What do I have to prove to win my case?
If your case goes to trial you will have to prove that your injuries were caused by the negligence of someone else and that, as a result of your injuries, you suffered some monetary losses, such as lost wages and medical bills, or nonmonetary damage, such as pain and suffering. Your attorney will ensure that all of the elements of your case are presented. Then it will be up the judge or jury to decide how much you will be awarded.
Why might an attorney not take my case?
Because personal injury cases are a gamble for the attorney, the value of your case must be weighed by assessing three primary factors: first, the likelihood that a judge or jury will find that the other party is legally responsible for your injuries; second, the dollar value that a judge or jury is likely to place on your injuries; and third, whether we can ultimately collect a judgment from the defendant through, for example, an insurance policy. Sometimes it is difficult to prove that the defendant directly caused the injuries. Sometimes the injuries are too slight to be worth a large enough recovery in relation to the amount of work required to win or settle the case. In other cases the client may have a slam dunk and very valuable case, but the defendant is not able to pay and is not covered by insurance. This makes collecting any award difficult and an attorney is less likely to want to take the case on a contingency basis.
What could keep me from collecting?
There are a number of reasons why you may not be compensated for your injury, even if it was caused by someone else’s negligence. If you waited to too long to bring your claim, you may be barred by the statute of limitations. If it is shown that you also contributed to your injury through your own negligence, even if you were only 1% at fault and the other party was 99% at fault, the judge or jury could find that the legal doctrine of contributory negligence bars you from collecting anything. As mentioned above, you could have a very good case, but be unable to collect because the defendant simply does not have the income or assets to pay a judgment or the defendant who caused your injuries cannot be located.
Will I have to pay a fee for legal services?
Personal injury cases are ordinarily taken on a contingency basis. This means that your lawyer does not get paid unless you recover money for your injuries. The lawyer’s fees are typically about 40% of the total amount you are awarded. In addition, you are responsible for covering any costs of the case, such as court filing fees, expert witness fees, court reporters, and incidentals such as couriers and copying charges. In some cases our firm will advance those costs and will be reimbursed from the proceeds of any settlement or judgment obtained in your case. Attorneys in Virginia are ethically forbidden to finance a client’s litigation without the expectation of being reimbursed for those costs.