Personal injury refers to the area of law that seeks to protect victims who are harmed by the action or inaction of another person or entity. Personal injury is also sometimes referred to as tort law. A personal injury claim can be filed for injury incurred by an individual either physically or mentally, and includes damage to personal property such as an automobile.
There are two elements in every personal injury case: liability and damages. The first element involves demonstrating that the person or entity being charged did in fact bear legal responsibility for the injury. Damages refers to the compensation to be awarded by the court or settlement to compensate the injured individual. The categories of damages include:
1. General Damages which are intended to provide compensation from pain and suffering, loss of amenities of life, loss of enjoyment.
2. Special Damages which cover out of pocket expenses incurred by you until the time of trial including the cost of medical and rehabilitative care.
3. Damages for Past Loss of Income including lost wages, earning or profits as well as lost opportunities to earn income.
4. Damage for Future Loss of Income, which cover your prospective loss of income or lost earning capacity.
5. Damages for Future Cost of Care, which could include special transportation needs, drug costs, uninsured health-care services, rehabilitation expenses, homemaking and home-maintenance services.
When you are injured in an automobile or other accident, you need an experienced trial lawyer to handle your case. My goal is to provide high quality legal services, to resolve claims in a fair manner, and to do so as rapidly as legal requirements and responsible case preparation will permit. I recognize that this is an important matter to you and will use my best efforts to accomplish your goals. My role as your attorney is to assist you in obtaining payment for your past, current and future medical expenses and pain & suffering. I can also make recommendations concerning your treatment, including referrals to physical therapy, chiropractic or other medical specialists. When your treatment has concluded or your condition has stabilized, it will be my role to negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement from the drivers that caused your injuries.
It is very important that you keep me advised concerning your medical treatment. Be candid with your doctors and let them know what pain and limitations you are experiencing. Follow your doctor's advice. Remember that all your medical or health care charges will be reimbursed by the person that caused the accident unless this is a under insured motorist UIM claim. If your medical or auto insurance is paying for your medical or other health care charges, your carrier will expect reimbursement when you settle your claim. This will reduce the amount of the net settlement to you. Therefore, while you should obtain all care necessary to prove your claim and improve your health, be careful of excessive fees or charges.
Normally, medical visits and medical records are confidential under the physician/patient privilege. However, when you make a personal injury claim, the law usually requires a waiver of this privilege, so the other side can review your medical records to verify the nature and extent of your injuries. As your claim involves physical injuries, we will obtain a copy of the medical records needed to prove your claim. We will obtain records of treatment occurring after the accident to show what injuries were caused. We also may obtain copies of records of treatment received before the accident, to show prior good health or explain prior injuries or conditions. We usually send these medical records to the defendants' representatives as we receive them since this will help speed resolution of the case. If there are matters in your medical records that you believe will hurt your case, or that are so sensitive that you do not want them disclosed, please advise me.
As we get further involved with your case we may have some specific advice for you. In the meantime, here are some general suggestions that we ask you to follow.
1. Do not discuss the case with anyone other than members of this firm, your spouse, parents, our private investigator, your doctors, or other persons whom we authorize you to discuss your case.
2. Consult us before you do something that might affect your case, including changing health care providers or changing your treatment.
3. Sign nothing dealing with your claim until you have received our instructions or approval.
4. Tell your health care provider about all your symptoms, to ensure that an accurate and complete record of your condition is well established.
5. Follow your health care provider's instructions.
6. Notify us at once of any changes in employment, raises or reductions in salary, or loss of job. Similarly, if you are required to miss any work due to your injuries, send us a note identifying the dates of work missed and obtain a letter from your employer documenting your loss of income.
7. If you are self-employed, keep a record of all the times you are unable to work or perform your duties and discuss with us how we might best demonstrate your loss of income.
8. Notify us right away of any change of address or of home or business telephone numbers.
9. Keep a record of expenses incurred as a result of the accident, including payments to persons you employ to do work that you would have done but for your injuries.
10. Please notify us immediately if you hear anything that you feel may affect your case.
Like most Washington personal injury law firms who handle most personal injury claims, on a contingency fee of 1/3 the recovery. This fee is deducted from the amount of the net amount of the settlement. This means if we do not win a financial recovery for your personal injury, either through an award of damages at trial or with a settlement, there is no lawyer fee. You would also be responsible for expenses incurred with your claim, including things such as court filing fees, fees for medical records and expert reports, computer printouts, photocopying, fax, courier, postage, binding of document books. These costs are also subtracted from the settlement proceeds in your case.
Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Law Office of John J. Sinclair, Inc., P.S. It contains general information and is not intended to apply to any specific situation.