Auburn Personal Injury Law Firm
Our personal injury attorneys help people throughout Alabama receive the compensation they deserve in the aftermath of an unfair or unexpected accident. We understand that no two accidents and injuries are the same, which is why it’s vital that the legal team you choose has the skills and knowledge necessary to advocate for your rights. With over 50 years of experience in personal injury litigation, we will fight for your rights so that you can reclaim your life after a devastating event.
If you or a loved one have been affected by the negligence of another party, the Alabama personal injury attorneys at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson LLP are ready to speak to you about your case. Our knowledge of Alabama’s personal injury laws and experience handling these cases allows us to protect your rights and fight for the full and fair recovery of damages.
What is Personal Injury?
Personal injury is an area of law that lets victims of negligence seek financial compensation for their injuries, financial losses, and pain and suffering. It is a fairly broad area of law, encompassing many types of accidents and incidents.
Why is a Personal Injury Case the Right Choice?
One may think, if someone acted negligently or in a criminal manner, shouldn’t they be held liable through the criminal justice system? Shouldn’t they have to do more than just pay up? However, in many cases, there is no law broken in a personal injury case. Consider, for example, a slip-and-fall injury caused by poorly installed handrails on someone’s home. The homeowner was negligent in not installing better handrails, but they did not commit a crime.
Even if a crime is committed, the criminal justice system does not always help the victim recover financially from their injuries. The perpetrator may have to pay fines or spend time in prison, but that does not help the victim pay off the thousands of dollars in medical bills they have accumulated because of the accident. In cases that involve a crime and financial damages, perpetrators may be held accountable by both the civil system and the criminal justice system.
In deciding whether or not you should hire a personal injury attorney, there are several questions you need to answer about your situation:
How serious is your injury?
For injuries that are relatively minor, e.g., those in which you can make a full recovery within a few days to a couple of weeks or so, you might be able to handle the claim on your own. However, if you have a more severe injury that is debilitating and will require a long-term recovery process, it is strongly advisable to obtain legal representation. With a serious injury, the claim will be worth considerably more, accurately quantifying your losses will be far more challenging. Even if you have a less severe injury in which you have ongoing pain and you don’t yet know the full extent of it, it is still a good idea to at least speak with a personal injury attorney, so you understand your legal rights and what types of compensation you may be entitled to.
Is there a question about who is liable for your injuries?
There are some cases that are fairly straightforward, while others are more complicated. For example, if someone bumped into you from behind while you were driving, it might be pretty clear that they are the party at fault. On the other hand, if you were involved in an accident with a large commercial truck, there may be many contributing factors and several potential responsible parties. With more complex cases, a thorough investigation is required to determine the exact cause, and which parties to hold accountable. This may also require the use of expert witnesses to speak authoritatively to certain aspects of the case. An experienced personal injury lawyer can effectively handle these types of cases and help ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.
How comfortable are you dealing with the insurance company?
Obtaining a settlement from the insurance company involves a lot of back and forth negotiation. To obtain the compensation you deserve, you need to have strong negotiating skills and at least a basic knowledge of the legal aspects of your case and what types of damages you should be able to recover. Keep in mind that insurance adjusters are trained negotiators, and they will often employ tactics such as contacting you early on in the process, expressing sympathy for what happened to you, and trying to build rapport. This is designed to make you believe that they are “on your side” and that they are going to “take care of you.” If you are not careful, however, you may end up with a lowball settlement offer that is far below what your claim is really worth. And if you are not willing (and able) to pursue litigation (if necessary) to compel them to pay full and fair compensation, they are less likely to increase their offer.
Examples of Our Auburn / Opelika Personal Injury Cases
When an accident is caused by the careless or wrongful acts of another party, that party should be held accountable. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen automatically. Our experienced personal injury attorneys have a strong success record in helping accident victims throughout Alabama who have suffered serious injury due to the negligence of another party. We fight for the rights of victims harmed due to:
- Auto Accidents – Car accidents make up a substantial portion of personal injury cases in every part of the country. People may file personal injury suits when they suffer severe or minor injuries in a car crash, aiming to recover damages for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and more.
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Bus Accidents
- Pedestrian & Cyclist Accidents
- Drunk Driving Crashes
- Animal and Dog Bites – Dog bite claims vary widely between municipalities, depending on the area’s leash laws, breed bans, and other factors. A dog bite can cause a victim to incur substantial medical debt, receive invasive treatment, and suffer mental trauma.
- Slip and Falls – Slips, trips, and falls also account for a significant number of personal injury cases. These cases are often caused by a property owner’s failure to properly light an area, remove obstructions and obstacles, or maintain walkways and stairwells. A successful slip and fall case can help a victim cover their medical bills and time spent away from work.
- Defective Products – Unsafe products cause thousands of injuries every year. Medical products are a common source of product liability claims.
- Premises Liability Claims
- Construction Accidents
- Workplace Accidents
- Wrongful Death
- Catastrophic/Serious Injuries
A majority of our Alabama personal injury cases involve accidents that happen on our state’s roads. Each day, there are thousands of vehicle crashes that result in serious injuries and even death. Even an accident that seems minor at the time can result in catastrophic bodily harm. Some of the most common injuries resulting from these accidents include spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injury, whiplash, and broken bones.
