Personal Injury FAQ
Do I have a claim?
The first thing that many people wonder when they are hurt in an accident is if they have a legal claim. It’s an obvious and understandable question and the simple, honest answer is: “It depends.”
No attorney can say with certainty if you have a good legal claim without knowing details about the situation. However, in general, Connecticut injury law holds that one who is injured or killed (or their surviving family members, in the event of a death claim) has a legal claim for recourse any time that another party intentionally or negligently causes harm. Intentional misconduct is obvious: the other party causes harm on purpose. Negligent misconduct can be much more complicated, but in general it refers to situations where someone acts unreasonably, or without “due care.”
Negligence is by far the most common form of civil law suit filed. It arises in many situations. In a car accident, one driver may be negligent when they are speeding, run a red light, fail to yield appropriately, or in any other way does not act carefully. Negligence might occur when a property owner fails to keep floors free of hazards or ensure those on the property are safe. Professionals, like doctors, nursing, long-term care workers, and others can also act negligently in their work, causing harm to medical patients, nursing home residents, and others.
The bottom line is that injured parties have legal claims in many different situations, even when the claim might not be obvious. Because every situation is very fact-specific, the best bet is to talk with a personal injury attorney and share your story.
How much is my case worth?
Determining the worth of your Connecticut personal injury claim will depend on many different factors, including the severity of your injuries, the details of the case, insurance limits and the identity of the defendant. The core damages of most injury cases typically include:
- Past medical bills
- Future medical bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
There is no formula for determining a case's value at the outset; it is based on evidence, testimony, medical records, and several other factors. However, based on our extensive experience, we can usually provide an estimated range of the value of your case once we have gathered the information we need to assess your case. Some of the factors we look at in determining the amount of compensation owed for your injuries include: the severity of your injuries; the details of your accident; the degree of fault; your employment history; your ability to work; your life expectancy; your medical treatment; and your lifestyle.
How much does a lawyer cost? Can I afford to hire a lawyer?
At CT Injury Lawyers, every prospective client gets a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys without any kind of charge or obligation. During this free consultation, we will gather facts from which we can make an initial assessment of your case. Based on this assessment, we may agree to represent you, or we may refer you to other competent counsel if we have a professional conflict of interest or if you have a case that we do not customarily handle. It is also possible that we might advise you that your harm is not compensable or that based on our assessment, your chances of recovery are slim.
If we do take your case, we work on a contingency fee basis. This is an arrangement whereby the client will not have to pay any attorney’s fees or costs, unless there is a recovery by settlement or verdict. In other words, you “Don’t Pay Until You Win.” In fact, we receive payment for our services only after we recover money for you. Under this kind of agreement, we receive compensation for our work on a case based on a customary percentage of the total recovery.
Costs are typically payable at the conclusion of your case, and are separate and distinct from our attorney’s fees. Again, you are responsible for these costs only if we recover for you. These are costs we must pay to file cases, serve defendants with notice, take other actions involving the courts, obtain medical reports, and hire appropriate experts. Expert fees are also paid to us only at the conclusion of your case.
How soon should I file a lawsuit?
You should speak with a Connecticut personal injury attorney as soon as possible following your accident. Injury victims only have a short period of time to file a claim. Failure to file within this time period, known as the statute of limitations, can prevent the victim from ever recovering compensation for their injuries. In addition to statutes of limitations, certain claims against the state or towns require very short notice requirements.
How long will my personal injury lawsuit take?
It's difficult to determine how long it will take to resolve a personal injury lawsuit. Each case is unique; therefore, no general timetable can be established for personal injury cases. A personal injury lawsuit may settle in a few months without the need for a trial, while others can take years to complete.
What is negligence?
In most cases, to have a successful personal injury claim, the victim must have been injured from the negligence of another individual or entity. Negligence occurs when an individual fails to exercise a reasonable standard of care for the safety of others. If a person fails to act as a reasonable person would, he or she may be liable for any resulting damages.
Can I still pursue compensation if I was partially at fault for my injuries?
It depends on your situation and how much your actions may have contributed to the accident – that is, how much at fault you were. In Connecticut victims can still receive compensation if they were partially at fault for their injuries. In these cases, the amount of compensation awarded to the victim may be decreased in proportion to the victim's degree of negligence.
Should I sign a release?
Generally speaking, unless you have first spoken with a lawyer, the answer is no. Before signing anything, be sure to contact an experienced Connecticut personal injury lawyer to ensure your rights are protected. If you sign a release, you may be unable to recover future damages. In some instances, the insurer may offer an early settlement that may not fully compensate you for future physical and economic consequences of your injury.
Why am I not being fully compensated when I have full insurance coverage?
Many drivers believe they have full coverage, but are not insured under certain circumstances. There are several different types of insurance coverage, and failing to have a particular one may limit recovery. In many cases, our clients find that even though they believe they have “full coverage,” they do not have medical payments coverage or sufficient uninsured or underinsured coverage, which will cover you in the event of an accident where the other party cannot pay. Contact your insurance company and discuss what coverage you have, when the coverage is applicable. If necessary, hire an attorney if you believe your insurance company is trying to avoid paying a valid claim.
