What is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A personal injury lawsuit is a civil lawsuit where the victim has suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence. In a civil lawsuit, the victim is entitled to recover money, also known as damages, for medical expenses and lost wages. They are also entitled to non-economic damages like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
For someone who is not familiar with the legal field, personal injury lawsuits can be very confusing. And for many of our clients, their personal injury case is the first time they have ever been involved in a legal battle. The attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP will walk you through every step of the process.
To fully understand what a personal injury lawsuit is, you should know some important terms and definitions. This article will review the essential elements of a personal injury case and the terms you’re likely to encounter during the process.
What does “personal injury” mean?
“Personal injury” is the legal term for bodily, mind, or psyche injury. It differentiates the injury from the destruction of property. Personal injury lawsuits refer to tort lawsuits in which the plaintiff has suffered harm through someone else’s negligence. You may file a personal injury lawsuit when you suffer harm or injury and someone else is at fault. Personal injury cases are filed with great need on behalf of the victim to cover lost wages, medical bills, pain, and suffering. Often these cases highlight a danger that should be corrected to protect others.
What are the outcomes of my case?
Many outcomes are possible for a personal injury lawsuit. In most cases, one of these situations will occur after your lawsuit is filed.
- Lawsuit: A private individual, known as the “plaintiff,” files a civil complaint against the individual, municipality, or business at fault, known as the “defendant.” The plaintiff will argue that the defendant acted negligently, and their actions resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.
- Settlement: Often, personal injury cases do not go to trial and are settled out of court. The two parties concerned will meet, along with their attorneys, to work out details. These agreements most commonly take the form of negotiation. It is followed by a written agreement in which both sides consent to take no further legal action. This usually results in the injured plaintiff receiving money in exchange for ending their lawsuit.
- Trial: A trial is a proceeding in court where your case is decided in front of a jury of your peers. In New York State Court, 5 out of 6 jurors must agree to have a jury verdict. Filing a lawsuit does not necessarily mean you’ll go to trial. A settlement can be reached anytime. Even once the lawsuit is filed, a settlement is still likely. Personal injury cases do not typically go to trial, but it’s always an option.
- Appeal: If your case goes to trial and you don’t win, all hope is not lost. You can appeal the court’s ruling. Your attorney must prove that there are grounds to appeal the case. Which typically means there was a fault with the initial decision.
Many personal injury cases will result in a settlement.
Even after your case has been at trial, a settlement is still very likely. It is important to note that not all personal injury firms will take your case to trial! Some will only settle out of court. Even though a settlement is often preferable, as it is faster and less complicated, you should always choose a personal injury firm that has the ability to take your case to trial should you need to. Even if you never need to go to court, the firms that go to trial will be known to the insurance companies and garner more respect. They will know which firms they can offer less money to, knowing they won’t go to trial. They will also know which firms will take them to court if their settlement amount is too low. This is to your advantage and is a critical factor when choosing your attorney.
What are economic damages?
Whatever the outcome of your personal injury case, the resulting funds you are awarded will be known as damages. Damages will cover a myriad of costs. Some are easy to put a dollar amount on, like medical bills, lost wages, transportation to appointments, and any related physical therapy. These are known as economic damages.
As you go through your case, you must record all expenses related to your injury. Medical bills, receipts from medications, parking fees at the hospital, and any expense you incurred while dealing with your injury. Additionally, keep track of how much time you needed to take off from work. You can request documentation from your employer. Retaining a record of all these expenses will be crucial when your case is complete, and your award is calculated.
What are non-economic damages?
Some damages are more difficult to define, including non-economic claims such as pain and suffering. Pain and suffering refer to any anguish as a result of your accident.
Non-economic claims relate to what’s known as “lost capacity of enjoyment of life,” meaning that somehow your life is different after your accident, and you’ll be dealing with the effects for a long time. For example, it is important for your attorney to understand the things you enjoyed before your accident so that they can describe what you have lost.
If you were able-bodied before your accident and now have a permanent injury that prevents you from performing these activities, this would constitute lost enjoyment of life. If you were previously a contractor, and now your back injury prevents you from picking up anything that weighs more than 10 pounds, this is a serious and permanent change to your daily life. You can receive economic funds to cover your medical bills, but you’ll never get back the joy of picking up your grandchild again. It’s these kinds of permanent, intangible losses that pain and suffering cover.
How much will I be awarded for my case?
Permanency is key when determining how much you will be compensated in a personal injury case. All personal injury cases are difficult, painful, and potentially traumatic, but if your life is forever altered after your accident, this will be a huge determining factor in the amount you receive in damages. It is vital that your attorney hire appropriate medical experts to prove your damages fully.
Are you now unable to perform the same career you were in before your accident? Will you suffer permanent and lasting pain? Or will you fully recover in six months with intensive therapy? These factors will be used to determine the funds you are awarded.
What is the statute of limitations to file a personal injury lawsuit?
