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Atlanta Personal Injury Attorneys
If you have been injured due to negligence, your family, friends or co-workers may have suggested hiring an attorney to handle your injury claim. You may be wondering, what exactly does a personal injury attorney do?
- An attorney evaluates your claim. When you go to your initial consultation, you will tell your story to the attorney. They will determine if your injury was caused by the negligence or wrongful behavior of another person or company and whether you have a valid personal injury claim.
- An attorney can put a dollar value on your claim. A fair injury settlement should compensate you for all your losses. The values of some of losses are easy to figure out; you may know how much your medical expenses, lost wages and property repairs are worth. But, how much compensation should you receive for your physical and emotional pain, mental distress, disfigurement, and disability? A personal injury lawyer will help determine the total value of your injury claim.
- An attorney will find sources of compensation. Your claim may be worth $50,000. But, if the person you are suing doesn't have $50,000, a lawsuit won't help you. Your personal injury attorney will determine which assets or insurance policies are available to compensate you.
- An attorney will investigate your accident and find and protect the evidence to support your claim. Your attorney will question you about the injury or accident; They will also interview witnesses and look at police reports, medical records and other information in order to determine who is responsible and how you were injured. They may take pictures of your injuries and the accident scene to use this information to support and prove your claim.
- An attorney will negotiate with the insurance company and, if necessary, file a lawsuit on your behalf. Your personal injury attorney will try to get you a fair insurance settlement without a lawsuit. But, if the insurance company is not willing to offer fair compensation, a lawsuit may be necessary. Your lawyer will prepare the necessary documents to file your lawsuit. They will also gather the evidence needed to prove your claim at trial.
How do I Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer?
First, when you call an office or go in for a consultation, note whether you are able to speak directly to an attorney or whether you are forced to talk to a paralegal or legal assistant. A quality law firm will take client-attorney contact very seriously.
Additionally, you will want to notice the size of the law firm. A solo attorney or very small firm may not have the resources necessary to conduct a successful personal injury case for you. On the other hand, a giant law firm may have so many cases that yours may get delayed or even ignored for some time. Mid-size law firms often have the needed resources as well as the ability to provide personalized assistance.
Finally, while you want attention from your attorney, you do want to make sure that they are busy with other cases, as well. A lawyer who handles numerous cases likely have significant experience in the local courtrooms, which means they know the judges, staff, and procedures in each courtroom. This can only help your case.
Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Attorney Before Hiring
When you have decided to file an injury claim, you may have a lot of concerns about protecting your rights. With so much at stake financially and otherwise, it is often beneficial to secure legal representation if you have suffered serious injuries.
The following are ten questions you should ask before hiring an attorney:
- What practice areas do you specialize in?
- How many years have you been practicing in the area of law specific to my case?
- What legal fees can I expect?
- How many cases like mine have you won and lost?
- How will I be able to reach you?
- Approximately how long do you expect this case to take?
- What if I’m not happy with the settlement offered?
- Will you be the only person working on my case?
- How many cases similar to mine have ended up going to trial?
- Will someone keep me informed on the progression of my case?
When does someone have a personal injury claim?
In order to have a personal injury case someone must have either a physical or an emotional injury. A victim must be able to show that someone else (the defendant) is at fault for the injury using a negligence, strict liability or intentional misconduct theory. In some cases a victim must show that the other party or parties is predominantly at fault for the injury (carrying over half of the liability for the accident and injuries).
What is negligence?
Negligence is the failure to act as a reasonably prudent person would under the same circumstances. Negligence does not require intent; injuries are sustained because of someone's carelessness rather than his intentional act to cause harm. In the legal realm negligence is a part of tort law that may be either criminal or civil.
If someone is negligent then they are responsible for resulting injuries because they acted below the legal standard protecting individuals against foreseeable risk or harm. Someone harmed as a result of another's negligence is entitled to compensation for injuries to themselves or their property.
These are the main principles of negligence:
- A duty of reasonable care by the defendant unto the plaintiff: Acting reasonably refers to how a reasonably prudent person would act in similar circumstances. The duty relies upon factors such as physical and mental conditions and the defendant's relationship to the plaintiff.
- A breach of the duty: All circumstances related to the situation are considered when determining if the defendant's actions breached an objective standard of any duty owed. Frequently the duty owed is codified in a statute that was created to ensure the public's safety and security.
- Damages or injuries to people or property: This is the plaintiff's direct harm and may be to him physically or to his property.
- Causation between the breach and the duty: There may be more than one cause of the injury and there may be more than one injury sustained. A court determines what factors caused the injury. An award may be apportioned if the court determines that there is more than one cause of the injury. The causation must not be too remote from the breach and the duty in the causal chain.
The Stages of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
When people think about a lawsuit, they most often think of trial. Trial is the stage of a lawsuit most often portrayed on television and in movies, as well as in the news. However, the majority of personal injury cases never make it to trial and instead focus on the other stages of the lawsuit, each of which has its own procedural rules.
