The New Hampshire Personal Injury Lawyer's Guide to the Most Frequently Asked Questions
Cohen & Winters are skilled personal injury lawyers in Concord New Hampshire and are able to help you during a crisis. We have created this helpful guide to answer most frequently asked questions about New Hampshire personal injury law.
This is especially true if you have suffered serious injuries. You may be going through major medical treatment, be missing work, and be in constant pain. The most natural worry in a crisis like this is how this will effect you and your family in the long run.
If another person caused the injuries through carelessness, you are also possibly angry. While money won't solve your problems, it will help make things easier going forward. More importantly, you want a feeling of justice. It's not fair for the person who did this to you to walk way away scot free while you are suffering. New Hampshire personal injury lawyers help people in your situation every day. They focus on holding the person who caused your injuries accountable, and getting you fair compensation. This allows you to focus on your recovery knowing a lawyer you trust is there to protect your legal rights.
If you have been injured in an accident, Cohen & Winters are personal injury lawyers serving in Concord, Manchester and Exeter NH.
Read about our many successful results at collecting money for our clients!
What are the Most Common Types of New Hampshire Personal Injury Cases?
Car accidents are far and away the most common type of personal injury case. Driving is such a routine habit that for most of us it is like second nature, and many take it for granted. Careless driving, however, puts both the the driver and anyone else on the road with him at risk.
Slip and Falls
Probably the next most common type of personal injury case is what New Hampshire slip and fall lawyers call, "premises liability". This is a fancy way for saying injuries that occur on the property of another person, due to a dangerous condition on the property. The defendant in a premises liability case is not necessarily the homeowner or landlord. It can be the occupant of the property even if he or she doesn't actually own it. One thing to be careful of is that in slip and fall cases the defense lawyer will almost always argue that you weren't being careful and therefore are responsible for your own injuries.
Medical and Other Types of Professional Malpractice
Another common form of personal injury is medical malpractice. This is when a medical professional falls below the normal standard of care. Medical malpractice is a very specialized area of the law. While we do not handle medical malpractice case, we have a wide network of New Hampshire medical malpractice lawyers that we connect injured clients with.
Although doctors are far and away the most common professionals to face malpractice lawsuits, malpractice cases can be brought against any many other types of professionals. Engineers, architects, accountants, financial advisers and yes, of course, lawyers, all can commit malpractice that harms clients.
If you are hurt by a defective product you can sue whoever made or sold it. New Hampshire personal injury lawyers refer to this concept as "products liability." Some products liability cases are very complicated and turn into class action lawsuits. On the other hand, a products liability case could be much smaller, such as food poisoning from bad food at a local restaurant.
If you are injured at work, special rules that apply. The bad news is that the amount of damages the worker can collect is limited. Unlike in other personal injury cases, a worker cannot collect pain and suffering or other "non-economic" damages. On the upside, the employer must compensate the worker regardless of who was at fault. This means it does not matter if the employer allowed unsafe conditions, the worker himself was at fault, or it was an "act of God." Unlike New Hampshire personal injury lawyers, New Hampshire worker's compensation lawyers argue cases at the department of labor, not in front of a jury.
The vast majority of dogs are well-trained and safe. However, dogs can sometimes bite and cause injuries, sometimes serious ones. Under New Hampshire law, dog owners are responsible for any injury or damage caused by their dogs.
Assaults can result in major injuries, or even death. Often the police will arrest the assailant, who may go to court, or even jail. The big problem with assault cases is that there is often nobody to collect money from. Insurance policies virtually never cover intentional acts by the person insured.
What Are the The First Things You Should Do After Being Injured?
In order to protect your rights, here are some basic tips for what to do if you have been in a car accident or otherwise injured. If at all possible move to a safe area out of the way of traffic. Call 911 if the police have not already been called. When the police come, make sure to cooperate with them. You also want to call your insurance company. If you can, take pictures, make notes, and get any witness names and contact information.
Importantly, if you think you may have been injured in any way, let the officers know and request an ambulance. If that is not practical then go to the hospital on your own as soon as you can. Many accident victims do not appreciate how serious their injuries are until hours or days after the fact. Unfortunately, an insurance defense lawyer will use any delay in seeking treatment against you. Believe it or not they will have the nerve to suggest you exaggerated or fabricated your injuries.
How to Know Whether You Have a Good New Hampshire Personal Injury Case?
If you are injured one of your top questions for a New Hampshire personal injury lawyer is whether you have a good case. By this question most people are thinking about how much money they can collect.
To win a case, the law requires that somebody else's carelessness (also known as "negligence") was the cause of your injuries. Just as important in deciding whether you have a case, however, is knowing whether this other person has the ability to pay a claim. It can be difficult to collect a judgment against even well-off people. This is because certain assets, such as home equity and retirement accounts, get special legal protection that makes them hard or impossible to seize. That is why New Hampshire personal injury lawyers strongly prefer cases against defendants who have insurance. If a defendant is covered by insurance, then the insurance company will appoint a lawyer to handle the case, and pay any claim up to the policy limits.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
The biggest problem with auto insurance is that not all other drivers have it. New Hampshire is one of the only states that does not require drivers to have insurance coverage (interestingly enough, however, despite this lack of requirement New Hampshire has one of the lowest rates of uninsured drivers on the road - nearly five times fewer than in Mississippi). Or, even if the other driver does have insurance, his coverage limits might not be high enough. In that case, your own uninsured motorist coverage, which is a portion of your auto insurance, will pay the claim.
