Frequently Asked Questions
Answers from a Greenville Personal Injury Lawyer
At Harris Law Firm PLLC, we are eager to equip our clients with knowledge that can help them succeed. This is why we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions we receive. Our Greenville personal injury lawyers are ready to help you secure the outcome that you need. If you do not see the answer to your question below, feel free to contact us at any time with your inquiries.
Q: How soon after my accident or injury should I call you?
A: Call me immediately. Do not talk to the other person's insurance companies until after you have consulted a lawyer. I make a point of returning all calls and e-mails promptly. If you have been injured in as the result of someone else's negligence or actions you need to know right away what insurance coverage is in place to cover your medical expenses and lost wages. Arkansas and Mississippi have certain time limits regarding how long you have to make a claim. If your claim involves a state or local government entity, such as a government vehicle or road hazard, in Mississippi you have 1 year to file a claim against that government entity. If there is a Federal Government entity involved, then different time limits may apply. Generally, you have 3 years to settle your case or file a lawsuit, but if you have a medical malpractice claim the statute of limitations may be 1 or 2 years, depending on whether or not the claim involves a governmental entity, private individual or private entity. If the claim involves a minor, the time limit may be extended. So, involve an attorney sooner rather than later.
Q: How do I pay your legal fees?
A: I handle all personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. This means YOU DO NOT OWE ME A LEGAL FEE UNLESS I RECOVER MONEY FOR YOU. I do not ask for any attorney fees up front. If there is no recovery there is no fee.
Q: Lawsuits can be expensive, will it cost me any money up front for filing fees, court costs, expert witness fees, and any other costs?
A: Filing a lawsuit, paying court costs and expert witness fees can be very expensive. Every year I spend thousands of dollars in litigation costs. I know that most people cannot afford these costs up front, so I advance these costs up front in every case I take. Spending a few thousand dollars on a good expert witness can make the difference between getting thousands of dollars and getting nothing for your personal injury claim. Before you hire a lawyer, make sure that they are willing to advance the money to adequately pursue your personal injury case. Otherwise, you may be forced into taking a minimal settlement if you cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars to pursue your personal injury claim.
Q: Will I have to pay any up front expenses?
A: No. I advance all routine costs associated with your case. I never ask you for a penny until we recover from the at fault party. If you have one of the very rare cases where you should have a stake in the expenses, I will discuss this with you up front.
Q: Are there any hidden fees?
A: No. I do not charge you fees for consultations, opening your file, paralegal assistance, or my time on the phone. These are all covered under the contingency. Before you hire a lawyer, make sure you find out what they will be charging you, as these hidden fees can add up. I do charge for the cost of gathering medical records and bills, court costs, and copy / long distance / fax charges after I have agreed to take your case and you have signed a fee agreement with me. In most situations, these costs are small. If for some reason any larger expense is required, such as deposition transcripts or expert witness billing, I will discuss these with you and explain why it is important. My goal is to maximize the money that goes into your pocket.
Q: Will I get to talk to a lawyer if I call?
A: Yes. Everyone who calls for a free consultation gets to talk to a lawyer. I do not have my staff screen cases. Usually you will get to talk to a lawyer right away or later the same day.
Q: Should I call you even if I want to handle my claim myself?
A: Yes. In a few minutes over the phone I can usually give you an estimate of what your claim is worth so you don't get ripped off by the insurance company. If they give you an offer and you later hire me, I will take that into account and work hard or restructure my fee percentage to try and put more money in your pocket than if you had not hired me.
Q: If I have been involved in an automobile accident, can I recover even if the other driver had no insurance?
A: Yes. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can recover money for your medical bills and pain and suffering even if the other driver had no insurance or cannot be found.
Q: What if I was involved in a hit-and-run accident?
A: Any information such as vehicle description or partial license plates may be helpful in identifying the other vehicle, however, even if the driver is never found you may still recover from your own uninsured motorist policy or maybe someone who has such a policy in your household. In Mississippi, you must have physical contact with the other vehicle. This means that if it was a hit-and-run, there must be some evidence that you were hit by a vehicle. Paint marks, frame damage from the impact, etc.
Q: What other kinds of insurance cover my medical bills and do they get repaid?
A: Arkansas and Mississippi allow you to recover from multiple sources. You may have medical insurance that must pay for your medical bills. Whether that health insurance company is entitled to repayment when you settle is a matter of law and I will work to make sure no repayment is made, unless it is required by law or in your best interest. A valid ERISA plan health insurance payment may get reimbursed under certain circumstances. You may have MEDICARE or MEDICAID which are also entitled to be repaid. Again, I will work to reduce the repayment amount. In some situations you may have a strong enough case to support medical treatment on a lien. A lien is where you treat now and pay later when your case settles. The method that is best for you depends on the facts of the case and I will have to discuss it with you on an individual basis.
