FAQ on Personal Injury & Accident Cases
Q: What is a “personal Injury” case?
A: A personal injury, automobile accident, or wrongful death case is any type of claim where a person has been injured or killed due to someone else’s carelessness. The following are all subtypes of personal injury cases: injury caused by the carelessness of another driver, a professional, a builder, a manufacturer, or a store merchant; products liability (injury by harmful product); injury by a doctor (medical malpractice); slip-and-fall (injury because someone did not take care of the walkway); and dog bites.
Is There a Deadline to File Suit?
Q: Is there a deadline to file a lawsuit?
A: Yes. This is called the statute of limitations. For negligence cases where someone is injured the deadline is two years. It is also two years for a wrongful death case.
Q: Do I need witnesses to have a case?
A: The more witnesses you have, usually the better for your case. However, sometimes there are not any witnesses, but there is still evidence that can support your case. See this post for further information.
Does the Other Driver (Defendant) have Insurance?
Q: Does the defendant have insurance?
A: If the case is being tried, the answer is “yes”. For the reasons why you know this, see “Does the other driver (defendant) have insurance?”
Value of My Case
Q: How much is my case worth?
A: There is not a magic formula to determine the value of a case. A number of factors have to be considered in determining value.
Quick Settlement Offer by Insurance Company
Q: The insurance company is offering me a check to settle the case, even though the accident was not very long ago. Should I settle?
A: You should normally not settle without first talking to an attorney. You should not settle your case if you are not fully recovered from the wreck. If you settle and still need medical treatment, you will have given up your legal right to have them pay for your treatment (future medical care). Many insurance companies offer low settlements to see if they can settle your case by quickly making an offer. Those offers are typically much less than what is fair for you to receive based on your injuries.
Unable to Work Due to Accident
Q: I recently was in a serious car accident and injured. I am indefinitely unable to work. The insurance company is not offering me enough for me to live on while I recover. What should I do?
A: The insurance adjuster when evaluating your claim should consider the following: medical care and related expenses; your income that you have lost because of the accident, because of: 1) time spent unable to work; 2) time spent undergoing treatment for injuries; and 3) permanent physical disability. He should also consider pain and suffering from the injuries; disfigurement; loss of family, social, and educational experiences; emotional damages, such as stress, embarrassment, depression, or strains on family relationships — for example, the inability to take care of children; and damaged property. Do not let him take advantage of your situation of a loss of income to force you into settling your case for less than what is fair.
If the insurance company is not being fair, consult an attorney. If your injuries are serious where you are unable to work, you should be represented by an attorney. Otherwise, you risk being taken advantage of by the insurance adjuster.
Injured by Drunk Driver
Q: I was injured by a drunk driver, and still suffering from the injuries. What can I do?
A: Drunk driving is negligent behavior. You may be able to file suit against the driver. You should contact an attorney immediately.
My Insurance Company is Making Very Low Offers
Q: I have an insurance claim under my insurance policy. However, my insurance company is offering me not even enough to cover my medical bills. What can I do?
A: An insurance company is entitled to make a fair profit. That should be done by what they charged you in insurance premiums. The insurance should not make a profit by treating you unfairly. Insurance companies routinely take advantage of people who know very little about their rights under the law. They often offer settlements that are worth a fraction of what the policyholder deserves. If you are getting that type of treatment from your insurance company, you need an experienced attorney. The attorney can help you receive fair treatment from your insurance company.
Family Member Killed
Q: A family member was killed, what can be done about it?
A: If someone’s carelessness causes the death of another, there is a “wrongful death” claim. That is a civil claim. This is different than a criminal case. When there is a wrongful death, the civil claim is for punitive damages under the Alabama statute. Economic earnings, what the deceased family member would have earned during their lifetime, technically are not admissible to show the loss of income to your family where a bread winner has been killed. The “lacerated feelings” of surviving family members and relatives and the capacity of the deceased to make money if permitted to live, do not constitute the measure of recovery under the statute. Prevention of death is the purpose of the statute. The statute proposes to accomplish prevention of death by the jury awarding an amount of punitive damages that the jury deems just. Without the Wrongful Death Statute, there could be no damages of any kind recovered for wrongful death, because no right to damages due to wrongful death existed under the common law. If you have a situation where a loved one has been killed in an accident, you need to consult an attorney. It is too complicated for anyone to handle without professional help.
How to Start a Wrongful Death Case?
Q: A member of my family was killed in an accident. How do you start a wrongful death case?
A: A wrongful death case can only be brought by the Personal Representative of the deceased person’s estate. This is sometimes referred to as the Executor or Administrator of the estate. You will need an attorney to handle this type of situation. It is too complicated for a layman. One of the first steps is to open an estate in the Probate Court. A petition to open the estate has to be filed and notice has to be given. If the family member died without a will, then the Probate Court will have to approve who is the person who is filing to open the estate. A bond will have to be posted. Where there is not a will, the statute gives a priority on who normally serves as the Administrator of the Estate.
Remember that when someone has been killed in an accident, it still has to be proven that someone was responsible for their death by negligence and that the person who died was not at fault.
Cannot Be at Fault to Recover
Q: Can I recover in Alabama if I am only partially at fault for my injuries?
A: You cannot have been at fault in any way for your injury to recover in Alabama. This is known as the Law of Contributory Negligence. This means that if the “other guy” was 99 percent at fault and you were 1 percent at fault, then you cannot recover any compensation for your injuries.
The Other Driver Does Not Have Insurance
Q: The other driver does not have insuarnce. What can I do?
A: Many people are shocked to learn that the other driver does not have insuance. After all, Alabama is a state where insurance coverage is mandatory. However, that does not mean that people always have insurance coverage. With every insurance policy, you can elect to have uninsured motorist coverage.