If this is not the case, and you do have full insurance coverage, you may not be satisfactorily compensated because your insurance company wants to minimize payouts. There are often disagreements about specific language in your insurance contract, how much a claim is worth, and whether any other parties are involved who may be responsible. If other insurance or health insurance companies are involved, there may be disagreements over who is responsible for payment. These issues can cause serious delays in compensation.
It’s important to speak with a Connecticut personal injury lawyer to protect your rights when you’ve been injured due to the complicated nature of insurance coverage.
What Are Compensatory Damages?
Compensatory damages are meant to offset an injury sustained by an individual. Actual compensatory damages ― or damages which reimburse an individual for out-of-pocket expenses ― include monetary awards for medical expenses, property damage, and loss of income. General compensatory damages may also be awarded for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and lost opportunity for the future enjoyment of life.
What Types of Compensatory Damages are there in Connecticut?
Medical Expenses Damages
Serious injuries will likely mean hefty medical bills; therefore, an injured person's medical expenses constitute compensatory damages to which he or she is entitled. Logic would dictate that the greater the amount of money owed for physician's services, the greater the damages are to be sought. Future medical costs must also be factored into compensatory damages in the case of a long-term injury requiring significant rehabilitation or on-going treatment. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to select the necessary experts to establish the need for future medical treatment as well as clearly determine the value of the plaintiff's claim.
Property Damage Damages
The plaintiff in a personal injury case may also be awarded damages for the replacement or repair of any property harmed in an accident. Automobile damage, for example, is a common occurrence in personal injury cases. In addition to the costs of repair and loss of value to the car, a plaintiff may also be able to receive compensation for damage to property contained within the car as well as reimbursement for obtaining substitute transportation during the repair period.
The valuation of property damage is a complicated process and may require the opinion of an expert appraiser. This professional will determine whether or not the property has been totally ruined or retains any salvage value whatsoever. If the property is useless, damages can be requested in the amount of its fair market value prior to the accident. If repair is an option, compensation for loss of use by the owner can be added to the cost of the repair itself. There are occasions when the cost to repair the property exceeds its replacement value and the damages are still limited to the fair market value of the property before loss. Other elements that can be factored into the property damage equation are interest and loss of profit, particularly in those instances in which the property is utilized in one's employment.
Loss of Income Damages
If the injury sustained by the plaintiff prevents him or her from working, compensation can be sought for the amount of money normally earned during that time period, otherwise known as "lost wages." The injured person can also claim lost wages for any absences due to medical treatment of the injury. An injury severe enough to prevent a person from working for the remainder of his or her life may allow for damages to cover the loss of one's future earnings. Finally, if a person dies due to an accident, his or her estate can choose to sue for the lost income that the victim would have earned based on his or her age and current salary. Logically, a younger person has a longer work-life expectancy and would therefore have a greater loss of future earnings in the event of an untimely death.
Pain and Suffering Damages
The most personal element of an injured person's experience is the amount of physical pain and suffering which he or she must endure. Each individual's tolerance for pain is different which makes the quantification of suffering problematic, but certain factors can be measured accurately to document one's discomfort level. For example, an experienced personal injury attorney will be able to collect information from the medical practitioners involved in the case regarding the amount of medication the injured person required, the types and length of treatments necessary, and the duration of the recovery period. In addition, the injured person's spouse and/or nearest friends and relatives will be interviewed to ascertain the extent of change to the victim's quality of life by comparing his or her condition and normal activities prior to and after the accident. It is an integral part of a victim's case that any enjoyment of life that has been reduced due to an accident be brought forward and supported by witness testimony and evidence.
A person who suffers a more severe and painful injury that causes long-term or even permanent impairment will clearly have a more valuable claim in a personal injury case than an individual whose injuries are not as extensive. If the injury is indeed permanently disabling, an experienced personal injury attorney will seek out expert testimony to support the victim's claim and help determine the most suitable value of damages to be sought.
Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress Damages
While mental anguish and emotional distress often exist concurrently with pain and suffering, the former are distinct in that they refer to mental responses to the trauma of a physical event. Common symptoms of mental anguish include terror, shock, apprehension, confusion, humiliation, and sorrow. To try to stem the tide of personal injury lawsuits based solely upon mental anguish and emotional distress, some states have instituted strict guidelines such as the "zone of danger" test which takes into account how physically close the plaintiff was to the accident. Another limit placed upon getting damages for mental anguish and emotional distress is the "physical manifestation rule" which requires that the emotional distress experienced by the plaintiff be exhibited by physical reactions such as depression, anxiety intense enough to cause ulcers, or loss of appetite and weight.
Loss of Consortium Damages
Another type of compensatory damage that can be recovered in a case of severe and permanently disabling injury is that of loss of consortium. Loss of consortium refers to the inability of the victim to engage in the activities related to companionship with his or her spouse or loved ones at the level he or she once enjoyed. Although the damages awarded for loss of consortium are generally less than other types of compensatory damages, they can be significant in tragic cases of accidents which lead to severe impairment such as paraplegia.
Lost Opportunity Damages
Lost opportunity damages are sometimes recoverable in addition to the damages sought for lost wages and loss of future earnings. Lost opportunity damages refer to a business opportunity that has been precluded due to an accident. It is imperative that the presentation of a claim for lost opportunity is supported clearly and not purely conjectural as this could damage the credibility of the case as a whole and cause a jury to reject the more substantial damages sought by the plaintiff.