For a free consultation with an attorney about your personal injury, call (662) 286-3366.
Have you been injured in an automobile accident? Did you slip and fall while shopping at the grocery store or in the mall? Did you end up worse after surgery or hospitalization because of poor treatment? These events and many more are referred to as “personal injury” cases.
Generally, if a person is injured or killed as the result of another person’s negligence, the injured person (or the family of a deceased) is entitled to recover damages. Generally, if a person owes another person a duty and breaches that duty leading to injury, there is negligence entitling the injured person to damages. A duty can arise under common law (case law developed over long periods of time) or from a State or Federal statute or even regulations.
“Damages” resulting from personal injury or death generally include medical expenses, lost wages, loss of the future ability to earn wages (disability or impairment), disfigurement, and pain and suffering. However, damages will depend on the specific injuries and many other factors specific to your situation.
If you have been injured, you probably have too very important questions; what am I entitled to recover as damages, and, when do I get my money? The answer to these questions are impossible to answer without knowing all of the facts but here are some general guidelines that may help:
How much? You can add up your medical expenses and even figure your lost wages yourself but that leaves open several other items of damages. A doctor will be able to help you understand what your future limitations might be and there are also specialized physical therapists who can evaluate your abilities and disabilities. That information will help you and your lawyer calculate your loss of future wages but that assessment can only be made once you have recovered from your injuries to the point your doctor releases you from treatment. Pain and suffering is purely subjective as is the effect of disfigurement (for example, facial scars, loss of a limb, etc.).
- Therefore, your total damages will either be determined by negotiation between your attorney and the party at fault or by a jury.
- When? Since it is impossible to know what your total damages are until you have completed treatment, it usually takes longer than most people expect. You may be able to settle your case earlier but that usually results in a decreased recovery. After your doctor releases you, your attorney will need up-to-date medical records, all medical bills, the final tally on lost wages and may need to obtain an evaluation of your future disability or impairment. Then he or she can help you evaluate your damages and begin negotiating settlement. Because, your treatment may take months (or even a year or more for severe injuries), the attorney may file suit before settlement is possible. That is done to shorten the time for final resolution because our courts have a back log of cases and it can take many, many months to get a trial.
If you (or a family member you are helping) have been injured due to the fault of another, here is other information you need:
- YOU CAN LOSE YOUR RIGHT TO SUE: If you wait too long, you may lose your right to sue and recover your damages. In Mississippi, there is a three year statute of limitations for personal injury. So, if you are involved in an automobile accident, you must file suit against the driver at fault within three years of the accident date. However, if you are injured because of medical negligence, you only have two years in which to file suit. And, if the doctor (or nurse or dentist) causing your injury is employed by the state, county or city, the limitation is one year. There are also some special “hoops” to jump through before you can sue a doctor, other healthcare professional, or a hospital. Tennessee, Alabama and other nearby states have different limitations periods, some of which are much shorter, so obtaining legal advice on that issue should be sought as soon as possible.
- EVEN IF YOU ARE PARTLY AT FAULT, YOU MAY STILL BE ABLE TO RECOVER: It is not unusual to find that the two people involved in an automobile accident have both contributed. Perhaps one was speeding and the other failed to yield the right-of-way. The questions become what is the comparative fault and what are the damages. Many assume that if they were given a ticket or that the other person did not get a ticket, they cannot recover. Law enforcement officers may write tickets regardless of fault and they may not properly determine who is really at fault. Sometimes, they are simply wrong. Only an experienced lawyer can evaluate the issue of fault, the chances of recovery, and how recovery might be affected based on your relative fault in the accident.
- YOU MAY NOT GET TO KEEP ALL OF YOUR RECOVERY: Many injured people are surprised to learn that part of the money must be repaid to their insurance company (automobile carrier, major medical provider, disability carrier and even Medicare and Medicaid). Those companies that pay for your medical care or even property damage (such as your car) almost always have a “subrogation” right built into their policies (or the right is provided by statute for Medicare and Medicaid). Some will work with you by sharing in attorney’s fees and the expense of recovery, but some, especially group health carriers, will not. Your attorney will need all policies and coverage information to advise you about the impact of subrogation on your recovery.
MEDICARE AND MEDICADE WILL SLOW YOU DOWN: If the medial expenses arising from your personal injury are paid by Medicare or Medicaid, both of which are government bureaucracies, it frequently takes months for them to figure out what they have paid (or will pay) and, once your lawyer notifies them of settlement or a jury verdict, it can take several more months to reach agreement on the amount they will be repaid.
- THE VALUE OF YOUR CASE WILL PROBABLY DEPEND ON THE LAWYER YOU SELECT: There are lawyers and firms out there who thrive on quick turnover by settling cases below their true value. You probably see advertisements every day for these “settlement mills.” That does not mean that all lawyers who advertise fit this mold. But relying on thirty second TV commercials is not the best way to pick a lawyer to handle what might be the most devastating event in your life. Even the best lawyers settle cases for their clients without trial; the difference is that they recommend settlement only if it is in the client’s best interest. Not to make a quick dollar.
- UNDERSTAND HOW AND WHY INSURANCE COMPANIES SETTLE CASES: Although there are thousands of insurance companies, with a wide range of policies and procedures, some general rules apply to all. They want information and documentation; medical records, medical bills, employer wage information, doctor’s medical opinions, automobile repair estimates, income tax returns, and much more depending on the facts of the case. Unless the claims representative has everything required by his or her company, he or she will not settle your case. That is your lawyer’s first responsibility, to insure that all information is gathered and provided to the person with authority to settle your case. As for “why they settle,” the answer is usually that settlement is better for them than trial by jury. The company representative must know that the lawyer is not only willing to go to trial, but that the lawyer capable of winning at trial.
Select an attorney who has both experience in cases like yours and has the knowledge to answer your questions and advise you on the best course to take.