You should keep a few things in mind when you have been injured and are considering a personal injury case. First, you have limited time to file your lawsuit, called a statute of limitations. When you are injured or discover the injury, you must choose a law firm and begin the process. If you wait too long, you may forfeit your right to sue. Generally speaking, the statute of limitations is determined by the state. In New York, you have three years to file a lawsuit for your injury (you can check out a list of statutes here). However, the statute will be much shorter if you are filing against a municipality. If you are filing against the City of New York, you must give notice within 90 days of your accident, and you will have further filing deadlines after that.
To know how long the statute of limitations is, you must know who caused the accident or the party at fault. Sometimes this is very obvious, but often it’s not. The party at fault could encompass many things: an individual, a municipality, or a business. It can be difficult to determine who is at fault for your accident. For example, if you’ve tripped over a broken sidewalk in front of a supermarket, do you hold the business or the city at fault? It will depend on who maintains the sidewalk, and your personal injury attorney will be able to determine the party at fault.
Your attorney will know the statute of limitations in your case.
Of course, there’s no reason you would know the statute of limitations or the party at fault for your claim. This is why it’s crucial to seek the advice of a personal injury attorney as soon as you can. You don’t want to lose time and find out that your claim is already invalid by the time you contacted an attorney. Your attorney will determine who is at fault and advise you of the statute of limitations.
What evidence is needed for my case?
You should always gather as much evidence as you can. Even if it doesn’t seem important, save it just in case it is useful to your attorney. Immediately after your accident, take notes. Your memory of the accident will never be clearer than right after it happens, and you could forget some important details. Write down everything you remember about the incident, how you feel, what injuries you suffered, and other details. As you go through your medical appointments, continue to take notes on your recovery.
Preserve any and all evidence you can! For example, save if your clothes were torn or bloodied at the time of your accident. Take photos of your injury immediately after your accident. If applicable, take a photo of any broken or damaged items that could have caused your accident. Your attorney will take this one step further by taking photos of the scene, obtaining any video surveillance in the area, and interviewing witnesses.
Finally, paperwork can be extremely useful. Your attorney should be responsible for collecting the necessary documentation, but your input will be essential. For example, if police came to the scene of your accident, obtain their information. Keeping names and contact information for all potential witnesses, doctors, or any other sources of info will be helpful. Any evidence you can get will be helpful for your attorney, so you should try to get as much as you can.
How Do I Pay For My Personal Injury Lawsuit in New York?
Personal injury lawyers will typically represent clients on a contingency fee basis. This allows clients to hire an injury attorney without paying upfront for the legal services. The attorney agrees to collect fees once they’ve recovered compensation for the client.
What is a contingency fee in an injury lawsuit?
In New York, attorneys are paid a one-third contingency fee, meaning they usually collect one-third of your recovery (by verdict or settlement). With a contingency fee agreement, you won’t pay the lawyer hourly for their legal services – in fact, you won’t pay anything upfront. Their payment is contingent on whether you recover compensation for your injuries. They don’t get paid if you don’t win your case or settle.
With a contingency fee arrangement, everyday New Yorkers who would not otherwise be able to afford access to good lawyers will be able to afford the best legal services available.
If you have been injured in New York due to someone’s negligence, don’t let legal fees stop you from seeking the justice and compensation you deserve. Contingency fees make lawyers accessible and affordable. From the attorney’s perspective, the contingency fee is a bit of a gamble: if they don’t win, they don’t get paid.
You might be entitled to compensation if you have been seriously injured in New York through no fault of your own. The contingent fee arrangement allows Hach & Rose, LLP to bear the risk in our client’s cases. It also allows us to pour our firm’s vast resources into your personal injury case.
What are the Two Options for Contingency Fees in New York?
New York State rules and regulations require New York personal injury attorneys to offer two options for paying the expenses of your case. You pay the expenses incurred in the case, or your lawyer does. None of the expenses will come out of your pocket until the case is concluded, but your choice determines how the fee is calculated. In general, you should let the attorney bear the risk. After all, that’s why you are paying them. Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of the two options:
Contingency Fee Option 1
You agree to reimburse the attorney for the disbursements paid out on the case regardless of the outcome. The case expenses are removed from the recovery amount before the attorney’s fees are deducted. When you agree to remain liable for repayment of all costs and expenses, the contingency fee is based on a percentage of the “net sum recovered.” This option may put more money in your pocket because you are assuming the risk of getting stuck with expenses if no recovery is achieved.
You assume some risk with this option because you are paying for the expenses if the case is unsuccessful.
Example of Option 1
- Total recovery: $100,000
- Less expenses and disbursements: -$10,000
- Less 33 1/3% of remaining -$30,000
- Client’s Recovery: $60,000
Contingency Fee Option 2
In this option, the personal injury attorney agrees to remain liable for all expenses if there is no recovery. Therefore, there is no risk that you will get a bill for the expenses if you lose. If the case is lost, the attorney must bill the expenses. If the attorney bears this responsibility, the contingency fee will be greater to compensate for it. With Option 2, you will see slightly less money if you win. The contingency fee under Option 1 is one-third of the “gross” sum recovered, while Option 1 fees are based on the “net” sum.
