Frequently Asked Questions in Personal Injury Cases

As a client once told us, “Carpey Law is the information resource for accident victims in Pennsylvania.” We live by that every day, and we kept that in mind when designing this website. Attorney Stuart Carpey’s mission is to empower people to make informed decisions about their legal case. Below are some of the questions we at Carpey Law hear the most from clients and prospective clients. We have divided these questions up into categories to make it easier to find what you are looking for. Navigate the links below to view the FAQ pages for each category.

Car Accident | Personal Injury | Medical Malpractice

What is Personal Injury Litigation & Common FAQs

  1. Who decides if a case should go to trial or should settle?
  2. What is a deposition?
  3. What is a settlement conference?
  4. What is the jury selection process in Pennsylvania?
  5. What is mediation?
  6. How can a “Notice of Dismissal Without Prejudice” be defined?
  7. What happens if my case does not settle?
  8. Is it worth going through the process of settling a personal injury case?
  9. What is “service of process” and how does it apply to my case?

What are Damages in a Personal Injury Case

  1. What are “damages” in Pennsylvania personal injury case?
  2. What exactly is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
  3. Is it possible to sue someone for what “might have happened” in a situation?
  4. What does “pecuniary loss” mean?
  5. How does Obamacare affect personal injury cases?
  6. What is a Functional Capacity Evaluation?
  7. How long should I continue to see my doctor after an accident?

What is the Process of a Personal Injury Case

  1. When settlement proceeds come in, who is reimbursed first?
  2. What are my responsibilities as a client?
  3. What are my rights regarding recorded statements?
  4. What is the hold up in settling my personal injury case?
  5. Do defense expert witnesses utilize deceptive tactics and misrepresentation?
  6. Am I permitted to speak with another attorney for a second opinion?
  7. Do you always need a lawyer to settle a personal injury case?
  8. Who Pays Your Medical Bills in a Personal Injury Case?
  9. Understanding the Personal Injury Case Process

What is Personal Injury Litigation & Common FAQs

Who decides if a case should go to trial or should settle?

It is your lawyer’s job to advise you in the decision making process of whether to settle or to go to trial. The risks of trial can outweigh the risks of settling your case. If you settle, you know the amount of money you are receiving as compensation for your injuries. Going to trial means that you are leaving that decision to twelve people you do not know, and who don’t know you. In addition, the costs of going to trial are usually much greater than the costs on your case before trial. Of course, by settling, you risk the unknown of “what would the jury have awarded me.” Ultimately, the decision is yours.

What is a deposition?

A deposition is an opportunity for the defense attorney to interview you in my presence. At the deposition the defense attorney will ask you questions about how your accident occurred, what your injuries were, what treatment you received, etc. You must be prepared for your deposition. All the questions that you answer are fair game for discussion by the defense attorney, so as soon as you open the door for questions, the defense attorney can you ask you more and more about your case, about how your accident occurred, about your treatment, and so on. That is why it is important that you prepare for your deposition, and under no circumstances should you be attending your deposition alone. At your deposition your attorney must attend with you.

What is a settlement conference?

A settlement conference is an opportunity for both sides to meet with a trial judge. What happens in a settlement conference is, your attorney and the defense attorney meet in the chambers of the trial judge, and the three of them discuss your case. Your attorney’s job is to maximize your case; the defense attorney’s job is to minimize your case. Your attorney’s job is to present your case in the light which is most favorable, to talk about how the injuries so affected your life; the defense’s job is to minimize your injuries, to put some of the blame of the accident on you. The judge will discuss the potential value of the case and what the potential jury verdict will be to try and sway both sides toward a middle ground. A settlement conference typically happens at a later stage in the case, after all the depositions are completed and after all the discoveries are completed, and right before trial.

What is the jury selection process in Pennsylvania?

At the beginning of a case, a jury pool, which is the group of people who will be potentially chosen as the jury, is brought into the courtroom. The plaintiff (those who are suing) and the defense (those being sued) both have the opportunity to question and remove people from the jury pool. The goal of the selection process is to have a balanced, impartial jury.

What is mediation?

Mediations are meetings in which the plaintiff, defendant, and all attorneys meet to see if a settlement can be reached. Mediations occur before a mediator (often a retired attorney or judge) who listens to each side’s story. If a settlement still cannot be reached by the end of mediation then the case must go to trial.Of course, the parties can continue discussing resolution of the case up to and through trial, even until a final verdict is rendered.

How can a “Notice of Dismissal Without Prejudice” be defined?

A notice of dismissal signifies that a lawsuit has been dropped or dismissed. There are many reasons that this could happen. The bright side, however, is that the words “without prejudice” mean the lawsuit may be filed again at some point in the future. In this scenario, the time limit for re-filing a lawsuit is still subject to the statute of limitations.

What happens if my case does not settle?

If a case can’t settle, the process in Pennsylvania is:

  1. File a Complaint
  2. Serve the Compliant to the negligent party
  3. The lawyer for the negligent party has to respond to the complaint.

This starts the litigation of the case. During the course of the litigation of the case, both sides exchange information. For example, your medical records, medical reports, medical bills, photos, etc. are all provided to the other side. The other lawyer will do the same on the behalf of their client.

After that, each party’s deposition is taking. A deposition is an opportunity for the defense attorney to interview you in the presence of your lawyer. Once this is completed, the court will set a trial date.

 


Is it worth going through the process of settling a personal injury case?

Clients sometimes ask if going through the process of a personal injury case is really worth it. While you are the only one who can answer that question, there are a few points to consider when making this important decision. Depending on how serious your injuries are and how the accident happened should help you determine the answer. However, it’s important to point out that going through the process of a personal injury case is not a guaranteed result and can sometimes be a long and tedious process.


What is “service of process” and how does it apply to my case?

After a lawsuit is filed, the party bringing the lawsuit has a responsibility of serving the lawsuit papers on the defendant. Otherwise the defendant would have no knowledge of the lawsuit and would be unable to defend against it. Service of process rules differ from state to state. However whether service is made by the sheriff of a particular county, or by a private process server, the legal documents must be personally delivered to the defendant. This typically means that they must be personally handed to him or her Mail is not sufficient. When it comes to corporate defendants, it is important for your lawyer to confirm that the correct and proper entity is being sued. Not properly and timely serving a defendant can nullify the filing of the complaint and jeopardize a client’s rights pursuant to each state’s statute of limitation rules. Therefore, it is extremely important that your lawyer not only files a complaint in a timely and proper manner, but also serves the complaint to the proper defendants as required by the state rules.

What are Damages in a Personal Injury Case

What are “damages” in Pennsylvania personal injury case?

To sue for ‘damages’ is to attempt to recover compensation for a loss and/or injury. Economic damages are those that include medical bills, other healthcare costs, as well as lost wages. Non-economic damages can include anything else that may have been lost as a result of the accident. These types of damages are also referred to as “past” damages because they have already occurred by the time your case goes to trial. These non-visible injuries include:

  • pain and suffering
  • anxiety
  • the inability to perform your usual work, social, and recreational activities
  • humiliation,
  • fear
  • physical pain and anguish

There is also a claim for “future” damages. If future expenses are foreseeable as a result of the incident, those ‘damages’ can also be recovered. For example, if it has been reasonably stated by your medical doctor that further treatment will be needed in the future, or that due to your injury you will no longer be able to work, those expected expenses/losses would be included in the ‘damages’ in your case.


What exactly is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

Traumatic Brain Injuries are defined as damage done to the tissues of the brain by an external force. Such damage can be the result of a blow to the head (such as can occur during a Pennsylvania car accident or fall down accident) or a violent jostling of the head (for instance, a whiplash injury).

There are two types of traumatic brain injury: An “open” head injury and a “closed” head injury. Open head injuries can be identified by superficial wounds; for example. gashes, bruises, lacerations. Closed head injuries have no external signs; these injuries amount to internal bleeding or a swelling of the brain.
A traumatic brain injury can cause permanent disabilities, so it is necessary to seek a medical evaluation if you have in any way hurt your head.


Is it possible to sue someone for what “might have happened” in a situation?

If you were very nearly harmed due to someone else’s negligence, but ultimately unharmed, you will not be able to file a lawsuit. The law is explicit regarding the pursuance of a personal injury claim. The negligent party must have caused some form of measurable damage. Speculative damages are not recoverable. If you’re still unsure, speak with an attorney.

What does “pecuniary loss” mean?

“Pecuniary loss” is a term often used in situations when a family member has died. It is a term utilized in insurance law and personal injury cases. It describes how much money the person would have earned over a lifetime. If, for instance, the deceased was 30 years old and earned $35,000 / year, we would calculate how much money he or she would have earned over the next 30 – 35 years. Typically, we have an economist calculate these numbers for us, so we can be as close to accurate as possible. However, obviously, this projection cannot be entirely precise. There are many variables to consider.

How does Obamacare affect personal injury cases?

Many interesting issues have emerged in the courts recently since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” In one particular area, this broad health insurance law has affected the health insurance carrier’s legal right to reimbursement after an injury case. What does this mean for you?  Most health insurance carriers have a right of “subrogation” which is a legal right of reimbursement to the proceeds of an accident victim’s settlement or verdict. So, if you are involved in an accident, sustain injuries, reach a settlement with the at fault party’s insurance company AND your own health insurance company paid some of your medical bills, then they want their money back.  The law sees your health insurance company as an injured party just like you. It is financially injured, whereas you are physically injured as a result of the defendant’s negligence. However, this legal right of recovery that most health insurance carriers possess only applies to group polices. If you purchased your health insurance policy though the Obamacare open market,  known as the “Exchange”, you purchased an individual policy, and thus your insurance company loses its right to subrogate. Keep in mind that the Courts will wrestle with this issue in the next few years before it is definitively resolved.

What is a Functional Capacity Evaluation?

A Functional Capacity Evaluation is a “test” performed by your doctor (or sometimes by the defense medical expert) in the doctor’s office utilized to determine your ability to perform basic functions of your occupation. The doctor completes a form during the test and it may be used as a basis of the expert’s report and expert opinion. So, for instance, the doctor will ask you to bend or stoop, and the doctor completes the form and indicates the degree to which you can do that. The form covers a wide range of physical movements. It can be a very important document in your case, particularly as pertains to your disability.

How long should I continue to see my doctor after an accident?

As long as you have problems related to the personal injuries that you’ve sustained in your accident, it is advised that you continue to see your doctor. Frequently, injuries continue to bother people after a motor vehicle accident but the victim stops seeing his or her doctor: that is a mistake. As long as you, the victim, are having on going complaints related to the accident, you should be informing your doctor about those complaints. Go to the doctor and inform him or her of what’s going on, because, at the very least, your doctor is going to be making a record in his or her chart about your complaints, and you can present that list of complaints to the opposing insurance company. When the case goes to a juried trial, the jury will hear how long you went to see your doctor and what the complaints were over a period of time. It is crucial that, as long as you have complaints related to the injuries of the accident, that you continue to receive medical care.


What is the Process of a Personal Injury Case

When settlement proceeds come in, who is reimbursed first?

The first entity that gets reimbursed is the entity that is owed a lien; that is, Medicare, the Department of Public Welfare, your health insurance, or worker’s compensation. Any of those entities may have a lien to your personal injury settlement, and those entities have to take a piece out of the person injury proceeds before anyone else gets reimbursed. This is a matter of Pennsylvania law. Your health insurance company will send you in your personal injury case seeking “reimbursement” of bills they have paid on your behalf. This is why you need a qualified personal injury lawyer to handle your accident case so that any health insurance “liens” can be reduced or eliminated.

