Personal Injury FAQ

Q. What is a personal injury case?
A. A personal injury is any type of physical injury that you suffer as a result of someone else's (whether that be a person or a company) negligence. These type of injuries could stem from a car wreck, 18–wheeler wreck, bus accident, airplane accident, train wreck, trucking wreck, slip and fall, defective product case, medical negligence, wrongful death, or other situations where someone's negligence resulted in physical injury or harm. Sometimes a personal injury case may arise out of intentional conduct (such as an assault and battery). Mississippi personal injury cases are governed by a Statute of Limitations, which varies depending on the type of case, but it limits the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. You should immediately consult a lawyer to determine the Statute of Limitations for your specific case. Don't wait too long or you may be forever barred from filing your claim and receiving the compensation your deserve!

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Q. Do I need to hire a personal injury lawyer in my area?
A. No, but your personal injury law firm should at least be from your state or region. Personal injury law firms who operate in your area, or in the State where the injury took place, may also know more about the area, and thus more about your case. Personal injury lawyers have many contacts in the community, and know police and government officials that can help your case as well.

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Q. I didn't think I was hurt, but now I feel horrible. What do I do?
A. Many times injuries are not recognized or noticeable until days or weeks after the incident. This means that even though you may not feel any discomfort and pain immediately and feel fine now, you may be suffering from internal injuries or injuries that may be symptomatic later. You should always seek medical attention after being involved in an incident. When you do see the doctor, make sure to mention any complaint you may have, regardless of how minor. Don't play medical expert and evaluate the importance of a symptom. It is better to begin treatment for injuries early to prevent worsening of your condition.

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Q. When should I seek medical treatment?
A. Immediately. You should seek medical treatment as soon as an incident occurs or as soon as possible thereafter. You should continue treatment until your doctor or other healthcare professional discharges you from their care. If, after discharge, you are still experiencing symptoms , you may need to seek a second opinion or consult with a specialist to ensure that you get better and have exercised your due diligence in seeking proper medical treatment.

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Q. Who pays my medical bills?
A. Ideally, the liable insurance company would pay for your medical bills without any hassle. However, oftentimes insurance companies dispute liability, and it can be a very difficult to get an insurance provider to pay your bills up front. If that is the case, it may be a wise decision to get your health insurance to pay your medical bills and seek reimbursement from the auto insurance company as part of the settlement.

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Q. What if I don't have health insurance?
A. If you don't have health insurance, in very limited circumstances, you may be able to get the liable party's insurance information to pay for your medical care, but this is pretty rare. Even if the insurance company for the party at fault agrees that their insured was responsible for the accident and your injuries, the insurance company will almost never pay your bills unless and until you agree to an settle your case. In the meanwhile, the medical providers will hold you responsible and look to your for payment. If you do not pay your medical expenses, then the bills will be turned over to a collection agency, which adversely affects your credit. To assist you in avoiding collections, your attorney may be able to provide a "letter of protection" to the medical provider or the collection agency, getting them to stop collection efforts in return for an agreement to pay the bill out of any settlement or judgment. If you need additional treatment, an attorney may be able to assist you in finding a medical provider who will treat you in return for a letter of protection.

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Q. Do I still have a case if health insurance pays my medical bills?
A. Yes. You still have a case even if someone else pays your medical bills. Your medical bills are still used as one basis for determining the value of your case, regardless of whether you pay them, your health insurance company pays them, or someone else does. However, if your health insurance does pay your medical bills, your insurance company may contact you to seek reimbursement for monies spent on your medical care. Your insurance company will have what is called a subrogation lien.

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Q. What do I need in order to file a personal injury case?
A. All you really need to file a personal injury case is an accident resulting from someone else's negligence that causes damages to you. If you are involved in any type of accident that is not your fault, contact a good personal injury lawyer immediately to provide the details of your accident and get medical treatment until you have recovered from your injuries. Through the course of your case, the attorney will need to obtain your police report, any photographs that exist relating to the accident, and copies of your medical records. If you can provide those documents to the attorney, it saves a lot of time spent waiting for correspondence to be returned. However, if you can't produce those documents, the attorney can get them and move forward with your case.

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Q. How much does it cost to speak with you about my situation?
A. We never charge for an initial consultation and for a review of the facts surrounding your case. Personal injury cases normally involve a contingency fee agreement, although retainer fees at an hourly rate are also available if you prefer. The client agrees to pay a specified percent of the recovery (which sometimes varies depending on whether a lawsuit settles early or the matter goes to trial or is appealed). If there is no recovery, there is no fee, and the attorney absorbs any expenses which have been advanced on the case. Feel free to call Kobs & Philley, PLLC for a free initial consultation and case review.