Although New Hampshire does not require auto insurance, uninsured motorist coverage must be included when a policy is purchased. New Hampshire uninsured motorist lawyers highly recommend adding a high amount of uninsured motorist coverage when purchasing a car insurance policy.
What is the Best Way to Select a New Hampshire Personal Injury Lawyer?
As described in The Car Accident's Free Report on How to Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer, choosing a personal injury lawyer is not easy. Being a victim is overwhelming. While victims need help right away, they often don't have the time or energy to do full research on the best lawyer.
Some look to lawyers who have the best marketing. Personal injury lawyers spend a lot of money on advertising. Other personal injury victims go with a lawyer who has helped their family in the past with other issues, such as a divorce or a will. Simply because a lawyer is good in one area of the law does not mean he is also is a skilled personal injury lawyer.
Look for a New Hampshire personal injury lawyer with great online reviews
As with any business, one of the best way to find a good personal injury lawyer is through word of mouth. If you know anyone who has been through a similar experience, you may want to reach out to find out who their lawyer was, and if they would recommend him or her. Online reviews are another great way. Look for a personal injury law firm that has a large number of positive online reviews.
Ultimately, do your research. Don't be afraid to interview several New Hampshire personal injury lawyers before selecting one to take your case.
How do New Hampshire Personal Injury Lawyer Fees Work?
Almost all New Hampshire personal injury lawyers charge by what known as a "contingency fee:. This is a percentage of the total amount collected. The alternative for you by the hour. However, almost all clients find the hourly fee alternative unattractive. The advantage of the contingency fee is that you do not have to pay the lawyer any money upfront. If the lawyer cannot win any money, then you pay no legal fee. Although you may very well end up paying a higher total fee than if they had paid by the hour, you avoid the risk of losing money if you lose the case.
New Hampshire personal injury lawyers calculate the contingency fee based off the top. You will often have to pay off, out of your settlement, liens to health insurance companies, or unpaid medical bills. The personal injury lawyers calculates the contingency fee from the top number, prior to any reduction for these payoffs.
How Do New Hampshire Personal Injury Lawyers Build a Strong Case?
One of the first things that New Hampshire personal injury lawyers do when accepting a case is make sure to thoroughly document all the facts of the accident and the extent of your injuries. They do this by getting things like getting accident reports, witness reports, photographs and videos. It also sometimes require that the lawyer take custody of any physical evidence in a way that it can be used in court later.
It is is critical to seek proper medical treatment for your injuries and follow all doctor recommendations. Otherwise a defense lawyer will argue that your failure to do, not their client's bad behavior, was the cause for your long-term injuries.
If your injuries are permanent, a New Hampshire personal injury lawyers will often hire an expert witness to meet with you, review medical records, and write a report summarizing the full cost of your injuries.
While it is often straightforward to put an exact dollar figures on medical bills and lost wages, this can't be done pain and suffering. Yet pain and suffering is often largest single component of a personal injury case. Skilled New Hampshire personal injury lawyers will use all the evidence in the case to vividly present to an insurance company or jury how much you have suffered.
Can You Settle the Case Without Going to Trial?
While you should be prepared for trial if necessary, most people want to avoid one. Trials are risky in that the result is uncertain. It also takes a long time to get to a trial, and it is an emotionally straining. Most people just want to get a fair settlement and move on.
Waiting for Maximum Medical Improvement
New Hampshire personal injury lawyers do not recommend settling a case until you have reached what is known as "maximum medical improvement." This means either that you have made a full recovery from your injuries, or you have made the most recovery that you will be able to. The reason they recommend this is that settlements are final. If your condition gets worse, you cannot go after the insurance company for money in the future. Therefore, you want to have full knowledge of the extent of your injuries to get the highest settlement possible.
Putting Together a Strong Demand Letter
The first step New Hampshire personal injury lawyers take to try to settle a case is by preparing a demand letter. This is a detailed description of your injuries, pain and suffering, and life impact. It includes detailed exhibits that may include medical records, photographs, accident report, and witness statements. It is designed to show the insurance company how strong your case. The idea is make them want to settle instead of going to trial.
The demand letter will also include a dollar figure that you are willing to settle for. Most New Hampshire personal injury lawyer include a dollar amount much higher than they think they can actually settle for. This is because they know the insurance company will usually respond with a much lower figure. Ofter there will be a series of back and forth negotiations and you can settle with the insurance company without trial. While your lawyer will recommend a dollar amount to settle for, you as the client have the final decision about this.
