Imagine for a moment that your child was in a terrible car accident. You would undoubtedly want to do everything possible to get you child back to being a healthy, happy little kid. One major step to achieving physical recovery after an accident is recovering monetary damages. In order to pay those medical bills, as well as assuage your pain and suffering, your best move is to hire an attorney and file a personal injury lawsuit.
Car accidents are by far the most common type of personal injury case, so they serve as a good example of the proper way to file a personal injury lawsuit. After a car accident, you must report the accident to the Alabama Department of Safety (DPS) within 30 days if the accident causes injury or death, or if there is more than $250 of damage. Once an accident occurs, you have 2 years to file a personal injury claim in court. Once a claim is filed, the defendant has a chance to respond within 30 days.
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Alabama is one of very few “at-fault” states, meaning that Alabama courts utilize a pure contributory negligence standard if fault is at all shared between the parties. So, even if you are only 1% at fault for the accident, and the other party is 99% at fault, you cannot recover any damages. Because of this stringent rule, it is unmistakably helpful to have a capable attorney on your side. Most car accidents are settled by insurance companies or in the mediation phase of litigation, however they do occasionally go to trial.
The category of personal injury covers much more than just car accidents; other examples of personal injury claims are for medical malpractice, slip and fall cases, dog bites, and assault/battery. The sufferers of accidents are not confined to those directly injured, nor is damage just physical. Accidents can also result in emotional trauma, lost wages, and difficulty in handling everyday tasks.
Judgments in personal injury cases may include costs for medical bills, lost wages and potential future earnings, property loss or damage, pain and suffering, and help with household tasks if needed. These damages can be difficult to calculate. This is one advantage to hiring a good attorney—they can provide information on fair compensation from case law and their own experience, and they can give you a better idea of what you are likely to recover.
Before hiring an attorney, there are some steps you should take on your own to ensure that your attorney can build you the best possible case. You should try your best to document the scene of the accident, either immediately after it occurs or within a few days. Write down everything about the accident you can remember; even small details like the weather may be important in negotiating a settlement. If possible, try to take photos and videos of the scene.
You should also make a comprehensive list of all involved parties and witnesses. Take time to consider who might be helpful, even if a witness might initially seem insignificant or unlikely to cooperate. Another benefit to hiring an attorney is that they tend to be extremely useful in persuading unwilling parties to participate.
It’s true that it’s not strictly necessary to hire an attorney to handle your personal injury case. As in most lawsuits, it is possible to take on your case alone. However, though it may seem like you are saving money by not hiring an expensive attorney, this might not be the case. Studies show that personal injury victims that hire a lawyer get a significantly larger settlement. Car accident victims in particular see much larger settlements with the help of an attorney; settlements are forty percent higher for car accident victims with attorney representation versus those without one.
We hope, of course, the aforementioned scenario never happens to you, but if you find yourself in a heartbreaking situation, it is extremely important to hire an attorney as soon as possible to assist with your lawsuit. Though it will not completely take away the pain you and your family have experienced, it is the best way to ensure that you get the help you need and get on the fastest road to recovery.
About the Authors: This article was co-written by Katie Pickle and Chris Reid. Katie is a law clerk at the Reid Law Firm and a 1L student at Emory Law School. She may be reached at Katharine.ReidLawFirm@gmail.com. Mr. Reid is general practice attorney in Birmingham, Alabama. He has worked for Republican leadership in the United State House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., and was a health policy advisor to the governor of Alabama. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 205-913-7406. A full description of his practice areas is available at www.reidlawalabama.com.