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Q. How soon should I get a lawyer?
A. Quickly. To be safe, you should talk to an attorney as soon as possible, especially if the injuries are severe or a death has resulted. Oftentimes, valuable evidence disappears, memories of the persons involved and witnesses grow dim, witness move or disappear, and the ability to prove your case may diminish. If you are still undergoing medical treatment, an attorney can also provide you with guidance concerning your medical care and help you deal with unpaid medical bills and expenses. Legal advice can also be useful if you have questions about the settlement value of your claim, your insurance policy’s terms, or suspect bad faith on the part of your insurance company. Contact Kobs & Philley, PLLC to discuss your personal injury case for free.

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Q. Do I need to hire a personal injury attorney?
A. If you are involved in a minor accident which result in only property damage, you probably don't need a personal injury attorney. However, if you've had a serious accident or injury (broken bones, head trauma, lacerations, amputation, paralysis, or the like) that requires medical care, results in property damage or causes you to miss work, a personal injury attorney can make sure you get the recovery you deserve.

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Q. What should I look for in a Personal Injury Lawyer?
A. You need a lawyer with experience in this particular area of the law. Just like doctors who concentrate on caring for certain types of medical conditions, there are lawyers who concentrate their practice in certain fields of the law. In addition everyone deserves an attorney and staff who will be caring and responsive to their needs—someone who will go the extra mile for them and get them the recovery they need and deserve.

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Q. Can I resolve the case without hiring a personal injury attorney?
A. You can, but your ultimate recovery will likely be a lot less than if you had an attorney on board. By hiring an experienced Mississippi personal injury lawyer, you will be leveling the playing field by having a trained, experienced advocate in your corner. You can rest easy knowing that you someone in your corner helping you to receive adequate compensation for your injuries and damages.

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Q. What types of damages are generally available in personal injury cases?
A. States vary, but in Mississippi, damages may be recoverable for the nature and extent of your injury (and whether it was temporary or permanent) medical expenses (past and future), pain and suffering (past, present and future), mental distress and emotional anguish (past, present and future), lost wages (past, present and future) and wage–earning capacity, scarring and disfigurement, permanent physical impairment, lodging and transportation, loss of companionship and love for an injured spouse, nursing care, rehabilitation, property damage, and other similar expenses depending on the type of injuries you suffered.

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Q. How long does it take to resolve a personal injury case?
A. How long it takes to resolve a personal injury case can vary greatly from case to case, as no two cases are exactly the same. In the case of a motor vehicle accident with clear liability and minor damages, your case could settle fairly quickly, depending on the severity of your injuries and how long your medical treatment lasts. However, in a complicated medical malpractice case with many defendants and the damages at stake are high, it can take a while for all the parties to agree on liability and damages. When someone files a lawsuit they get in line with everyone else who has a lawsuit pending. Normally the courts try to schedule the oldest cases first to clear up the court's docket, but any scheduling has to take into account the trial schedules of all of the attorneys who are involved in the case. Criminal cases usually have priority over civil cases and may result in a civil case being postponed or "continued" to a new trial date. The complexity of the case may also have an effect on how soon a trial date can be obtained. It is easier to schedule a one day trial than a trial which will last several weeks. Waiting for your day in court can be a very frustrating experience for a litigant, especially if the trial date is rescheduled several times. Because there are so many variables in getting a trial date, when your case may be resolved is a question which really must be answered on a case by case basis by your attorney.

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Q. Will I have to spend a lot of time working on the case?
A. The great news about hiring a personal injury attorney is that you will not have to spend a lot of time working on your case. Your attorney takes care of practically everything for you. All you have to do is show up for your medical appointments, keep the lawyer updated on your medical status and treatment, and forward any paperwork you receive regarding your accident to your attorney. Your personal injury attorney will handle all the communication with the insurance companies, any necessary litigation. Your lawyer will tell you if and when you need to take action on your case; otherwise, you can forget about it until it's resolved, and focus on living your life without the headaches of litigation.

