After an accident, you most likely have injuries, which means you have medical expenses and other losses. Or, you might have lost a loved one, which means you most likely have a funeral and additional charges and losses. While money doesn’t eliminate the pain and suffering of long-term or permanent injuries, the pain of short-term injuries, or the pain of losing a loved one, it significantly reduces the financial stress you’re bound to have after any type of accident that causes injury or death.
After you suffer injuries or lose a loved one, you can try to settle with the at-fault person’s or entity’s insurance company. If the insurance company refuses a fair and reasonable settlement, you can bow out of settlement negotiations and file a complaint to litigate your case. Connect with a car accident lawyer which can help ypu in legal procedures.
Table of Contents
- Accident Injuries
- When You Can Recover Damages?
- Types of Damages
- How Long It Takes to Receive a Check After a Lawsuit or Settlement?
Various types of accidents cause different kinds of injuries. Additionally, some accidents cause minor injuries to some and major injuries to others. It all depends on the specific circumstances of the accident.
For example, one person could slip and fall on an icy sidewalk, hit their head on a chunk of ice, and suffer traumatic brain injuries. Another person could slip and fall on the same sidewalk but hit their head on a soft pile of snow and only suffer bruises.
Another common example is motor vehicle accidents. Suppose Car A sideswipes Car B, sending it into a sideswipe with Car C. The person in Car B suffers bumps, bruises, and cuts. However, if Car A sideswipes Car B into a tractor-trailer truck, the driver in Car B could suffer catastrophic injuries or even death.
Finally, people react differently to injuries. Two people might be in similar accidents, but Person A is healthy, and Person B has an immunodeficiency. They both suffer from cuts on their arms and faces. Person B’s injuries become infected because the immunodeficiency doesn’t allow the cuts to heal as quickly, and the immune system doesn’t fight off infections as well as the healthy person’s immune system.
Thus, when you ask a personal injury lawyer how much your case is worth, they can’t answer until they review all of the accident or incident facts and your medical records.
Sometimes, the attorney may not give you an answer until you receive a diagnosis. For example, some injuries, such as spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries, could cause long-term or permanent disabilities. But it may take three to four months for some people to recover from the same type of injury.
If tests are inconclusive, doctors might have to wait to see if you recover in the average time it takes others to recover from similar injuries. Only then can an attorney attempt to determine how much you need to cover the costs and other required damages possibly for the rest of your life.
Common accident injuries include:
- Bumps, bruises, scratches, cuts, scrapes, and punctures.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Crushed bones and crush injuries.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Ear injuries, including deafness.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Internal injuries, including internal bleeding and damaged organs.
- Lung damage due to inhaling smoke or chemicals.
- Thermal and chemical burns.
- Road rash.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Nerve damage.
Any injury that causes an open wound, such as cuts, scratches, compound fractures, and road rash, could lead to significant infections, even in healthy people. However, if someone has a compromised immune system, the risk of infection is higher. The defendant is responsible for infections and other secondary injuries that would not have developed without the defendant’s actions or inactions.
Another example of secondary injuries is in cases of food poisoning. Some of the viruses and bacteria can cause additional issues. In addition to the typical symptoms of food poisoning, some people could contract other diseases and illnesses.
For example, salmonella can cause joint damage and chronic arthritis. Listeria can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. Some viruses and bacteria that cause food poisoning could cause brain damage.
When You Can Recover Damages?
Each state has a statute of limitations that tells you how long you have to sue someone for your injuries. The amount of time depends on the type of injury case you have and your state. For example, some states have a one-year statute of limitations for wrongful death but a two-year or four-year statute of limitations for other personal injuries. Some states break it down more and have a two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice but three or four years for other types of personal injuries.
It’s best to seek legal help as soon as possible after the accident and have an attorney advise as to how much time you have to file. The sooner you reach out to an attorney, the sooner you can get started on filing a claim. Investigations could take anywhere from a few days to months.
Reviewing documents and interviewing (deposing) witnesses could also take a few days to several months. The whole claims process can take a significant amount of time which is why starting early is important to avoid the statute of limitations expiring.
If you miss the statute of limitations, you won’t be able to enter settlement negotiations or file a lawsuit to seek compensation.
Types of Damages
Depending on your state and the type of accident or incident that caused your injuries or the death of a loved one, you could recover two types of damages. You could recover compensatory damages in the form of economic damages and non-economic damages, and you could recover punitive damages.
Most people recover economic damages after an accident or incident that causes injuries. However, only some people recover non-economic damages. In most cases, your injuries must cause long-term or permanent disabilities, or you must have lost a loved one to recover non-economic damages.
