|Do I need a lawyer?
Yes, I think you do. Most people never expect to be
in this position and do not have any experience in dealing
with this type of situation.
Insurance companies are some of the richest and most
powerful corporations in America. They make money by
selling policies, collecting premiums, and avoiding
paying on claims.
The other party's insurance company does not owe you
anything unless it voluntarily agrees to pay you or
a jury determines liability and the amount of your damages.
The law does not impose a duty on the other party's
insurance company to treat you fairly.
The insurance company claim's agent is a professional.
His or her job is to settle your claim as quickly and
cheaply as possible. The insurance company is a business.
Its interest lies in the bottom line. Paying your claim
is against its best interest.
Personal injury law is complex. There are time periods
in which notices must be given, statutes of limitations
for resolving or filing lawsuits, and rules of evidence.
You need a professional to assist you with the law and
combat the insurance company claim representative.
Will my case go to trial?
Most personal injury cases result in an out of court
settlement negotiated between the parties. A negotiated
settlement is one in which both sides try to predict
what a jury will do and settle the case accordingly.
Do I need a trial lawyer?
I think you do. While it is true that most personal
injury cases settle without going through a jury trial,
the goal is not merely to settle your case. The goal
is to reach a fair settlement in which you receive reasonable
compensation for your injuries.
Insurance companies did not grow rich and powerful
by being stupid. Insurance companies know whether a
lawyer has the ability to successfully try a case before
If the insurance company believes that your lawyer does
not have the ability to try a case in front of a jury,
then you will not be offered a reasonable settlement.
If the insurance company believes that your lawyer has
the ability to successfully try a case before a jury,
then you are going to receive larger settlement offers
and have a better chance of obtaining reasonable compensation
for your injuries.
There are also some personal injury cases that simply
have to be tried. There may be liability issues, factual
disputes, or questions involving damages that only a
jury can resolve. In such cases, you need a lawyer who
can stand in front of the jury and be your advocate.
You need a lawyer that can talk to the jury in a language
that the jury understands, that can articulate the law
to the jury, and that can instill in the hearts and
minds of the jurors the desire to award you reasonable
compensation for your injuries.
Some lawyers never go to court. Some lawyers do not
handle jury trials. To be a good trial lawyer, you have
to regularly try cases.
Any person with a license to practice law can place
an advertisement in the telephone book or on television
asking for the privilege of representing you in a claim
for personal injuries. (My own advertisement appears
in the Qwest Dex telephone book on yellow page 25.)
In talking with lawyers about handling your case, ask
them about their jury trial experience. Find out how
many jury trials they have handled, the types of cases,
and how long the trials lasted.
For these reasons, I believe that you have a much better
chance of obtaining reasonable compensation when you
use the services of a trial lawyer.
How long do I have to resolve my claim?
South Dakota law limits the time for you to either
settle your case or file a lawsuit. These laws are called
statute of limitations. The amount of time depends on
the type of case and the identity of the other party.
For example, you typically have three years in which
to either settle or file a lawsuit in a claim for personal
injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. However,
if the defendant worked for a municipality and was driving
a city vehicle at the time of the accident, then you
are required to give notice to the municipality within
180 days of the accident and have your claim settled
or suit filed within two years.
Generally speaking, medical malpractice claims must
be commenced within two years after the malpractice
occurred. Legal malpractice claims must be commenced
within three years after the malpractice occurred.
It is very difficult to be more specific regarding
the applicable statute of limitations without knowing
all the facts involved in your case. Please contact
me and I will answer your questions.
What is my case worth?
The legal system is not able to heal your injuries
or ease your pain. The only thing a judge or jury can
do is award you reasonable compensation for your injuries.
The question in each case is what is reasonable compensation.
The nature and extent of your injuries determines the
amount of reasonable compensation that you receive.
It generally takes between six months and one year for
a person to recover following an injury or surgery.
Once your doctor says you are at maximum medical improvement
and not going to get any better, then it may be necessary
to have you evaluated by a specialist to determine if
your injuries are permanent. Your case is ready for
evaluation and settlement negotiations can begin after
it is determined whether you have sustained a permanent
Factors that may be considered by a jury in awarding
you reasonable compensation include, among others, medical
expenses, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, pain and
suffering, mental anguish, permanent injury, loss of
capacity of the enjoyment of life, and diminishment
in earning capacity.
It is only after you have reached maximum medical improvement,
underwent an evaluation to determine if you sustained
a permanent injury, and accumulated all the information
related to the factors described above that a lawyer
can make an intelligent estimate as to the value of
your case. In evaluating these factors and making an
estimate, I rely on my personal experience in trying
and settling cases, I monitor other injury cases that
have gone to trial by jury in this area, I utilize resources
from the South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association and
the American Trial Lawyers Association, and I subscribe
to a computerized nationwide jury verdict research system.
In summary, it takes time and requires a great deal
of information before a lawyer can give you an honest
and thoughtful estimate as to the value of your case.
