How Do I Decide Whether to Sue or Settle?

There is no doubt that your have sustained a personal injury due to the negligence or actions of another party. What remains to be decided is whether you are willing to settle with that responsible party or pursue the matter in court. While you do have the option of making a decision on your own, seeking advise from a personal injury lawyer is your best bet. Here are some of the points that need to be considered carefully before making a decision.

Is Settling Even an Option?

It’s true that settling a personal injury suit is not unusual. Responsible parties are often open to this solution because they want to avoid the expense of going to court. Their desire to settle is not based just on wanting to avoid court costs and more legal fees. There is also the possibility that the court will find in favor of the plaintiff and the verdict will be a significantly larger award.

Others may feel they have a better chance of winning if they take the matter to court. When the responsible party believes it is possible to refute the claims of the injured party, they are highly unlikely to enter into settlement negotiations. In this scenario, settling is not even an option.

Being Open to Receiving a Settlement

Assuming the responsible party is willing to enter settlement negotiations, it never hurts to find out what they are offering. At this juncture, the injured party would do well to have an attorney on hand. That’s because what appears to be an excellent offer may not be so great after all.

Keep in mind that the responsible party and the insurance provider that ultimately pays the settlement has a vested interest in keeping the amount as low as possible. While the initial offer will be presented as being a generous one, it pays to step back and consider it from a more objective angle. That’s where the support of an attorney will serve you well.

Considering the Initial Settlement Offer

Your attorney is in a position to compare that offer with the direct and indirect expenses you’ve incurred as the result of the injury. How much income did you lose due to the inability to work? Will you need ongoing treatment? What will it do in terms of covering the money you’ve paid out of pocket for medical treatments not covered by your insurance? Will there be enough money to repay your insurance provider if a settlement is extended? This is important, because your insurance provider could place a lien on the settlement in an effort to recoup their losses.

With the aid of legal counsel, it’s possible to step away from the settlement offer for a moment and look closely at what the injury is costing you. In some cases, you may find that the offer is sufficient to cover all of your expenses, including the entire medical cost up to this point. Even so, it will not provide any help with future expenses related to further treatment or therapy. If that’s the case, your attorney will counter with an offer to settle that does take into account those future expenses.

Taking the Matter to Court

One of two things will happen as the settlement negotiations continue. The two parties will come to an arrangement that both find reasonable or the attempt to reach a settlement will come to an end. When the latter outcome occurs, that means it’s time to prepare for court.

Understand that you and your attorney will invest a great deal of time in preparing for the actual court case. Depending on the circumstances, it is possible for the injured party to drag out the case for anywhere from a few weeks to several years. While the odds of receiving a larger award by taking the matter to court are quite good, can you afford to wait several years before the money is in your hands? Are you prepared mentally and physically to put in the effort needed to pursue what you hope will be a reasonable judgment in your favor?

Remember there will be expenses along the way. Even if your attorney is working on a contingency basis, there is the need to render payment once you win the suit. After the attorney and your insurance company are paid, will the remaining about be enough to cover your out of pocket medical expenses? Will it also replace the income that you lost because of the accident?

These are questions you must answer for yourself before proceeding with a court case. Think about them carefully and don’t make a decision in haste. Remember it’s not just about the money. Ultimately, it’s about doing what’s best for you emotionally as well as financially.

The bottom line is that the decision of whether to sue or settle is up to you. What works best in your situation may be completely different from that of another person. Since the process of negotiating a settlement or even understanding whether the offer on the table is a good one is not always easy, you need legal counsel by your side. Discuss all your options with an attorney before deciding how to proceed. In the long run, you have a better chance of receiving what you need to recover from the injury and get on with the rest of your life.

How do I know if I have a personal injury claim?

If you have been injured, it can often be difficult to determine in your mind if you want to make a claim against another party. You might feel that you were responsible for the accident in the first place, but this could be faulty thinking. There are legal protections put into place to make sure that individuals are safe when visiting a public building or engaging in work related activities. There are a host of other protections in place as well, so you might very well have a claim that you need to pursue. The question becomes how you actually know if this is the case, and that is what we aim to answer below. This article is from Aaron, a writer with Zooomr – a car leasing tech startup based out of New Jersey.

What to do Immediately Following an Accident

Regardless of whether you think you have a claim or not, there are some things that you will want to do immediately following any major or minor accident. The first is, obviously, to take care of your injuries. Even if you think you injury is minor or non-existent, you will want to be seen by a medical professional. This is very important. Many injuries do not manifest themselves until days, or even weeks, after the actually accident. Because of this, you will want to make sure that you have yourself taken care of.