Of course, your attorney’s fee gets paid as well as any expenses your attorney pays in order to prosecute the case: for instance, expenses to file suit, expenses to get deposition transcripts, and expenses to get medical records. All of this is itemized for the client and is taken out of the proceeds from the settlement or the jury verdict. Only after those items are paid does the client receive the proceeds of the personal injury settlement or jury verdict.


What are my responsibilities as a client?

As a client in a personal injury case, your responsibilities include:

  • Obtaining medical care and treatment for any injuries you receive. It is important that you’re a compliant patient and follow the doctor’s recommendations fully.
  • You should keep document of various aspects of your case including time misses from work, medical facilities, and doctors that you’ve seen, etc.
  • Stay off social media
  • Be completely honest with your medical providers and attorney

Your responsibilities as a client in a personal injury case are to give all of the information to your attorney about your injuries and about the accident, as well as to provide this information to your medical providers.


What are my rights regarding recorded statements?

When a car accident occurs, the very first thing the opposing insurance company is going to do is send an investigator out to see you or call you on the phone. What they want to do is get your recorded statement. You do not have to offer a recorded statement to the other person’s insurance company. Rather, call your lawyer and let him or her speak on your behalf.

What is the hold up in settling my personal injury case?

There can be a variety of reasons for a hold up in settling your case. It could be that we are not getting the records or reports that we need from your doctor or doctors. We need those items in order to prove your injuries and in order to present your case properly to the opposing insurance company. In addition, the opposing insurance company may be intentionally delaying the settlement of your case. It is not in their interest to resolve a case quickly. Those are just some of the reasons why there might be a slow down in settling your personal injury case.


Do defense expert witnesses utilize deceptive tactics and misrepresentation?

Yes. Defense medical experts are hired by the defendant’s attorney and insurance company to render an opinion regarding your injuries, once the case is in suit. It is your lawyer’s job to uncover those misrepresentations. Defense doctors may claim to be experts in some specialty or profess to have a formal medical degree or specialized training when in fact they don’t. How prevalent is it? It’s not an epidemic in defense medical experts, but it does occur with some frequency. The internet certainly provides certain tools to weed out theses misrepresentations, but the inquiry does not stop there. Your lawyer should have access to his or her local trial bar materials on experts, and should be able to cull through those documents, for instance prior deposition testimony, to pin the defense expert in flat out lies, for instance in relation to his or her medical training. In addition the amount the expert gets paid annually by a particular defense firm or insurance company is discoverable information in Pennsylvania, and can go a long way to showing the jury that the defense medical expert is biased in favor of the insurance company. The defense is ultimately paying not only his bill, to provide an opinion in court in the case against you, but essentially is also paying the defense expert’s annual salary. This can be very good ammunition at trial if used effectively.


Am I permitted to speak with another attorney for a second opinion?

Yes. You as a client reserve the right to seek new legal counsel at any time. You are even entitled to speak with an attorney while you are involved in an ongoing case with your current attorney. However, you will be required to end your arrangement with your current attorney before signing a fee agreement with your new one.

Do you always need a lawyer to settle a personal injury case?

The answer is sometimes you don’t. Depending on how serious your injuries are, you may be able to settle the case directly with the insurance company. For example, if you’ve been involved in a car accident or slip and fall accident and your injuries aren’t very severe, you may be better off trying to settle the case on your own directly with the other person’s insurance company. So how can you do that? Stuart Carpey wrote a book explaining how exactly to do this which is available here. However, if your injuries are more serious or the insurance company refuses to resolve the case, then it may be time to get an attorney involved.


Who Pays Your Medical Bills in a Personal Injury Case?


Understanding the Personal Injury Case Process

Watch videos of Stuart Carpey (Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyer) answering frequently asked questions of personal injury. Carpey is an experienced personal injury in Pennsylvania and has been helping injured victims in claiming and settlement for a long.



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