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Personal Injury: Frequently Asked Questions

Answers From a Washington, DC Personal Injury Lawyer

At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., we are committed to helping victims understand their legal rights after suffering injuries caused by the negligent and wrongful acts of others. While we take the time to answer all questions and concerns voiced by our clients, we also want other local residents to know their rights when it comes to pursuing the justice and compensation they deserve. Below are a few frequently asked questions and answers about personal injury law.

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What is a personal injury lawsuit?

A personal injury lawsuit is a claim brought to obtain compensation for damages resulting from someone else's negligence. Unlike criminal cases, these cases do not focus on whether someone violated the law, but instead on whether an individual is financially responsible for the injuries and losses suffered by a victim. When personal injury cases are successful, victims are entitled to financial compensation for their economic and non-economic damages.

Do I have a case?

Whether you have a personal injury case depends on the unique facts and circumstances involved in your case. Generally, injured victims have the right to pursue legal action against an at-fault party - whether that be an individual or a corporation (like a trucking company). Because every case is different, you should contact one of our personal injury attorneys to determine if you have a case.

What is negligence?

In terms of personal injury law, negligence occurs when a person (or company) fails to exercise a reasonable level of care for the safety of others. Negligence is at the core of most personal injury cases, and being able to prove that a defendant’s negligence was a cause of preventable harm is the focal point of a successful claim. When a person fails to act as a reasonable person would, they can be held liable for injuries and damages caused as a result of that unreasonable conduct.

What damages am I able to recover?

In most personal injury cases a person may recover both economic and non-economic damages:

  • Economic damages – The financial losses directly resulting from injuries, including the costs of emergency medical care, hospital or ambulance services, medical treatment, psychological treatment, lost income caused by missing work, the costs of medical devices and medications. They may also include future economic damages, such as the cost of future surgery or medication that may be required as a result of the injury, or future lost wages, or diminution of earning capacity. In cases of wrongful death, these damages can also include the costs of funeral and burial services, as well as the lost financial support the family experiences.
  • Non-economic damages – These are the intangible damages that result from the injury. They include non-price-fixed losses such as physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment or quality of life, loss of companionship or consortium, and other emotional injuries. The term “pain and suffering” can cover a wide range of damages such as the physical pain of the injury itself, difficulty sleeping, and loss of enjoyment of normal activities such as exercise or social functions. Non-economic damages may also include mental anguish or loss of consortium if the martial relationship is affected as a result of the injury. In the case of wrongful death, a family may also claim the loss of support and companionship of their loved one.

In some cases, victims may also recover punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages (economic and non-economic), punitive damages are not available in every case. They are designed to punish wrongdoers for egregious acts of negligence or intentional acts of malice.

How much time to I have to file a suit?

Injured victims not have an unlimited amount of time to take legal action against the at-fault party. This is because there are statutes of limitations that apply to injury cases. Those statutes of limitations place a time limit on when victims can file a lawsuit. If the statute of limitations expires in your case, you will not be able to file a lawsuit for the damages that you suffer. The statute of limitations is different in every state, and the District of Columbia, and is also different depending on the conduct that caused your injury. For example, in some states intentional actions, such as assault and battery have a different statute of limitation then negligence case. Because of this, it is important to bring your case to the attention of an experienced lawyer as soon as possible, to determine the statute of limitation that applies in your case.

Will my case go to trial?

Most personal injury cases do not go to trial, and are instead settled out of court. Settlements reached between victims and insurance companies can provide the compensation victims need and alleviate the burdens and risks of trial. However, some cases do go to trial, particularly when defendants dispute fault and liability, or fail to offer a fair settlement. Our legal team is comprised of nationally recognized trial lawyers who prepare every case as if it were going to trial, and have a long history of successful trial verdicts. The insurance companies want to settle cases with our firm, because they are aware of our reputation, and meticulous preparation.

Do I need a lawyer, and can I afford one?

Working with a lawyer who has experience handling accident and injury cases is one of the most effective ways to navigate the personal injury process and secure the outcome you deserve. Insurance companies who handle these cases like to capitalize on unrepresented victims and take advantage of what they don’t know (which can be a lot when it comes to the law and the process itself). When you have a lawyer on your side, you have the support of an advocate who can handle all legal work and communication with the insurance company, on your behalf, help you obtain the medical treatment you need, and who is firmly on your side.

If you are concerned about working with a lawyer because you don’t think you can afford one, you should know that most personal injury lawyers – including our firm – handle cases on a contingent fee basis. This means there are no up-front legal fees associated with hiring our firm. Our firm also usually fronts the cost of the litigation. It is of note that regardless of the outcome of a case, you may be responsible for reimbursing us for the litigation expenses that we incurred on your behalf. However, we get only get paid attorney’s fees if and when we successfully resolve your case.

How much will it cost to hire your firm?

There is no attorney’s fee unless we win. We work on a contingency fee, which means there is no up-front attorney fees and you owe us no attorney fees unless we are successful in achieving compensation on your behalf. It is of note that regardless of the outcome of a case, you may be responsible for litigation expenses and court costs. Please give us a call to discuss in further detail.

How long does it take to obtain compensation?

It is different in every case. Many cases settle before litigation, others must be litigated and tried in front of a jury. How long your case takes to come to a conclusion will depend on many factors. However, if the wrongdoer refuses to pay a fair amount of money for your injuries, you can rest assured that our trial lawyers will do what it takes to ensure you get full and fair compensation.

Learn More About Your Rights

If you have more questions, or wish to speak personally with a member of our team about your unique situation and potential case, we invite you to contact us for a FREE consultation. You can also view our other FAQ resources below: