What are my rights if I have suffered a personal injury?
If you've been injured through the negligence of another person or a company, you have the right to compensation. The process of collecting that compensation, however, relies on a series of other rights.
Your Personal Injury Lawyer
First and foremost, you have the right to hire the personal injury lawyer of your choosing. This includes the right NOT to deal directly with the other party's insurance company. Many of your other rights are best protected by exercising this right wisely, since your attorney will be the primary champion of your rights. In choosing an attorney, you should seek someone who will:
* Show you respect
* Keep you fully informed of the progress of your case
* Handle your case professionally
* Keep in contact with you and return calls promptly
* Be honest
* Keep your case moving forward
* Be committed to your case and your interests
Your Agreement with Your Personal Injury Lawyer
In Minnesota, like most states, contingent fee agreements (agreements where the attorney's compensation is dependent on your recovery) are required to be in writing. That means you should have a written contract with your attorney explaining not only the fee arrangement, but also covering issues like litigation expenses.
Your Relationship with Your Personal Injury Lawyer
You'll have to work with and make decisions with your attorney as your case progresses. For instance, you'll have to provide information to help your attorney prove liability in your case. You'll have to make decisions about alternatives to litigation like mediation and binding arbitration.
You'll also have to decide whether and when to settle your case. Although you're represented by an attorney, and the attorney is the expert on personal injury law, it is your right to make a final decision as to whether or not to accept any settlement offers from the opposing party. However, most people don't have the background, experience or knowledge necessary to make a good decision about that issue on their own—that's why it's so important that you choose your personal injury lawyer carefully. You want to be able to trust and rely on the advice you receive from your attorney.
You're ENTITLED to Compensation!
The insurance industry has done a very effective job of blanketing the media with the idea that personal injury claims are frivolous, and are somehow responsible for high insurance rates. That attitude might make you uncomfortable with litigation—and in a sense that's good. No one should file a frivolous claim or start a law suit just to "get even." But if you've truly been injured, if you've suffered physical pain, lost work time, damage to property, increased or unexpected medical expenses and the like, you have a right to be compensated for those losses. You're not looking to "make money off the insurance company," but to make up for what you lost because of the accident. That's what insurance is for.
The insurance companies may not want to pay out on claims, but that doesn't change the nature of their business. They contracted with the person or company responsible for your injury and promised to pay for injuries like yours—and no matter how much bad press they might generate about law suits, you have the right to be compensated for your injuries, to be "made whole" again.
In fact, your case may have a positive impact on society. Often litigation forces a manufacturer to remove a dangerous product from the market, or to make changes to increase the safety of the product. Landowners are encouraged to put up fencing or clean up hazardous areas when faced with litigation—and news of that litigation impacts other manufacturers and landowners as well. Our legal system was designed to allow individuals like you to recover for your losses, and to hold companies—even insurance companies—accountable.
Exercise Your Personal Injury Rights Now!
The sooner you act to protect your rights, the better. In addition to statutes of limitations and other legal bars based on time, there are practical factors that encourage quick action. Witnesses may move or simply find their memories growing less clear over time. Evidence may be lost or destroyed if a personal injury lawyer doesn't take control of your case and act to preserve it early.