If you are physically able to, you will want to take notes after the accident. As humans, we tend to forget things rather quickly, even if they are extremely important. You will tend to forget the details of an accident soon after it occurs because of the stress involved. There is also the tendency to recount the events different in the days following an accident. To combat this, you will want to take as detailed note as you possibly can. This is made easier now with smartphones. If you have one nearby, click on the recording feature on one of its apps and start talking away. This will be valuable to law enforcement and your attorney, should you decide it prudent to retain one.

Preserve Evidence at the Scene

You will also want to work to preserve any evidence at the scene. This is easily accomplished by taking detailed photos at the location where the accident occurred. If you are in a slip and fall accident, for example, take pictures of the surrounding area. Make sure you have a date and time stamp on the photos, as this can be used after by a personal injury attorney. Preserving the evidence from the scene will help document your injuries and ascribe fault at a later time.

Keep Your Medical Records

When you bring a personal injury claim against another individual or entity, you will want to have medical rights to prove what has happened to you. These records typically prove to be a critical element in deciding the case, so make sure that you exercise your right to get the medical records and to be able to use them if necessary.

Evaluate How Much a Potential Claim is Worth

One of the first steps in determining whether or not to pursue a personal injury claim is to take time to find out how much it would actually be worth. Depending on the particular accident and the scope of your injuries, this can range anywhere from nothing to a lot. This is why you will want to contact a professional and experienced personal injury lawyer in your area for a consultation. During this initial meeting, they can help determine if it would be worth your while to pursue a claim.

Was There Pain and Suffering Involved?

The law does provide compensation if you can prove that you were caused noticeable pain and suffering as the result of your accident, and that the accident was no fault of your own. This will entail looking at how the injuries you suffered are impacting your daily life. Some accidents can make victims afraid to engage in certain activities. Other injuries may take away earning potential and detract from the quality of life that was enjoyed prior to the accident. When these items are documented and can be proven, both by the facts of the case and expert opinion, a claim is certainly possible.

Determining Fault

In order to file a personal injury claim, there has to be someone or some entity that will be responsible for paying any compensation that is ultimately directed towards you as the victim. This could be a business, workplace, private individual, or even a government agency. When an injury occurs, you need to report to the relevant authorities as quickly as possible. This is an effort to determine who is at fault and what level of compensation will eventually need to be paid out. Keep in mind that partial fault can also be assigned to multiple parties, in which case an eventual settlement or verdict would need to be split amongst everyone involved.

If you have been involved in an accident resulting in injuries to yourself, you may have a claim. It is important to discuss your case as soon as possible with a qualified and capable attorney in your area. The sooner you can resolve the matter, the sooner you can receive the compensation that you are legally entitled and get your life back together again.

How quickly should I retain an attorney?

When you have been injured in any type of accident, it is very important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after the event has occurred. Speaking with an attorney soon after the event provides is beneficial to you and your case. Seeking legal representation at a later date may actually prevent you from obtaining compensation.

The 5 Main Reasons To Seek Immediate Legal Representation

Statutes of Limitations

The Statute of Limitations is a set of laws that is designed to protect both parties in a legal action. These laws are applied to criminal and civil cases and apply to every person involved in a legal process. These statutes limit the time a person has to take action against another person in a court of law.

In regard to personal injury cases, most people have between 18 months and 2 years from the date of injury to seek compensation for their losses from the at-fault party. The only exception to this law is a death that results from an injury caused by negligence. The Statute of Limitations applies from the date of the death, not the accident in these cases.

These statutes are aggressively enforced in the court system and anyone who files a case after their limitation period has expired are generally denied. To avoid missing your deadline, speak to an attorney as soon as possible after the accident occurs.

Clear Memories Of The Event

Over time it is not unusual for people to remember events in a different way. Outside influences can cause people to see things in a different way or remember events in a biased manner. TO avoid this problem, anyone involved in a personal injury event is encouraged to get immediate legal representation.

As a benefit to yourself, you should write down as much as you remember about your accident right after it has occurred. If your injuries prevent this, make a recording of your voice and tell what you remember happening. Make sure to say your name and date when you make the recording and state why you are not writing out the events.

Witnesses often forget important facts over time, and the responsible party can also change the way things occurred in their personal statements. Seeking legal action early after the event occurs ensures that all memories are clear and stories genuine.

Loss Of Evidence

Evidence can also disappear over time. Paperwork is misplaced, photos are erased or lost, and witnesses move, change jobs, or pass away. Each one of these factors can be detrimental against your case when you are seeking compensation.

