Associates, P.C. FAQ page on what you must know following an accident with injuries.
How Do I Know the Insurance Company’s Settlement Offer is Fair?
It is almost a sure bet that the first settlement your insurance company offers you will be low. Insurance companies have one goal, which is their financial bottom line. Despite the warm and fuzzy insurance commercials we constantly see, insurance companies are not your friend, and do not have your best interests at heart. In fact, what all insurance companies want is to settle accident claims for the least amount of money. Thus, the first offer will be low, in the hopes you will take the offer, either out of desperation, or because you really do not know what your claim is worth.
Never, ever accept a first settlement offer, and avoid negotiating your settlement on your own. The personal injury attorneys at Sears & Associates, P.C. have seen plenty of settlement offers over the years. We know when an insurer is attempting to take advantage of our clients, and we simply do not allow it—for you, and for every single client. Our consistent goals are to ensure your rights are protected, that you receive an equitable settlement which covers all your expenses related to the accident, and that your future is being properly looked out after.
Do I Have to Go to Court?
In most cases, no. Most Colorado personal injury claims are settled outside of court. Chances are yours will be too. The question is: Does your attorney know how to maximize the value of your case in order to obtain an equitable settlement offer? Once you bring your personal injury case to Sears & Associates, P.C., we negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurer, working hard to get you a fair settlement. If the insurer simply refuses to pay an equitable amount for your injuries and other damages, we will not hesitate to file a lawsuit and fight aggressively for your future. Typically, the very act of filing a lawsuit will increase the likelihood of a fair settlement offer, however if the insurer still refuses to acknowledge the severity of your injuries, we will go to court.
How Long Will It Take to Settle My Personal Injury Claim?
While it is normal to wonder how long it will take your Colorado Springs personal injury claim to settle, the individual facts and circumstances of your case will answer that question. Settlements can happen as quickly as a month or could take up to two years. Perhaps the biggest factor in how long it will take to settle your personal injury claim is the severity of your injuries, and the level of treatment required to restore you to your prior level of health. If your injuries are relatively minor, your case is likely to settle much more quickly.
Some personal injury claims could involve factual conflicts which will increase the amount of time your claim will take. Your Sears & Associates, P.C. personal injury attorney will investigate these conflicts by obtaining the following:
- Medical expenses;
- Treatment notes;
- Results of x-rays or other diagnostic tools;
- Police reports;
- Interviews of witnesses;
- Photographs of the accident scene;
- Accident reconstruction reports;
- Employment information, and
- Lost wage information
The medical treatment you receive following your accident is key to the length of time your claim will take to settle. You want to make sure you receive the treatment you need to allow you to return to the life you led prior to the accident. You may be referred to a specialist or surgeon, which could increase both the length of time it will take for you to recover as well as the amount of money your treatment will cost. If you settle your case prematurely, it is highly likely you will not receive the compensation you need to properly treat your injuries. Our attorneys will fight hard on your behalf to make sure all your medical bills are paid in full, while ensuring future medical complications related to the accident are also covered.
Finally, the amount of money your claim involves could also have a bearing on the amount of time it will take to settle your claim. If your personal injury case involves a large amount of money due to extensive injuries and medical expenses, then the insurance company may stall for a longer amount of time. In other words, when there is significant money at stake, insurance companies are likely to take longer to settle your claim, although your Colorado Springs personal injury attorney will ensure the process goes as quickly as possible.
Who’s an “Adjuster” and What Should I Do When They Call?
Insurance claims adjusters may also be called claims specialists, claims representatives or independent claims analysts. Whatever the title, a claims adjuster is the person who handles the negotiation process once a personal injury claim is filed. While a claim can sometimes be handled by the insurance company’s own adjuster, other times claims are referred to a firm of independent insurance adjusters. An independent insurance adjuster typically has a lower authority limit to settle a case, so they must have the settlement amount approved by a claim supervisor at the office of the insurance company.
When you file a claim under your own auto insurance, you will not negotiate a settlement with your own insurance agent, rather your agent will refer your claim to the company’s claims department, taking it out of the agent’s hands entirely. Within the company they work for, the job performance of an insurance adjuster is judged by how quickly they settle a claim as well as how little of the insurance company’s money the adjuster spends to settle that claim. Usually, the adjuster’s authority to settle a claim is restricted to a specific dollar amount.
