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PERSONAL INJURY FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

I Was Injured In An Accident.  What Should I do?

Hurt in an Auto Accident

For starters, check yourself for injuries and call the police or ask someone else to call for you if you, your passengers, or occupants of the other vehicle(s) are injured.  If you or someone else is seriously injured, try not to move the injured person while waiting for an ambulance.  Even if nobody is injured, and regardless of who you think was at fault, call the police so they can issue an accident report.  Your insurance company may require it in order to cover damages to your vehicle or to the other vehicle.

Turn on your hazard lights if they are working or put out road flares if you have them.  If the vehicles are causing a hazard, consider pulling yours to the side of the road.  Otherwise, leave them where they are and get to the side of the road or a safe distance from traffic if you can.

Obtain information

If you and others do not need emergency care at the scene of the accident, make sure to:

  • Photograph the damage to all vehicles as well as the scene of the accident. Use your cell phone to capture the scene from several angles.
  • Photograph your injuries
  • Obtain the other driver’s full name and contact information, driver’s license number, license plate number, insurance company, and policy number (without discussing what caused the accident or who is at fault. Cooperate with the other driver and police, but do not admit liability or blame.)
  • Ask witnesses to give a statement to the police
  • Write down the names and contact information for all occupants of each vehicle, as well for any witnesses
  • Obtain the name and badge number of the responding police officer(s)
  • Get a copy of the police report or at least information from the responding officer that will allow you to get a copy of the accident report

Hurt at a Business

If you are hurt at a business, such as a store, inform the management immediately and give a written report of what caused the accident.  Do not skip this step.  The report will document that the accident happened, when it happened, and may your fresh memory later regarding what happened.  If you are seriously injured, ask store employees to call an ambulance.  Take photos of the accident scene as well as of your injuries.

Obtain information

  • Photograph the scene of the accident. Use your cell phone to capture the scene from several angles.
  • Photograph your injuries
  • Write down the names and contact information for all witnesses
  • Ask witnesses to give a statement to the store
  • Obtain the name, title, and contact information the employee(s) who assist you
  • Get a copy of the accident report for your records

Hurt by a Product

If you are hurt by a faulty, dangerous, or defective product, keep the item that harmed you.  Do not throw it away.  Do not alter it.  Do not send it to anyone except your attorney, who will want to determine how the item harmed you.

Obtain information

  • Photograph the scene of the accident. Use your cell phone to capture the scene from several angles
  • Photograph your injuries
  • Write down the names and contact information for all witnesses

After You Leave the Scene of the Accident

Seek immediate medical attention.  Some injuries may not be readily apparent, but the force on the body when in an accident twists bones and muscles in ways that they were not intended to go.  Sometimes, pain from those types of injuries is not felt immediately.  See your medical doctor or get checked out at quick care or an emergency facility to make sure there is no hidden injury.  Follow your doctor’s instructions and attend all follow-up appointments.

Take a moment to write down every detail that you can think of while the information is fresh in your mind.  Write down the sequence of events and the things that were said (and by whom).  Draw a diagram of the scene to the best of your ability.  Show where the other people (witnesses, vehicles, etc.) were when certain events happened.  Note factors that may have contributed to the accident (a blinding morning sun, wet roads, a person on a cell phone, etc.)

Keep a journal of your recovery, noting your daily pain level (remember that a 9 or 10 means you should be hospitalized.  Overstating your pain will not help you get more money and may end up hurting your recovery).  Take care to note the things that you attempt to do but cannot due to the injury (lift a child or pick up toys off the floor, etc.), or which your injury makes too painful to complete.  Note when you visit doctors, pharmacies, physical therapy, etc.

What Do I Do If I Don’t Have Money To Pay My Doctors?

Many medical providers will provide services on a lien basis if you and your attorney assign a portion of any recovery to them.  If your medical provider agrees to provide care on a lien basis, you will not be required to pay out of pocket; the medical provider will wait until you have a recovery and will be entitled to payment from your settlement.  Ask your medical provider or your attorney for more information about services provide on a lien.

Las Vegas MediatorHow Long Can I Wait Before Filing A Lawsuit?

The State of Nevada enforces a strict time period within which you must file a lawsuit.  It is called a “statute of limitation.”  In most cases, if you do not file your suit by the time required by the State, you lose your opportunity to make a claim.  For most personal injury cases, Nevada allows you to file a suit up to two years from the date of the accident.

What Is Medpay?

“Medpay” is a term used to describe medical payments insurance.  Medpay is an optional insurance coverage available as part of your automobile insurance policy.  Medpay covers your medical bills as well as those in your vehicle for injuries in an accident regardless of who is at fault in the accident.  You should check your auto policy to make sure that you are signed up for this important coverage, as it protects you and your passengers from medical bills in case you are injured by someone who doesn’t have sufficient insurance to cover your bills.

What Do I Do If The Other Driver Has No Insurance?

The Insurance Research Council estimates that about 1 in 8 drivers is uninsured.  Even if you are injured by a driver who is insured, Nevada’s minimum liability requirement of $25,000 will do little to make one whole for all but the most minor of injuries.  UM coverage is an optional insurance coverage available as part of your automobile insurance policy.  If you have UM coverage and you are injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist (they have insurance, but the amount is insufficient to cover your losses), your policy will pay for your damages up to the amount of your UM policy limit.  Your uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist (“UM”) coverage may be your only source of readily-recoverable payment if you are injured by an uninsured driver.

Can I File a Claim if I was Partially at Fault?