Who will pay for my medical bills?
The other party's insurance company may not be under
any obligation to pay for your medical bills until settlement
or trial. The problem is who is going to pay for your
medical bills while your case is pending.
No one wants creditors calling at home and demanding
payment for medical bills. The other party's insurance
company knows this. They like to use creditor harassment
as a means of forcing you to quickly and cheaply settle
Your health should be your first concern. If you are
hurt, seek competent medical treatment. Most importantly,
follow your doctor's advice.
If you were injured in an automobile accident, you
should have medical payment coverage on your automobile
policy. Contact your insurance company and request that
they pay your medical bills. You paid for the coverage
so use it. Your insurance company will get the money
back as they are protected by subrogation.
If you exhaust your automobile medical payment coverage,
then submit the medical bills to your health insurance
company. Again, you paid for this insurance and your
health insurance company will be protected by subrogation.
If you were injured as the result of a slip and fall
on property belonging to someone else, there may be
medical payments coverage on a premises liability policy.
This benefit is typically paid irrespective of negligence
If you do not have any insurance coverage, I will contact
your health care providers and promise to pay them upon
completion of your case. Most doctors will understand
this situation and work with you.
I had an automobile accident, who will fix my car?
Your automobile insurance policy will replace or repair
your vehicle regardless of fault if you had collision
coverage. You should contact your insurance agent, report
the accident, and follow their instructions to get your
vehicle fixed. Your insurance company will then pursue
the other driver for reimbursement if appropriate.
If you did not have collision coverage, then you could
be at the mercy of the other driver's insurance company
as to whether they will admit responsibility and fix
your car. Generally speaking, in cases where the other
driver is clearly at fault, his or her insurance company
will want to promptly repair or replace your vehicle
in order to avoid having to pay you interest. Remember,
in most cases the other driver's insurance company is
also responsible for provide you with a rental vehicle
while your car is being repaired or replaced.
I was injured by a person who did not have automobile
insurance, what can I do?
This is frustrating. You have several options. First,
South Dakota law requires all drivers to have automobile
insurance. The other driver should have received a ticket
for not having insurance or been charged with some other
crime and have to appear in criminal court. The judge
will order the other driver to make restitution (reimburse
you for your losses) as part of his or her sentence
or else go to jail. You should contact the Minnehaha
County State's Attorney, 605-367-4226, and request to
speak to a Victim's Assistant regarding restitution.
Second, you should have medical pay coverage under
your automobile insurance policy that you can use to
pay your medical bills. You also should have uninsured
motorist coverage on your automobile insurance policy
that may provide you with reasonable compensation for
your personal injuries.
Finally, you may consider bringing a lawsuit against
the other driver. South Dakota law provides that if
you receive a money judgment for damages as the result
of a motor vehicle accident which is not paid, then
the state will revoke the judgment debtor's driving
privileges. This threat will encourage the debtor to
make payments toward satisfaction of the judgment.
Who will pay for my time off work?
This is very frustrating because your options are limited.
You should check and see if you have any disability
insurance benefits. If so, contact your insurance company
and find out if you can file a claim. Should you suffer
from a long-term disability and be unable to return
to employment, you may be eligible for assistance from
the federal government. Please contact the Social Security
Administration office here in Sioux Falls.
The other party's insurance company is not under any
obligation to reimburse you for lost wages until settlement
or trial. The insurance company knows that not working
places you in financial distress. Again, the insurance
company is using economic distress to force you to consider
returning to work before your doctor ordinarily would
so recommend and to quickly and cheaply settle your
What about my family, are they entitled to compensation?
A husband or wife may have a claim for loss of consortium
related to your personal injury. Married persons have
a right to the love, affection, society, and companionship
of their spouse. Should your personal injury impact
upon the marital relationship, then your spouse may
also have a claim for reasonable compensation.
South Dakota law presently does not permit a claim
for compensation by children for personal injuries sustained
by their parents.
What is subrogation?
Subrogation is the right of your insurance company
to seek reimbursement for monies it pays to your health
care providers or to repair your car due to another
person's negligence. For example, your automobile insurance
policy pays $2,000 to your doctor for treatment because
of an automobile accident caused by another person.
Your insurance company would have a right to reimbursement
for the money it paid from the person who injured you.
Can I afford to hire a lawyer?
I handle most personal injury cases on a contingency
fee basis. This means that I charge a percentage of
what you recover as legal fees. If I do not recover
any money for you, then you do not pay any attorney
There is no charge for consultation on injury cases.
This consultation is similar to a job interview. You
need to meet me and decide whether you want to trust
me to handle your case. I need to meet you and decide
whether I want to provide you with legal representation.
I will meet with you at your convenience in my office,
your home, or place of business.
I typically advance the cost of litigation as we proceed
toward resolving your case. However, the law requires
clients to reimburse all costs advanced regardless of
the outcome of the case.
Please call me at 605-339-0780 to discuss your case.