Q: What if I expect to have medical complications in the future?
A: Future treatment is something that must be included in your claim. Once you resolve your claim (with the rare exception of workers' compensation) you are done with the at-fault insurance carrier and cannot come back later for more money. Therefore, it is important to have an attorney who also understands medical issues and treatment procedures.
Q: Will my insurance rates go up if I use my own auto coverage such as uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist or MEDPAY?
A: No. Arkansas and Mississippi law prohibits an auto insurance company from raising your rates unless the collision was substantially your fault. Since most claims are the fault of the careless driver, you will be able to enjoy a claim on your own policy without fear of increased premiums.
Q: What if I am also partly at fault for the collision?
A: Arkansas and Mississippi are pure comparative fault states and that means that even if you are 90 percent at fault, you may still recover 10 percent. In the situation of a cyclist struck by a car that can still be a significant number. Traffic tickets are almost always excluded from your court case so even if you were cited, your court case may well go to your advantage. While law enforcement does their best to investigate collisions fairly, they are not perfect and you are free to disagree, especially in the civil trial. You may find that the law is on your side after all.
Q: How do I know if I have a good medical malpractice or personal injury claim?
A: You need to contact me and we can discuss your case. My consultation on a personal injury case is always free.
Q: What can I recover for?
A: Your lost wages that can be documented are recoverable dollar for dollar. This includes lost contracts for self-employed, and maybe even reductions in retirement funds from forced early retirement. You must be able to prove the loss which means good tax records and a letter from your employer. In some situations your doctor may need to provide a letter.
Your medical bills may also be recovered at the full billed amount regardless of whether or not you had any other insurance that paid them. This also is a dollar for dollar recovery.
Your pain and suffering is more subjective and varies based on how much pain and suffering you endured. There is no set figure and there is no formula such as "5 times my medical expenses." This amount is on a case by case basis.
You might recover for loss of enjoyment of life. If you find you are not able to do the things you enjoyed before, you can seek compensation for that.
Property damage is dollar for dollar. Some carriers will want to pay you replacement value, others will want to depreciate your property and pay you a fair market value.
Punitive damages is a form of punishment against the wrong-doer for willful or significantly reckless acts. If the driver who hit you was drunk at the time, it may be a case of punitive damages. This "punishment" is a dollar amount over and above the fair value of your claim. The fair value of your claim is meant to compensate you for your loss. The punitive is meant to punish the wrong-doer and deter society from such behavior.
A smaller but often brought claim is loss of consortium or essentially, the loss of enjoyment and companionship with your family and their loss of the same with you.
It may be a reasonable expense to hire support help. This is someone to help around the house, or a nurse to stay with you, or hire a trainer at the gym to help you get back to your regular routine without further injury. If the support help is reasonable and necessary then you may be able to seek compensation for those expenses.
You may be entitled to loss of use for your damaged automobile.
Q: Will pursuing my case take up a lot of my time?
A: No. Oftentimes I only meet with clients for the initial interview and then we can just talk over the phone. If we do have to go to court, it will take more time. I realize your time is important, so I don't waste it. However, I do want to speak with you once a month to check on your progress. Under certain circumstances, it might be in your best interest to be more involved in your case and I will fully explain that to you.
Q: Should I accept the offer that the car insurance company has given me?
A: Often times I can get insurance companies to substantially increase the amount of their settlement offer. If you have already received an offer for your injuries, contact me and I will let you know if I think it is a fair offer. I will not charge you for this consultation.
Q: How long does it take to settle most malpractice cases and personal injury cases?
A: It depends on the nature of your personal injury claim. I have settled cases in as little as a few months. Larger personal injury cases typically take longer to settle or get to trial. I will be delighted to explain the timelines and if retained, will always keep you informed of the progress.
Q: Will I have to go to trial?
A: The vast majority of personal injury cases don't go to trial. However, I treat each case as if it is going to be a trial. That means I prepare from day one for trial and send the message that we are ready to go. Some lawyers will work very little until they realize they have to go to trial. Insurance companies know who these lawyers are, and they oftentimes offer them less than the case is worth.
Q: Why is it so important to hire an Arkansas or Mississippi attorney who goes to trial?
