Tucson Personal Injury Attorney
What Does Personal Injury Cover?
“Personal injury” as used in the broad sense may include many things such as:
- Automobile and Truck Accidents
- Bicycle and Motorcycle Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents - Slip and Fall Accidents
- Aviation and Boating Accidents
- Premises and Public Property Liability
- Legal Malpractice (Negligence)
- Dental Malpractice - Medical Malpractice
- Any other Professional Malpractice
- Any negligence by a public or private entity, or by the City, County, State or Federal Government
- Electrical or other Accidents based on Equipment
- Dog Bites
- Elder Abuse
- Sexual Assault or Sexual Harassment
- Defective products and injuries caused by products that are defective initially or because they were changed
- Toxic Exposure - Wrongful Death
Many other physical or psychological injuries caused by the wrongful acts of other persons or entities
All personal injury lawyers may not do all of the above kinds of injuries. Many lawyers limit the kinds of cases they do to certain fields or eliminate certain types of cases. The above is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete list of all possible personal injury claims.
If you are injured and believe that the injury was not your fault, you should contact a lawyer and discuss it with him or her to make sure that you are not missing something.
Determining Liability and “Fault”
“Fault” is negligence that causes an injury or damages. Negligence is the failure to act as a reasonably careful person would act under the circumstances. In Arizona we have what is called “Comparative Fault”. Basically that means that there may be any number of people or entities at fault, including the Plaintiff, and the relative degrees of fault are entered as a percentage of the total fault for the injury. One person’s fault may be greater than that of another but the relative degrees of fault must add up to 100%. The total damages are therefore divided between the parties at fault. This means that the percentage of damages attributable to the plaintiff, to persons who could not be sued or collected from, or persons that, for any reason, are excluded from paying their percentage of the verdict would reduce the amount of damages that the plaintiff receives. Medical negligence, product liability, bad faith, premises liability, employment law, and many other areas of fault have their own rules.
Third Party Liability, Construction Accidents and other On-the-Job Injuries
“Third party liability” is often missed. A lawyer should be consulted right away if one is uncertain in any respect. Third party liability can be any of the injuries listed above and many that have not been listed. A good example of third party liability would be where you were working at the time of your injury, but someone other than your employer or a fellow employee caused the injury. You cannot sue your employer or a fellow employee, but you can sue the third party that caused the injury. These cases are difficult. You will need the expertise of a lawyer that understands both personal injury and workers’ compensation, or two lawyers–one that understands personal injury and one that understands workers’ compensation. Early detection is essential so that immediate and aggressive investigation can be accomplished. Evidence absolutely essential to your case is often lost, destroyed or changed shortly after the accident. Witnesses may disappear or lose part of their recollection of the details of the accident.
To elaborate for the purposes of clarification, if a scaffold erected by a company other than your employer caused you to fall when you were working on it for your employer, the scaffold company would be liable if they were negligent. Or if a medical doctor treating you for your industrial injury was negligent in his treatment of your work related injury, he would be a third party and therefore liable.
It would be unwise to do these third party cases on your own (without a lawyer) even if the case was simple — such as being rear-ended by a third party. There are many problems. For example, you cannot settle with the third party without the employer’s insurance company’s consent. Any settlement should be worked out so that both the workers’ compensation insurance company and the third party’s insurance company are involved in the negotiations so that the best results can be obtained for the injured worker.
What To Do After an Accident
1. Talk to a lawyer right away. If you do not need a lawyer, she or he should say so. Don’t wait until the medical treatment is finished. Obviously you should take care of your immediate medical needs before anything else. Your health comes first. But once you are well enough to talk to a lawyer, you should call one. Or, on your behalf, someone else could contact a lawyer right away. This does not mean you must hire the lawyer immediately. The initial consultation is free and therefore, without obligation. You should find out what the lawyer thinks and see what he or she recommends.
2. Should you talk to the responsible party’s insurance company without a lawyer present? Doing so can create problems later on. This topic should be one of the things to ask the lawyer about during the first interview, whether it takes place on the phone or in the lawyer’s office.
3. If possible get photographs or other evidence immediately. Don’t change anything until you know for certain that it is not important to your case.
4. Do not delay getting medical treatment if you need it. On the other hand, do not seek treatment if it is not indicated just because someone else may be liable for the injury. Treat a possible negligence situation in the same way as you would any other accident.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Most lawyers provide free services at least for initial consultations. The extent of these free services will differ among lawyers. At my office consultations, booklets, advice and the answers to your questions are free within reason. If I know the answer to your question I will tell you. However, I will not research or otherwise look up the answer. That would be too time consuming. Most questions in workers’ compensation, personal injury and social security disability that you would ask I can answer, as long as they are general questions that apply to similar cases. As to your particular case, many of those questions require knowledge of the facts and information concerning your case. Most of these questions no lawyer can answer until he or she has been retained and is well acquainted with the case.
Do I need a lawyer or can I represent myself? How can I afford a lawyer? If I hire a lawyer will I end up with less money? These are often a person’s initial questions.
You do not need a lawyer. You can represent yourself during all phases of your case. Please keep in mind however, that insurance companies have well trained adjusters who deal with these cases all day, every day. Even though adjusters may have said or implied that you will be treated fairly, their job is to the contrary. They work for the insurance company. The company works for its stockholders. They are very nice people but their job, duty, and obligation is to pay you as little as they possibly can. This will always be less than the case is worth. The insurance companies also have lawyers who are highly qualified and know this area of the law from the initial investigation to the final appeal to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Lawyers who do personal injury work are paid on a contingency basis. This means that they receive a percentage of the final amount of money received when settled or tried. If they are not successful they do not receive a fee. The costs are different and they must be discussed with the attorney. The fee agreement should also be in writing and discussed with the attorney so that you fully understand it.
At least the first consultation is usually free. You should talk over all aspects of the case during this initial consultation. If a case is lost at arbitration or trial you will get nothing, so you do not always get more money if you have a lawyer. Whether a case should be settled or tried is the client’s decision. However, one should usually follow his lawyer’s advice. Other than the situation where the case is arbitrated or tried the lawyer should always get you more money after his fee than you could get by yourself. Of course there is an exception to every rule.
Another aspect of the initial free consultation is that you should get to know the lawyer that is actually going to be handling your case. You need to be comfortable with your chosen lawyer, his background and his ability to properly assess your case and its value. It is important for you to realize, however, that except in the small easy case, no lawyer can tell you what your case is worth. Any formula that you may hear is nonsense. The value of your case is based on jury verdicts or other decisions in cases that are most comparable to yours. This cannot be known until all the facts are established and known.
The value of your case is based on other comparable cases. What are compared are the negligence, you and the defendant, and all the other aspects of liability or the perception of liability and the damages of other comparable cases. Damages in a negligence case include almost all that is suffered because of the negligence. In rare cases it could include punitive damages. The following is a partial list of possible damages that can be considered:
1. The nature, extent and duration of the injury.
2. The pain, discomfort, suffering, disability, disfigurement, and anxiety already experienced, and reasonably probable to be experienced in the future as a result of the injury.
3. Reasonable expenses of necessary medical care, treatment, and services rendered, and reasonably probable to be incurred in the future.
4. Lost earnings to date, and any decrease in earning power or capacity in the future.
5. Loss of love, care, affection, companionship, and other pleasures of the marital or family relationship.
6. The difference in the value of the damaged property immediately before and immediately after the damage.
Obviously, which damages should be included and asked for should be left to a lawyer. This list does not include wrongful death, punitive damages, DUI, and many of the more complex areas of damages. Our effort here is to give the general public an idea of what we mean when we say “damages”.