Example of Option 2
- Total recovery: $100,000
- Less 33 1/3% of $100,000: -$33,333.33
- Less expenses and disbursements: -$10,000
- Client’s Recovery: $56,666.67
Beware of Interest Charges on Expenses
Typically, personal injury clients choose option two because they do not take the financial risk. Many law firms borrow on the client’s behalf to pay expenses for the lawsuit. The law firm may turn to a third-party lender to fund the cost of bringing legal action, often at high-interest rates. When you sign a personal injury attorney to a retainer, watch out for the law firm asking you to approve interest costs or expenses. This will cost you money. In these situations, the clients bear the interest costs when the case is resolved, often significantly reducing the net-to-client.
At Hach & Rose, LLP, we do not charge expense interests to our clients. We have the resources to handle personal injury cases ourselves and will not go into debt at your expense to handle your case. We aim to recover fair compensation for you and ensure you get what you need to pay your bills and move on with your life.
What Sets Hach & Rose, LLP Apart
Many other lawyers will borrow from lawsuit-funding entities to be able to front the costs of handling the personal injury case. This means that the firm is going into debt to handle your case. Unfortunately, this often makes them more motivated to settle your case for an amount that allows them to repay their loan but ultimately might not be the maximum amount you’re entitled to.
Hach & Rose, LLP never does this. We don’t have to borrow money to handle personal injury cases. Our firm has the resources necessary to see cases through to a jury verdict if need be. We are committed to seeing the case through so you get every last dollar you need and deserve for your injuries.
At Hach & Rose, LLP, we do not charge expense interests to our clients. We have the resources to handle personal injury cases ourselves and will not go into debt at your expense to handle your case. We will do everything we can to ensure you get what you need to pay your expenses and move forward with your life following the incident that caused your injury.
Our Reputation Speaks for Itself
In addition to our vast resources, our attorneys are well-qualified and experienced. Our attention to detail is unmatched, and our ability to litigate personal injury cases can impact the amount of compensation you get.
Hach & Rose, LLP’s reputation can significantly affect your personal injury case. Insurance companies know which law firms are looking to settle quickly, and they know that firms like Hach & Rose, LLP only accept a settlement if it covers all the client’s losses. We won’t hesitate to take your case to trial if the settlement being offered is less than what you deserve.
Costs Associated with Personal Injury Cases
Hach & Rose, LLP takes a 33% fee off the entire settlement and then subtracts the costs we cover during the representation from the remaining balance. These costs are known as disbursements and may include:
- Obtaining evidence, such as medical records
- Payment for expert witness
- Costs of investigation
- Discovery costs
- Deposition costs
- Payment of any court costs and filing fees
- Costs for making copies
- Travel expenses
It’s important to distinguish between fees and costs. They are not the same thing when it comes to personal injury law. Fee refers to the contingency fee, the amount the personal injury lawyer charges for handling a case, which is the percentage of the recovery they will receive as compensation for working on the case. Unlike fees, costs include expenses for everything involved in handling the case.
For example, if you recover $100,000 for your injuries, we will take $33,333, and you will have $66,666 remaining. At this point, we will then deduct costs. Say the costs amounted to $5,000 from the $66,666. That means you will recover $61,666 in total.
What is a Retainer Agreement?
A retainer agreement is a contract you enter into with your lawyer. Until you sign the retainer agreement, the attorney does not work for you. The retainer agreement specifies the contingency fee agreement and expenses you will pay. It will also state that the attorney will work diligently on your behalf and that you will not settle or terminate your claim without advising the attorney.
A personal injury lawyer pays for certain items as the case proceeds. These fees and disbursements may include what the attorney pays for litigation expenses such as court filing fees, investigations, and expert witnesses, among other expenses. If you recover compensation, these amounts will be deducted from your recovery before the attorney takes their one-third cut. If you do not recover compensation, your obligation to pay will be detailed in the retainer agreement you enter into with the personal injury attorney.
You don’t need to worry about the details – Hach & Rose, LLP is here to help.
Remember that it costs nothing to retain a personal injury lawyer in New York because of the contingent fee agreement. At Hach & Rose, LLP, we only recover in circumstances where clients recover. Our interests and our client’s interests are completely aligned, and that’s to get the maximum recovery possible. It is a beneficial arrangement for the client because they have nothing to lose. They have no risk, and we’re only getting paid in circumstances where they are.
Every potential client who calls the offices of Hach & Rose, LLP is entitled to a free initial consultation. We don’t get a cent unless our client successfully recovers compensation, and our clients don’t pay anything unless they recover financially. Call Hach & Rose, LLP at (212) 779-0057 today for a free and confidential case evaluation. We will answer all your questions about your personal injury case and contingency fees.