Yes, as long you were not more negligent than the other people involved in the accident.  Nevada is a “comparative negligence” state.  Comparative negligence means that a plaintiff may recover against defendants in an amount proportionate to the liability of those at fault.  As long as the court finds the defendants were at least 51% at fault, a plaintiff may recover damages, but only in proportion to the plaintiff’s fault.  For example if there were three parties to an accident and you were 25% at fault and the other two parties shared the remaining 75%, you could recover against them.  If you are 51% at fault, then you are not entitled to any recovery.

The court will determine the amount you are due for damages, then deduct from that amount the percentage that you were at fault.  In the example above, for every $1,000 in damages, you would only be entitled to 75%, or $750 instead of the full amount.

How Can I Afford An Attorney?

Personal injury cases are usually handled on a contingency fee basis.  That means the attorney is not charging you any money up front and agrees instead to take as his or her fee, a percentage of the recovery you receive.  Make sure you discuss whether your attorney advances costs associated with pursuing your claim, as they can be substantial.

What Is My Claim Worth?mediation services

Until you have finished treating for your injuries, it is difficult to predict the value of your claim.  Your attorney will first need to investigate all of the facts regarding the accident, review all of medical records, and possibly even consult experts before placing a value on your claim.   Generally, if liability is established, you may be entitled to recover the following if applicable:

  1. Current medical bills;
  2. Future medical costs (for doctors, hospitals, surgery, medication, nursing care, physical therapy, cosmetic surgery to repair scarring, etc.);
  3. Past lost wages;
  4. Future lost wages;
  5. Property damage (vehicle, etc.);
  6. Out-of-pocket expenses (tow truck, etc.)
  7. Physical pain and suffering;
  8. Life care: the cost of assistance in performing daily activities if you are unable to complete them due to your injuries;
  9. Emotional distress in limited circumstances;
  10. Loss of quality/enjoyment of life; and/or
  11. Loss of consortium, or the loss of spousal companionship and services.

How Long Will My Case Take?

It is hard to tell until you have completed your treatment and are feeling 100% better.  Until then, the extent of your damages (how much you will suffer pain or need medical treatment in the future) is unknown.  Sometimes cases resolve in a matter of weeks, while others may take years.  Your case may take less time it if is less complicated.  Talk with your attorney to discuss the likely timetable for resolution.

Top Las Vegag ArbitratorWill I Have To Go To Trial?

Some statistics suggest that as many as 95% of all cases settle without having to go to trial.  Your case may settle through informal negotiations without having to file a lawsuit or you may have to pursue the matter through trial.  A settlement avoids the risks of going to trial and having a jury decide against you.  It also avoids the costs delays of a trial.  In fact, a settlement may end up getting you a better net monetary result than going to trial.  While your attorney will advocate for a strong settlement, if the party that harmed you (or the insurance company) thinks you are demanding too much money, you were partially at fault, or it can save money by taking the matter to trial, you may have to settle for less than you want or go to trial.  You should ask your attorney about the possibility of settling your matter through mediation with a qualified mediator.

Insurance attorneys and adjusters make a living evaluating personal injury claims.  They will not take a matter to trial unless they think they can win (paying less money than you demand is a win).  A wise person will think about what that means before going to trial rather than accept the last offer from an insurance company.

The Randall Kiser Study, released in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, found that parties who reject the last and best offer at before trial overwhelmingly regret the decision.  The study surveyed thousands of cases in California and New York over a five-year period.  It found that plaintiffs who rejected the last settlement offer and proceeded to trial do worse a whopping 61% of the time, while defendants did worse than their last offer 24% of the time.  In only 15% of the cases did both sides obtain a better result at trial.  Plaintiffs who fared worse received on average $43,000 less than the last offer given before trial.

All is not good news for defendants, however.  Although they seem to do better at predicting outcomes, the 24% of the time they are wrong ends up being much more costly to them.  Defendants who fared worse at trial than the last demand, ended up with a verdict that was on average $1.1 Million more than the Plaintiff’s last demand.

You and your attorney may determine that in order to maximize your recovery, you need to take the matter to trial.  Make sure to inquire into an attorney’s trial background before hiring one to take your case.  Make sure that if you need to go to trial, your attorney can handle the matter and has a reputation for being a skilled trial attorney.

What Is Pain And Suffering?

According to Wikipedia, pain and suffering “is the legal term for the physical and emotional stress caused from an injury (see also pain and suffering).  Some damages that might come under this category would be: aches, temporary and permanent limitations on activity, potential shortening of life, depression or scarring. When filing a lawsuit as a result of an injury, it is common for someone to seek money both in compensation for actual money that is lost and for the pain and stress associated with virtually any injury.  In a suit, pain and suffering is part of the ‘general damages’ section of the claimant’s claim, or, alternatively, it is an element of ‘compensatory’ non-economic damages that allows recovery for the mental anguish and/or physical pain endured by the claimant as a result of injury for which the plaintiff seeks redress.”

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About the Author

Jay Young is a Las Vegas, Nevada attorney. His practice focuses on acting as an Arbitrator and Mediator.

Mr. Young can be reached at 702.667.4868 or at jay@h2law.com.

The information provided on this site does not, and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You understand each legal matter should be considered to be unique and subject to varying results. You should not take or refrain from taking action based on any information contained on this website without first consulting legal counsel, as it is not intended to advise you on your particular matter. Further, you understand that no guarantee is given that the information contained herein is an accurate statement of the law at any given point in time, as the law is constantly changing. Please see http://nevadalaw.info/disclaimer

 
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