Sometimes you and the insurance adjuster will hire a person known as a mediator to help you reach a settlement. Most mediators are either retired judges or experienced lawyers. They will go back and forth with you and your lawyer, and the insurance adjuster, trying to get the parties to settle the case. Most often mediation takes place after your lawyer files a lawsuit, but before trial. In fact, New Hampshire rules require you attempt mediation before the court will even hold a trial. Sometimes, however, mediation can occur before a lawsuit is even filed.
What if You Have to File a Lawsuit?
If you can't settle the case with the insurance company, then your lawyer will prepare an official lawsuit. This is a formal paper filed in court bringing a claim against the other party and requesting a trial. There is a filing deadline by which time a New Hampshire personal injury lawyer must filed the lawsuit or it will not be allowed. This deadline is called the statute of limitations. For most types of personal injury cases the statute of limitations in New Hampshire is three years. However, the exact deadline can vary depending on the type of case. It is critical that you know you statute of limitations and don't miss it, or you will lose your case.
After our lawyer files a lawsuit she will go back and forth with the insurance company lawyer with what is called "discovery." This is the name for how each side gets information about the case from the other. The courts do not want a "trial by surprise" and so each side is require to disclose all of the evidence that they intend to use in court. There are several types of discovery methods. One is called interrogatories. These are questions one side poses to the other, which must answer them under oath. Another is through depositions, which is live questioning. If your case goes to trial there is a good chance the insurance company lawyer will depose you in advance. New Hampshire personal injury lawyers prepare their clients thoroughly before a deposition. As long as you tell the full truth, don't exaggerate, and hold your ground, you will do fine.
Another thing that can happen before the trial is that the lawyers can file motions asking the Judge to make decisions in advance. Some motions can ask the judge to throw out certain claims or defenses. Another common pretrial request to ask the judge in advance to allow you to use a specific piece of evidence or to testimony at trial - or disallow the other side from using some evidence that you don't think is relevant. A third frequent type of motion is request that the opposing party turn over a discovery information that it has refused to disclose.
How Does Trial Work?
After the parties have completed discovery, and the judge has ruled on all motions, the next step is the actual trial. The court usually schedules the trial about one year to eighteen months from the date you file the lawsuit. However, it is common for the court to postpone civil jury trials. The clerk of court usually gives criminal cases top priority. After that, the court will prioritize cases it has already delayed before. Therefore, it can often takes years before a trial actually takes place.
New Hampshire personal injury lawyers almost always recommend choosing a jury trial instead of a trial in front of a judge. The first stage in the trial is for the lawyers to choose a jury. The clerk of court randomly selects names from a large pool of people. The lawyers and judges can ask the potential jurors questions. Either side can choose to dismiss a juror who may not be objective. Both sides also get a certain amount of jurors they can dismiss without any particular cause.
The Trial Itself
After jury selection, each side gives an opening statement summarizing what they expect the case to look like. This is a chance for your lawyer to emphasize how serious the evidence of your pain and suffering will be. Next, you will be able to call witnesses. You will probably call witnesses to the accident itself. Almost always you will be a witness on your own behalf. You will also likely call friends and family as witnesses who can describe the severity of your injury. At least one doctor will likely be a witness. Your lawyer will introduce your medical records as exhibits. After you have called all of your witnesses then the insurance company lawyer will also call witnesses. These may include the defendant. Sometimes the insurance company will hire its own medical expert to undermine the severity of your injuries.
After both parties have submitted all of their witnesses and exhibits, each side will be able to present a closing argument. Unlike the opening statement, which is a mere summary of the case, the closing argument is an actual argument about you want the jury to do. This is your lawyer's chance to tie it all together. Your lawyer will explain why the jury should give you a large monetary award.
Next, the judge will provide instructions to the jury on how it should decide the case. The jury will then deliberate in private. This can take a short period of time - sometimes an hour or less. Or, it can take a very long time, sometimes days. The jury must be unanimous in its decision so it can take a while to hash it all out. Once they reach a verdict, they will announce their verdict. This is their decision about whether the defendant was at fault. If they decide so, they then must decide how much money you get.
New Hampshire Does Usually Award Attorney's Fees
One common misconception is that, if you win your case, the insurance company will also pay your attorney's fee. With some exceptions, in New Hampshire this is usually not the case. By the same token, if you lose your case you will not have to pay the insurance company's legal fees. However, the court rules do allow the judge to order the losing side to pay the winning side's "costs". These include filing fees, expert witness fees, and other out of pocket expenses necessary to bring or defend the case.
If the Losing Side Appeals
Finally, after the case is over, either side can appeal the decision. Appeals must be based on errors of law made by the judge, not purely factual decisions by the jury. In New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Supreme Court is the only court of appeals. If one side files an appeal the parties can continue to try to settle the case instead of waiting for the Supreme Court to decide the appeal. If the Court grants the appeal and reverses the case, then the trial must start all over. While the court rules allow the losing party to appeal even further, to federal court, this is rare.
Our Practice Areas
The New Hampshire personal injury lawyers at Cohen & Winters handle various types of cases. If you or someone you love has been injured, the attorneys of Cohen & Winters can help you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation of your injury case.
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