These stages include:
- Pleadings: In order to incite a lawsuit, you must file documents stating your claims against another party and why you believe you should recover in court. The other party has the ability to respond to your pleading and will generally try to get your claim dismissed.
- Discovery: In this stage, both parties request information from one another in order to build their cases. The other party will likely try to avoid providing some types of information and your attorney will have to argue why you deserve to have the information.
- Pre-trial: The pretrial stage includes investigation and makes use of depositions, interviews, etc. with the parties and potential witnesses from both sides. There are also several pretrial documents that need to be filed.
- Settlement: As the parties build their cases, settlement negotiations will likely take place to try to settle out of court and avoid trial. An experienced lawyer will know how to negotiate with the other party to get you the best result.
- Trial: If a case does not settle, your attorney will represent you at trial in front of a judge or jury.
Proving your Injuries in a Lawsuit
There are some basic ways to demonstrate the full cost and effects of an injury in court, though many of these steps may require expert approval. In order to make sure your injuries are properly documented by a medical professional, you should always seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible after an accident occurs.
If your case goes to trial, your attorney will help you explain the following:
- The exact type, location, and mechanics of all of your injuries.
- Exactly how the accident in question was capable of and likely caused your type of injuries.
- A description of the pain that you suffered as a result of the injury, with appropriate analogies to other types of injury if necessary.
- Which basic bodily functions and daily activities have been affected by your injuries.
Determining the value of a personal injury claim can be complicated. There are several factors that may impact its worth. Since there is no formula set in stone to calculate the worth of your claim, many benefit from the legal guidance of an injury lawyer. Generally, the degree to which these losses and injuries have impacted your life in terms of economic and non-economic damages will be looked at and reviewed.
Income Factors That Determine the Value of a Personal Injury Claim
When your injuries prevent you from working, your income will also be factored into an injury claim. Whether it is a week’s worth of work or several months, the income you have been without may be compensated.
Let’s say that you used some of your sick time or vacation days while off work from your injuries. If it hadn’t been for the accident, you would not have had to use those days, so you may be able to include this in your claim.
If it is determined that your injuries will prevent you from returning to work, then your earning potential will need to be determined. This will depend on your age, ability to retrain in another line of work, and more.
Medical Factors That Determine the Value of a Personal Injury Claim
One of the most important factors is the severity of your injury. Clearly there will be a significant difference between a broken wrist and the loss of an arm. The area of the body part that is impacted may also be factored in. A spinal cord injury is generally much more serious than a neck injury, such as whiplash, and head injuries tend to be more serious than foot injuries.
Also taken into consideration will be the long-term consequences of an injury. A temporary disability won’t be considered as severe as a permanent disability. The longer that medical treatment and care will be required, the more it will impact the value of your claim. In general, you can expect current and future medical expenses to be calculated.
Another factor in determining the value of a personal injury claim is the type of medical care necessary. When physical therapy, rehabilitation, assistive devices or surgery will be part of the treatment plan, such care tends to be more expensive than a simple trip to the pharmacy to fill a prescription.
There are many advantages to settling a case out of court. These include:
- Saving money—trials may involve extensive pre-trial preparation, discovery, and depositions, as well as expert witnesses, costs paid to the court, and more.
- Saving time—trials are very time consuming, both for the preparation and sometimes for the actual trial itself. If you have to go to trial, your case will likely drag on longer than you anticipated and it will take longer for you to receive any compensation for your injuries.
- Saving stress—the trial process can be very stressful on an injured plaintiff. Not only will you likely have to get on the witness stand and testify in open court, but you may be subject to cross-examination from the other party’s attorney.
With all that said, in some cases the parties cannot reach a fair settlement agreement and a trial is necessary to get you the compensation you deserve.
Providing Answers & SolutionsWe understand that this can be a scary and overwhelming time. We pride ourselves on providing you with the answers you need to make educated decisions about your case. Each step of the way we want to ensure you are fully aware and on board with the trajectory of your case.
Solely Focused on Personal InjuryUnlike other firms, our ONLY focus is helping individuals and families who have been wrongfully injured. We dedicate all of our time, efforts, and resources to those who have been injured because of someone else's negligence.
No Case is too Big or Small
When you have been injured, whether it's a small accident or a major one, our team dedicates the same amount of professionalism and commitment to maximize your result. Small or large we are committed to getting you a good and fair settlement.
Focused on Your RecoveryAt Shane Smith Law, we care about you, the individual. We genuinely want you to feel better and get good treatment. Thus, we not only help you obtain results, but we also help you obtain quality doctors and providers.
A variety of factors can complicate personal injury claims, including pre-existing conditions. When you file a personal injury claim and seek compensation for your medical expenses and other damages, the insurance company is going to try to find a way to reduce the client’s liability. They do this with the objective of trying to put you at fault for the accident and diminish your injuries.