Finally, only a few people recover punitive damages in states that provide for them. These damages are at the discretion of the court.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value. Most people injured because of another person’s or entity’s negligence, gross negligence, or intentional actions can recover economic damages, including the following:
The medical payments you incur after an accident or incident depend on several factors, including the type of accident or incident, the severity of the accident, and your health. Accident injuries can worsen existing illnesses and injuries, or your health could worsen accident injuries. Regardless, the defendant must pay for medical expenses you incur because existing injuries and illnesses were made worse by the accident injuries.
Medical costs include but are not limited to:
- Doctors’ appointments.
- Surgeries and follow-up appointments.
- Prescriptions and prescribed over-the-counter medications and equipment.
- Ambulatory aids.
- Home health care.
- Nursing home or rehabilitative home charges.
- Various therapy sessions such as:
- Accessibility aids for your home, including but not limited to wheelchair ramps, grab bars, handrails, and widened doorways.
- Accessibility aids for your vehicle, including but not limited to wheelchair ramps and lifts and hand controls.
- Any income you lose from the time of the accident until you settle or win a trial award.
- Loss of future earning capacity. You could recover the loss of partial future earning capacity if you can only work part-time or even if you can work full time, but your injuries force you to take a lesser-paying job or position.
- In some instances, you could recover compensation for repairing or replacing personal property, such as a vehicle wrecked in a car accident. If the wreck damaged or destroyed other personal property in your vehicle, such as a computer or cell phone, you could also receive compensation to replace those items.
- Death-related fees, including funeral payments, burial expenses, cremation costs, specific probate court fees, and probate attorney’s fees and costs.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value. The court orders them to cover the financial losses you take because your injuries prevent you from living your life the same way you could or because you lost a loved one and everything that person brought to your relationship.
While the money doesn’t make you physically or emotionally well, it significantly reduces the stress of changes to your life caused by your injury.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make lifelong changes, such as taking prescriptions or using ambulatory aids.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy time with your family or attend family activities and events.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a finger or a leg.
- Loss of use of a bodily function such as your bladder or eyesight.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, including, but not limited to, house cleaning, grocery shopping, home repair and maintenance, and lawn maintenance.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Excessive scarring or disfigurement.
How Long It Takes to Receive a Check After a Lawsuit or Settlement?
When you win a settlement or a trial award, it still takes time to receive your money. Once you settle or the jury rules in your favor, one of the attorneys must draft the final document. Usually, it’s the losing side since they will most likely have to pay attorneys’ fees and costs.
If you win a trial award, the attorney drafts a final judgment and forwards it to your attorney for review. If your attorney agrees that it is what the court ordered, he notifies the defendant’s attorney, who then delivers the proposed final judgment to the court.
The judge reviews the proposed final judgment, and if they find it matches their ruling, they execute it (sign it) and forward the original to the clerk for your file. The judge’s judicial assistant also forwards signed copies to both attorneys.
If you agree to a settlement, the insurer’s attorney drafts a settlement agreement. He forwards it to your attorney, who reviews it with you. If the settlement agreement represents what you agreed to, you sign and notarize it and send it to the defendant’s attorney for processing.
If you and your attorney disagree that the settlement agreement properly represents your agreement, your attorney will send the requested changes back to the defendant’s attorney. They then should make the changes. If there is a disagreement and the settlement cannot be finalized, your attorney can still file a lawsuit to seek maximum compensation.
After the Red Tape
Once the defendant’s insurance company processes the settlement agreement or the final judgment, it will cut a check to your attorney, who deposits it into an escrow account. Your attorney must wait until the check clears the bank before taking the following steps. This usually takes about 14 days.
Once the check clears, your attorney:
- Pays any outstanding medical charges you have. Make sure you submit any medical bills you get to your attorney so he can take care of them for you.
- Reimburses your health insurance and auto insurance for medical fees and lost income that you claimed. Your insurance should not shoulder the financial responsibility for something that is another person’s or entity’s fault. Thus, part of the amount your attorney figures as a fair and reasonable amount covers anything your insurance company paid.
- Deducts the firm’s percentage based on the contingency agreement you signed when you retained the firm.
- Cuts a check for the balance to you. You can deposit the check and use it as you see fit.
If your check is over $250,000, you may want to consult a financial adviser about where and how to deposit the money to safeguard it.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in an accident or another personal injury incident, contact our personal injury law firm in Philadelphia as soon as possible for your free case evaluation.