A: Most personal injury cases settle before trial, but you want your attorney to be able to maximize your settlement. If you hire an attorney who does not want to go to trial, or cannot go to trial, you may find that you are pressured into settling and settle for much less than what the case is worth. Insurance companies know who these lawyers are, and they oftentimes offer them less than the case is worth. Insurance companies know that we are prepared to go to trial if necessary to make sure that our clients get what they deserve.
Q: Do I need a personal injury lawyer? Does he/she have to be an Arkansas or Mississippi lawyer?
A: In order to settle your personal injury case you will have to deal with insurance companies. Their goal is to pay you as little as you will take. It is tough for someone who is not familiar with personal injury cases to know what the different laws are that apply to each type of case. Additionally, it is difficult for an untrained person to know what a fair settlement amount is. An experienced Arkansas or Mississippi personal injury attorney can help you to determine that amount and reach a fair settlement. Also, in order to go to trial, an attorney must be licensed in Arkansas or Mississippi or they would have to apply for special permission for your case. If the attorney is not licensed in Arkansas or Mississippi, it is more likely that they will be unable to maximize your claim. Make sure that you hire someone because they are qualified.
Q: I don't want to bankrupt somebody. What happens to the person I sue?
A: Although the lawsuit will have the other driver's name on it, we are actually going after the insurance company's money. In virtually every case, the person we sue does not have to pay a penny. Their insurance company pays the settlement or verdict amount, as well as all of the legal fees for the at-fault party. In some cases where an arbitration or jury award exceeds the policy limits the insurance company may still have to pay the full amount, as it was their fault for not settling for the policy limits.
Q: What can I do prior to a collision to protect myself?
A: You always want to have good driving habits and to obey the law. You never want to be in a situation where you are hit and it is your fault.
Take the time to review your auto insurance. Make sure you have a high amount of UM/UIM. This is the uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage that pays you if the other guy has inadequate or no insurance at all for your injuries. You will find that the basic coverage is what costs the most, and then upping the policy limits is relatively inexpensive. Find out if you can get 300,000/500,000 on your auto policy for a reasonable rate, you probably can. Shop around. The same goes for MEDPAY. You should get at least $10,000 to $25,000 in MEDPAY or more. Consider an umbrella policy with a UM/UIM coverage on it. Umbrellas are often very inexpensive.
It is important that you actually review your policy. If your agent says you have "full" coverage or a "large" policy, or "the works" know that this probably doesn't mean what you think it means. Look at your declaration sheet and policy language yourself to see if you have good coverage.
Q: Who may recover if there is a wrongful death case?
A: In Arkansas and Mississippi, the statutory heirs and the Estate may recover. These are separate claims and follow different laws and theories of recovery. The statutory heirs may be the spouse and children or parents or siblings. In some instances, parents and siblings may be excluded as statutory heirs. Also, the Personal Representative of the Estate may bring the claim on behalf of the Estate and distribute in accordance with a will, or trust, or intestate succession. This is where siblings might be entitled to a recovery. Some of the claims brought by the statutory heirs and also brought by the Estate may overlap and in some situations result in both recovering.
Q: What types of Mississippi and Arkansas cases do you handle?
A: I handle all types of Mississippi and Arkansas personal injury cases including: wrecks involving 18-wheelers, car wrecks, medical malpractice, farm accidents, nursing home negligence, wrongful death, crashes and collisions involving bikes, slip and fall cases, worker’s compensation and products liability cases. I also handle criminal defense cases especially where a cyclist was ticketed. I have handled bankruptcy, domestic, contract, aviation, probate and conservatorship cases and bring that knowledge to the personal injury practice. For example, if the settlement is for a minor child and requires a guardianship, I will handle that myself and save you the cost of hiring a guardianship attorney. Or if the defendant files a bankruptcy I will appear in the bankruptcy court and seek to allow the case to continue against the insurance company.
Q: What parts of Mississippi and Arkansas do you handle cases in?
A: Although I am located in Greenville, Mississippi, I will take cases throughout the states of Arkansas and Mississippi. I am native to Greenville, Mississippi and have handled cases in all parts of Mississippi and Arkansas.
Q: Why should I consider hiring a Greenville personal injury lawyer?
A: There are many reasons why you might want to hire a lawyer. Your case may be too complicated to handle yourself or you may simply be too busy to deal with the insurance carrier. You may not know what you are entitled to and therefore settle for less than you deserve. I will be glad to share with you what I think about your case and whether or not it is one that may work out for you to handle yourself or whether you should get a lawyer involved.
If you have a question about your case, call the Harris Law Firm now at (662) 735-6074 to get answers.