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Q. How do I decide whether to sue or settle?
A. Kobs & Philley can help you decide whether to settle a case out–of–court, or whether to take it to trial. In most cases, it makes sense to settle a case before trial, as you are at the mercy of a jury award in the event that a case does go to trial. Sometimes a jury may award more than you'd expect, but juries can also award a much smaller amount or nominal amount, depending on the case. There are many factors in considering settlement of your case. If you can agree with the defendant on case value, settlement makes more sense for everyone involved. However, if you and the defendant can't agree on the value of the case (i.e., your damages), or if the defendant doesn't feel that they are at fault, it may be necessary to take a case to court to allow a jury of your peers to decide the value of your case. The decision of whether to settle or sue is ultimately your decision. Your personal injury attorney can advise you strongly in the direction that makes the best sense, but you have the final word on whether or not to accept a settlement. Your case cannot be settled unless you've agreed to it.

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Q. What is a structured settlement?
A. A structured settlement can take many different forms, but it generally means that you receive only a portion of the settlement up front, and the rest may go into a trust account, investment products or other security vehicles to gain interest over time. In some cases, you get a structured settlement in chunks, which you can then access at a later date; in other cases, a portion of the settlement may go into a trust account for another party, such as when parents sue on behalf of their children. Generally speaking, you may be able to get a bigger settlement overall if you choose to go with a structured settlement, but you won't get as much money up front. Consult with your personal injury attorney if you want to talk about the ways in which a structured settlement might benefit you. There are several avenues to set up structured settlements, and a good personal injury has financial advisors that can help you make the decision as to structured settlements.

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Q. What does it mean when I sign a release?
A. While releases contain different language depending on the specifics, a release generally means that you give up the right to seek any further recovery from the individual released, in exchange for the consideration outlined in the release. For example, if you settle a personal injury case for $30,000, you'll have to sign a release against the defendant, agreeing not to take further action against the defendant in return for the defendant paying you $30,000. It's important to NEVER sign a release unless your attorney reviews it and advises you to sign; sometimes insurance companies attempt to mislead people into signing a release, and people then lose their ability to pursue a personal injury case against those at–fault persons and companies. It is generally accepted to sign a release to settle your property damage only claim with a insurance company, but you should withhold releasing your personal injury claim until your medical treatment is exhausted. You must be careful that the language in the release specifically states that you preserve your personal injury claims.

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Q. Can I make a claim for punitive damages?
A. Punitive damages are damages which are only available in instances of intentional misconduct or instances of extreme recklessness or "gross" negligence. The vast majority of cases of negligence are not reckless or gross enough to qualify for punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the wrongdoer from doing anything similar in the future and to provide an example to discourage others from similar conduct. The financial worth of the defendant is considered by the jury in determining the amount of punitive damages to award the injured person. An example of punitive damages might be to punish a furniture store company for knowingly allowing an alcoholic to operate a delivery truck or an 18–wheeler, or to punish a physician for performing surgery on a patient while under the influence of intoxicating agents, or to punish a drug manufacturer or pharmaceutical company for placing its profits above the safety of its consumers in releasing new pharmaceuticals into the market. Some states have limitations on the rights of a jury to award punitive damages.

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Q. What if the at–fault person's negligence caused someone's death?
A. A case which results in someone's death is commonly referred to as "Wrongful Death" case. The case can still be pursued on the deceased person's behalf and on behalf of the family members (known as wrongful death beneficiaries), but normally a special administrator must be appointed (this is usually a family member). The law of the state where the case is filed usually specifies the particular relationship that would entitle a person to make a claim for damages as a result of the death of the victim (in Mississippi, these beneficiaries would consist of a spouse and children, or parents and siblings). The wrongful death beneficiaries may be entitled to compensation for any damages, including funeral costs, loss of love and companionship, and the economic loss they suffered as a result of the death of their relative (this can be substantial if the claimant is the spouse or minor child of a wage–earner who dies). Wrongful death beneficiaries may also be entitled to claim damages for the mental anguish and emotional distress suffered as a result of the death of their family member or loved one. For a more detailed discussion, please visit the Wrongful Death section.

Q. What's my case worth?
A. The value of any personal injury case always involves many factors and usually just depends on the facts of each case, as no two cases are exactly the same. Some of these factors include the amount of medical expenses, wage loss, damages that may occur in the future, scarring and disfigurement, permanent physical impairment, evidence as to the degree of fault, where the incident took place, or the likelihood of punitive damages, the amount of insurance coverage, and where the case is filed. For a more detailed discussion, see our general What’s My Case Worth? section.

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Q. Why should you hire Kobs & Philley, PLLC?
A. Our firm has the necessary staff, experienced attorneys, legal technology, and financial resources to handle personal injury cases, big and small. Our clients always come first! We are big enough to win, but small enough to care.

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If you have any questions about your legal rights regarding your injuries or your loved one's injuries, please contact Kobs & Philley, PLLC for a FREE CONSULTATION.