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 costs like medical expenses and lost wages, as well as 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.
In order to fully understand what a personal injury lawsuit is, there are some important terms and definitions you should know. In this article, we will review the essential elements of a personal injury case as well as the terms you’re likely to encounter during the process.
What does “personal injury” mean?
“Personal injury” is the legal term for an injury to the body, mind, or psyche, and it differentiates the injury from destruction of property. Personal injury lawsuits refer to a tort lawsuit in which the plaintiff has suffered harm through the negligence of someone else. When you suffer harm or injury and someone else is at fault for that injury, you may file a personal injury lawsuit. 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 for my case?
There are many outcomes that are possible for a personal injury lawsuit. For 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 a negotiation, followed by a written agreement in which both sides consent to take no further legal action. This usually results in the injured plaintiff receiving an amount of 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 that you’ll be going to trial. A settlement can be reached at any time, and even once the lawsuit is filed a settlement is still a likely possibility. 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 will need to prove that there are grounds to appeal the case, which typically means that there was a fault with the initial decision.
Many personal injury cases will result in a settlement. Even after your case has gone to trial, a settlement is still a very likely possibility. 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, and 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, it is important that you keep a record of all expenses related to your injury. Medical bills, receipts from medications, parking fees at the hospital, any expense at all that you incurred while dealing with your injury. Additionally, keep track of how much time you needed to take off from work. You can simply 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, and that includes non-economic claims such as pain and suffering. Pain and suffering refers 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 very 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 you 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 covers.
How much will I be awarded from my case?
When it comes to determining how much you will be compensated in a personal injury case, permanency is key. All personal injury cases are difficult, painful, and potentially traumatic, but if your life will be 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 fully prove your damages.
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 are the factors that will be used to determine the funds you are awarded.
What is the statute of limitations to file a personal injury lawsuit?
There are a few things you should keep in mind when you have been injured and are considering a personal injury case. First, you have a limited amount of time to file your lawsuit, called a statute of limitations. From the moment you are injured, or discover the injury, you need to 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, if you are filing against a municipality, the statute will be much shorter. 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 need to 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 a lot of things; it could be an individual, a municipality, or a business. It can be difficult to figure out 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.
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 by the time you contacted an attorney your claim is already invalid. Your attorney will determine who is at fault and advise you of the relevant 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’re feeling, what injuries you suffered, and any 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, if your clothes were torn or bloodied at the time of your accident, save them. 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 contingency fee of one-third, meaning they will usually collect one-third of your recovery (by verdict or settlement). With a contingency fee agreement, you won’t pay the lawyer an hourly basis for their legal services – in fact, you won’t pay anything up front. Their payment is contingent on whether you recover compensation for your injuries. If you don’t win your case or settle, they don’t get paid.
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.
If you have been seriously injured in New York through no fault of your own, you might be entitled to compensation. The contingent fee arrangement gives Hach & Rose, LLP the ability to bear the risk in our client’s cases. It also gives us the ability to pour all of 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. Either 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 the choice you make 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 taken off the top of 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 if the case is not successful, you are paying for the expenses.
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 foot the bill for the expenses. If the attorney bears this responsibility, the contingency fee is going to 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 2 because they do not take the financial risk. Many law firms borrow on behalf of the clients to pay expenses to pay for the lawsuit. The law firm may turn to a third-party lender to fund the cost of bringing legal action, and often at high interest rates. When you sign a personal injury attorney to 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 end up bearing 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. Our goal is to recover fair compensation for you, and make sure 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 that 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 make sure 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 have an impact on the amount of compensation you get.
Hach & Rose, LLP’s reputation can be a significant factor in 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 be paying. It will also states 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.
Keep in mind that it costs absolutely 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 clients’ interests are completely aligned, and that’s to get the maximum recovery possible. It is truly a beneficial arrangement for the client because they have absolutely 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 your contingency fees.