One of the ways this may be done is if they learn that you have a pre-existing condition. They may say that your current injuries have nothing to do with the accident.
Here are some of the most common types of pre-existing conditions that can complicate a personal injury claim:
- Degenerative arthritis;
- Herniated disc;
- Joint damage; and
- Injuries to the back, neck or head.
It’s important to disclose previous injuries that you have sustained. Your pre-existing conditions could be factored into your claim, so you will want to have legal representation working on your behalf.
How Do I Know if My Personal Injury Settlement is Fair?
When an injured victim settles his or her claim, a common concern is whether the settlement is fair. There are some ways you that may shed light on the issue.
The following are some factors to consider when evaluating the fairness of a settlement on your personal injury claim:
- Is all of your property damage covered?
- What are the limits in your insurance policy?
- Does it cover all of your medical expenses?
- Does it take into consideration pain and suffering, mental anguish and other non-economic damages?
- Will there be future costs associated with your injuries?
- Does it cover time you missed from work?
There are other considerations for reaching a personal injury claim settlement that an attorney can share with you. To learn more about protecting your claim, contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Georgia
Injury victims should always make consulting with an attorney a priority, no matter how difficult it may seem. If victims wait too long, they may be prohibited from making a claim at all. This is because Georgia law sets out a two year statute of limitations for personal injury cases. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit after which a lawsuit will be dismissed and barred for good.
Due to the statute of limitations, you must file a lawsuit within two years from the date the injury actually occurred. Furthermore, filing a lawsuit takes some preparation, so you want to give your attorney ample time to investigate the details of your case and file a claim. Though there are limited exceptions that put the statute of limitations on hold, these exceptions apply to very specific circumstances and the majority of cases must abide by the two year time limit.
What is assumption of risk?Assumption of risk occurs when someone voluntarily exposes himself to danger or a potentially harmful situation. For example, someone who is hurt when using someone's power tool but had not worn protective gear is considered to have assumed the risk. Similarly, someone who attends a baseball game and is hit by a foul ball is considered to have assumed the risk. If a victim was participating in a dangerous activity at the time of the accident then he may be deemed to have "assumed the risk". This is often used as a defense in product liability cases where the victim did not follow directions or warnings posted on a package.
What is comparative negligence?
Comparative negligence is where the responsibility for the injuries is compared and the amount recovered by the victim is reduced by his fault percentage. The court holds each person accountable for the percentage of damages for which they are responsible.
What is contributory negligence?
Contributory negligence describes when a victim is responsible for a portion of his injuries. For example, someone who ignores warning signs placed by a store owner may be found to have been careless and liable for his own injuries.
Will the defendant always be liable when all the negligence elements exist?
A defendant in a negligence case can escape liability with several defenses even if negligence is proven. These defenses include contributory negligence, comparative negligence, and assumption of the risk.
Can someone be liable for someone else's negligence?
Someone can be held responsible for someone else's actions. For example, a restaurant owner can be held liable for a server who negligently harms a patron within his restaurant.
Do all personal injury claims go to trial?
Most personal injury claims are settled before they go to trial. Often, settlements are made between the insurance company for the party that is at fault and the victim. Settlements avoid trial expenses and delays and may lead to a higher net recovery when deducting trial preparation costs. However, if an acceptable settlement offer is not made then it may be necessary for the case to be tried in court.
What is a contingency fee?
Law firms frequently handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis which means the firm's fee and court costs are deducted from the settlement amount. If there is no recovery then the firm receives no fee. A client typically must pay court costs regardless of the case's outcome. These include filing fees, medical records costs, and copy costs for obtaining police records or deposition transcripts. Shane Smith Law handles personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis and provides a free initial legal consultation.
What is intentional misconduct?
Intentional misconduct refers to conscious or willful disregard of the rights and safety of another. It means conduct by a person with knowledge at the time of the conduct that the conduct is harmful to the health or well-being of another person. It includes battery (an intentional act causing harmful or offensive contact with another), false imprisonment (wrongful detention), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (outrageous behavior resulting in severe emotional distress).
What is MMI?
A physician will conclude treatments with a victim when he has reached maximum medical improvement or MMI. This is the medically determined point where a victim's health has stabilized and he is as healthy as he can be. This may not be the same health level as the victim enjoyed before the accident. If this is the victim's reality then the physician may assign the accident victim a permanent impairment rating as determined by American Medical Association (AMA) guidelines. Auto insurance companies may seek the permanent impairment rating as part of the settlement or trial proceedings.
How long does it take to receive money from the case?
In an injury case, this is frequently determined by the length of time the victim needs to heal. A victim would not want to settle a claim until he has received the necessary medical care for his injuries. The physician will release the accident victim when he reaches MMI. Once the physician has released the victim or his future accident-related medical expenses can be determined then a settlement amount can be negotiated.
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