Proper Medical Care

The insurance company covering your accident is required to provide you with medical care so that you can recover from your injuries. However, it should be understood that they often deny treatments that they feel are too expensive, are not necessary, or are experimental. Even if you are not responding well to the medical therapies you are receiving, they may deny your requests for additional care.
Hiring an attorney to represent your case when you have first been injured ensures that you receive the proper medical care that you need to make a recovery from your injuries. Your attorney will make sure that you are authorized to seek specialist care, receive second opinions, or are approved for legitimate treatments to help your recovery.

Receiving the right medical care is crucial to your overall health. With improper care, you may face additional health issues from your injuries or never recover properly from the injuries you received. Insurance companies are only concerned with costs, not the outcome of the treatment.

Accurate Compensation

When you have been injured in an accident, you will endure many financial losses. Some of these include:

• Loss of income from employment
• Loss of employment benefits
• Medical costs current and future
• Costs associated with hiring services
• Repair or replacement costs for damaged property
• Losses caused by permanent disability

Many of these issues are very complex and must take into consideration both current and future losses. If you are working with an attorney soon after your accident, they will be able to gauge your losses more accurately.

Additionally, there may be benefits that you are entitled to under the terms of the insurance policy covering the event that only apply for a specific time after the accident. If you file a case for compensation at a later date, you will miss out on receiving any of these benefits for which you are entitled. If you had a new car lease and it got destroyed, you may be eligible for compensation for that.

When In Doubt, Speak To An Attorney

If you are unsure if your accident or injury qualifies for compensation, or you are just unsure if you should seek compensation, you should speak to an attorney.

Personal injury attorneys offer free consultations so that they can answer these and other questions of their potential client. Your attorney will be able to explain to you what types of compensation that you are entitled to under state law. They will also explain to you any additional benefits that you may receive under the terms of the insurance policy.

It is also important to remember that personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means that there are no up-front costs to you as an injury victim for their legal services. All legal fees and costs are paid from your compensation settlement. This type of payment plan ensures that everyone who has been a victim of a personal injury has the ability to receive quality legal representation regardless of their financial capabilities at the time of the accident.

General Car Insurance Law Information Lawyers

The laws of car insurance vary by state, but most require that you have at least minimal coverage in the event that you are in an accident. You need to be able to show proof that you have car insurance if you are ever pulled over or involved in an accident. If you don’t have insurance, then it’s best to consult with an attorney as you could face fines, points on your license or insurance or even a ticket that you would need to fight in court.

Liability insurance is the basic coverage that will provide financial assistance to another person if you are responsible for an accident. The policy will cover repairs to the vehicle along with any medical treatments that are needed. Your policy could also cover a car rental for the person who is the victim if the car is damaged too much to drive until it’s repaired.

Many state laws require that an insurance policy includes medical coverage. This is so that the person who is inured in the accident can seek medical treatment as soon as the accident occurs. It could range from being transported to the hospital via ambulance or going to the doctor to get treatments related to the accident, such as therapy or x-rays. The policy holder’s coverage will generally cover payments for pain and suffering as well along with payments for lost wages if the person has to stay out of work as a result of injuries that are sustained in the accident.

Property damage is also included in most car insurance policies. It will cover the damage that occurs to a vehicle while you or someone else is driving. The coverage is to get the other driver’s car fixed and possibly cover your own vehicle if you have collision coverage added to the policy. This type of coverage will also pay for damage to poles, fences, posts and other things that might get damaged in the accident even if there isn’t another car involved. As stated, collision covers your own vehicle if you are in an accident. If the other person doesn’t have insurance, then the collisions is a benefit because it will offer a way for you to get your car fixed and get any medical treatment that is needed. The coverage will also pay for damage that is caused by potholes in the road in most states as this is a situation that needs to be maintained by state repair crews.

If your car is broken into or damaged by natural events or when you come into contact with an animal, comprehensive coverage will pay for the damages that are sustained. It also covers natural disasters, that include floods and hailstorms along with fires and vandalism. You can also add under-insured or uninsured coverage to your policy. This gives a cushion in the event that someone drives your car who doesn’t have a policy or if someone who hits you doesn’t have a policy.

Collision and comprehensive insurance usually aren’t required unless you are making payments on a car. You have a financial responsibility while you are driving on the road as does every other driver. If you cannot afford this responsibility, then there will be fees that you have to pay. When you get your tag renewed, there could be additional fees that you have to pay if you have a lapse in insurance coverage. If you don’t have insurance coverage and are in an accident, then you might be required to pay for damages and medical treatments out of your pocket. Some states will charge you with a crime if you don’t have insurance coverage and are in an accident. There are a few states that don’t require you to have insurance at all in order to drive. If you live in a state like this, then you need to be prepared to offer proof that you have the money set aside to cover damages and injuries if you are in an accident. A surety bond is an option if you need to have proof that you are financially responsible enough to operate a vehicle.