For less experienced adjusters, the limit is usually between $5,000 and $10,000, however for more experienced adjusters, the upper limit could be closer to $20,000. If you do not have a personal injury attorney on your side, you will negotiate with the claims adjuster on your own. While you certainly know about your accident and your injuries, it is doubtful you have the knowledge or experience to negotiate the best settlement possible. Having an experienced Colorado Springs personal injury attorney on your side makes talking to a claims adjuster is one less thing you have to worry about following your accident.
What Can I Do to Help My Personal Injury Claim?
The things you do following your accident with an injury can make a huge difference in how your personal injury claim progresses. The following are ways you can help your attorney to maximize compensation in your personal injury claim:
- Make sure all evidence is properly preserved by taking photos of the scene, and keeping a detailed journal of every detail related to the accident.
- Obtain a copy of the police report as quickly as possible after the accident.
- Seek immediate medical attention, and always follow the recommendations given by your medical professional(s).
- Do not be too eager to accept a settlement offer. Talk the offer over with an experienced personal injury attorney so you do not risk receiving an insufficient amount of money to cover your medical expenses.
- Help your attorney build your case methodically to maximize your damages. Even if your case does not go to trial, careful case preparation can make a difference in your ultimate settlement offer.
- Although you may have as much as three years to bring forth your personal injury case, the sooner you set the wheels in motion, the better. As time passes, memories fade and evidence can disappear, so speak to a personal injury attorney as quickly as possible.
- Stay away from social media following your accident. Far too many people do not realize that posting on social media can have a seriously detrimental effect on their settlement offer.
What Should I Bring with Me for My First Meeting with My Lawyer?
If you have been injured in an accident, you are likely in pain, under stress, and feeling overwhelmed. Hiring an attorney is the first step toward getting your life back on track and your future back in your control. If you have never met with an attorney before, you may be unsure about how to best prepare for an initial consultation to discuss your Colorado Springs personal injury claim. Although every case is different, there are documents which can significantly help your attorney do his or her job. These documents include a police report, medical records, medical bills and any paperwork related to your condition or diagnosis. If you have kept a journal with all the details related to your case, your attorney will be extremely glad to have this, as it will make his or her job much easier.
Do I Need to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?
The short answer is yes, especially if your injuries are more serious than simple bruises. The Colorado Springs accident attorneys at Sears & Associates P.C. know the best strategies and steps to take after an accident. We can help you recover valuable pieces of evidence; and, best of all, we can relieve you of the stress of filing a claim, leaving you to focus on healing and getting your life back to normal. In some cases, a person injured by the negligence of another may decide to handle the case on his or her own. Generally, this is due to the mistaken perception that a personal injury attorney will take most of the eventual settlement. In fact, a personal injury attorney generally receives from 33.3-40 percent of the settlement, but the attorney bears 100 percent of the risk and expense should the case not settle in your favor.
The Insurance Industry reports that accident victims who hire a personal injury attorney are likely to receive from three to four times the settlement as those who attempt to handle the case on their own. In most accident cases, the only time it could be considered remotely prudent to handle your own personal injury case is when there is absolutely no question regarding fault, and when your medical bills are unlikely to exceed $1,000. Otherwise, having a knowledgeable personal injury attorney by your side is truly a “game changer.” Statutes of limitations must be considered, witnesses consulted and subpoenaed, insurance companies dealt with and scores of evidence gathered. A skilled personal injury attorney will take care of all these issues and more, allowing you time to heal following your accident. In fact, the simple act of retaining a personal injury attorney lets insurance companies and defendants know you have a skilled advocate in your corner who is dedicated to protecting your rights.
A highly-qualified Colorado Springs personal injury lawyer from Sears & Associates, P.C. can help you determine what needs to be done to help maximize your compensation. At each stage, we will help you build your case, communicating with the other side in pursuit of an equitable settlement. If your case does go to trial, we will be there by your side, helping you present your case—and yourself—in the best way possible. While the legal process takes patience, we will help you navigate the Colorado legal system, pursuing a course of action which results in the maximum compensation for your case. Contact Sears & Associates, P.C. today for help with your personal injury claim.