When you talk to an attorney about a lack of insurance coverage, you need to be prepared to explain why you didn’t have a policy while on the road. The attorney will contact the insurance company that you had coverage with to see how long it has been since it lapsed and to see if there were any other incidents that happened while you had coverage. If you’re in a no-fault state, then you can’t be named as a defendant even if you are responsible for causing an accident. A tort state is where the victim can sue you for the damages that are caused in the accident, which is why it’s important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

How will my case affect my government benefits (Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, SSDI, Food Stamps)

When you are injured because of the negligence of an individual or company, you may be entitled to compensation for the injuries. Are you receiving Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income, Medicare or Medicaid, or food stamps? These benefits can be affected by an award that you receive as a result of your personal injury.

Disability and Supplemental Security Income

Many government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income use certain requirements to determine eligibility. In order to be eligible you must be disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. In addition, you must also have limited resources or income. Social Security Disability uses similar eligibility requirements except for the limited resources or income. This is because Social Security Disability is not based on financial need, but on the inability to work. Any amount received for a personal injury case will not affect disability income, but it can affect Supplemental Security Income.

Protecting Your Supplemental Security Income

If you are under the age of 65 and on Supplemental Security Income, there are a few ways you can protect this income if you receive a personal injury settlement or award. One way is a Special Needs Trust. The trusts are also called settlement preservation trusts or medical needs trusts. Setting up a trust with a structured settlement of the funds received from a personal injury case can allow you to keep your Supplemental Security Income. The trust is created to pay for things that are needed that the government benefits do not cover. They are called supplemental needs.

What are supplemental needs? They can include the following, but do not cover shelter or food.

  • Transportation
  • Clothing
  • Medical Services not Covered by Medicaid or Medicare
  • Cable Television
  • Computers and Services
  • Vacations
  • Personal Care Items

These are just a few of the things that can be purchased with money that is placed into a Special Needs Trust. However, the money for these purchases must be spent by a trustee, who is appointed to oversee the funds. A trustee is typically a relative such as a parent or another person.

Setting Up a Trust

When setting up a trust received from a personal injury settlement or award, it must be court approved. A trustee is necessary because the beneficiary of the money could use money from the trust to pay for items that are not allowed. The trustee must also save the receipts for any items purchased and provide them to the Supplemental Security Income agency to prove the money was only spent on allowed items.

Your personal injury attorney can draft a settlement plan to help protect any benefits you receive. Because the rules are very strict about the amount of income or assets you can have and still be eligible for government benefits, it is important that you receive legal advice to protect your income. This is true of Supplemental Security Income as well as Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), Section 8, and some veterans benefits.

One thing that you should know about a Special Needs Trust is that it is irreversible. The trustee is the only one who can use the funds to pay for approved items for the injured party. Medicaid places a lien on the money in the trust if the injured party dies. The money remaining is used to reimburse Medicaid for medical payments made on behalf of the beneficiary. If any money is left, it will be distributed to heirs of the deceased.

Is it Better to Take a Structured Settlement or a Lump Sum?

Your attorney can advise you on the benefits of both. A structured settlement is typically paid over several years or it could be paid for the life of the injured party. This will depend on the extent of the injuries. A structured settlement could offer tax benefits because personal injury settlements are not taxed. Some parts of the settlement or award such as punitive damages or interest on the settlement can be taxable. Punitive damages are damages awarded to stop the guilty party from engaging in the same behavior that resulted in the personal injury.

A lump sum may sound enticing but for some, the comfort of knowing they will be receiving money on a regular basis is more desirable. When you take a lump sum, there are certain fees that will be deducted such as attorney’s fees. When receiving a structured settlement these costs are generally paid upfront by the insurance company of the person responsible for your accident.

Although the lump sum is not taxable, any money made from investments such as interest or dividends are taxable on the federal and state level. You will actually have more money by taking a structured settlement than a lump sum. Whatever option you choose, it is also important to know that it cannot be changed.

If you decide on a structured settlement you cannot change your mind later and decide you want a lump sum. You also cannot decide to change any of the terms of the settlement such as the frequency or the amount of the payments. Consult with your attorney about adding a cost of living clause or this will not be considered either.

It is extremely important to talk to a personal injury lawyer when you have been injured because of negligence. Not only can they help you to get the compensation you deserve, they can help protect your settlement or award if you are receiving government assistance.