We Seek Just Compensation For Your Injuries
By their very nature, accidents happen when we least expect them. While most people are able to walk away from an accident with just minor injuries, not everyone is this lucky. Personal injury victims can suffer from a wide range of physical and psychological injuries that can result in some serious and life-altering losses. Some of the damages that you may be able to collect in a personal injury case include:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Lost income
- Property damage
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
When you’ve been involved in a serious accident, it’s not uncommon to receive a quick offer of settlement from the other party or their insurance company. If this happens, treat this with suspicion and seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney as quickly as possible. There’s a good chance that you are being offered a sum that is much less than your claim is worth, so you’d be selling yourself short to settle the case too quickly.
Not all personal injury cases need to go to trial to reach a fair agreement. With our help, many reach an equitable settlement arrangement without the need to step into a courtroom. However, our skilled litigators are always prepared to take our cases to trial if we believe that it will serve the best needs of our clients. We have knowledgeable experts in our corner such as physicians, engineers, and accident reconstruction specialists who can help us investigate and prove your case for the sake of negotiation or trial.
How Contributory Negligence Works in Alabama
There are two different legal standards that may apply in personal injury cases. The first is comparative negligence, the concept used in most states. With comparative negligence, the victim of an accident can recover compensation even if they are partially responsible for the accident. Their compensation is generally decreased in proportion to the percentage of fault they have. Someone injured in a car accident with damages of $100,000 could be found to be 10% liable for the accident. This would reduce their award down to $90,000.
The other standard, which applies in Alabama and just a few other states, is contributory negligence. Under this rather harsh rule, a victim of an accident cannot receive any compensation in court if they are at all responsible for the accident. If a court finds that you were even 1% liable for the accident that led to your injuries, you might not receive anything—no matter how extensive or expensive your injuries are.
There’s a reason that very few states use this rule. It is considered overly harsh by many people, especially since it often leaves victims with lots of accident-related expenses and no way to get any compensation.
When you have been unjustly treated and suffered a harm, it’s reasonable to expect that the parties at fault will take responsibility for their actions. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. Even if the other party admits fault in an accident, you will still need to deal with their insurance company, which is where the difficulty lies. Insurance companies aren’t in the business of paying generous claims but instead want to make money and protect their bottom lines. Because of this, they will attempt to minimize damages and even try to prove that you hold a portion of the blame for the accident.
One of the reasons that Alabama personal injury cases are so complicated is that the state operates under the contributory negligence doctrine. This is a rule that is so constraining that only five U.S. states still use it, with Alabama being one of them. According to the rule, a victim in a personal injury case cannot recover any damages at all if they are found to be partially at fault in the accident. This means that an insurance company or their attorney need only show that you contributed just one percent to the accident to bar your claim entirely.
The good news is that our Auburn personal injury attorneys know this system intimately and can take immediate steps to protect your rights. The sooner you bring your case to our attention, the faster we can take steps to investigate your claim and deal with insurance companies on your behalf. Alabama law also sets time limits on filing personal injury claims, so it’s essential that you seek legal advice as soon as possible after an accident.
Devise a Financial Plan for the Money You Win
Before you use any of the money you win, you should have a plan for how you want to use it. Do you still have tons of outstanding medical bills and repair bills you need to cover? Are you out of work indefinitely and need to make the money last as long as possible? Do you have to pay back friends and family members for loans they made during your claim? You need to know exactly what you want to do with the money before you touch it.
Learn More About the Tax Implications
Taxes can be complicated with personal injury awards. Some settlement funds are taxable, and some aren’t. If you don’t know how your award will affect your taxes, you absolutely need to speak to a tax professional before you use any of your money. Otherwise, you could find yourself with a hefty tax bill at the end of the year.
Determine a Required Waiting Period
Rash decisions are a lot easier to make when you have the cash on hand to jump in with both feet. Don’t let these urges waste your settlement. Decide how much time you want to spend thinking on a big purchase—and make that decision before you actually have that temptation in front of you. If you’ve already determined that you’ll wait at least a week before making a big purchase, it’ll be tougher for that once-in-a-lifetime dream vehicle to lure you in. Take the time you need to research large purchases and avoid wasting your money.
Make Sure You Can Meet Your Basic Needs
Before you consider spending any money on other people or spending money on little luxuries, you must make sure that you can meet your and your family’s basic needs. This includes rent or your mortgage, vehicle payments, medical bills, food, and other bills. This is why it’s helpful to talk to a financial planner before you start using your personal injury settlement. They can look at the entirety of your financial portfolio and help you figure out how to use the money best.
Only after you have the money to meet your basic needs for a substantial amount of time can you start thinking about larger purchases and those that will benefit you long-term. You may want to think about how much of an emergency fund you’d like to have and start by putting money into emergency savings.
Make Your Money Work for You
Instead of thinking about how you can use your money to have fun or treat yourself, why not think about how you can use your money to make more money? This sets you up for long-term financial success and can even put you on the path to creating generational wealth.
Coping with the Physical and Emotional Impact of a Personal Injury
For many people, the adjustment to a sudden loss of mobility or increase in chronic pain can be devastating. Trying to accommodate these changes is mentally tiring, which is why you should have friends and family nearby you can rely on. This isn’t always possible, and when it’s not, you may need to look elsewhere for the physical support you need.
Consider hiring a caretaker or visiting aide who can help with showers, food preparation, laundry, medication administration, and other daily tasks. If this isn’t in your budget, you’re not alone—it’s one of the main reasons people seek a personal injury attorney after a serious accident who can help them recover full and fair compensation.
At this point, it is also important to continue going to scheduled doctors’ appointments and following their care recommendations. Taking medications as prescribed, engaging in physical therapy exercises, and otherwise focusing on healing can significantly improve your health.
Getting the Emotional Support That You Need
Don’t underestimate the multitude of ways that a serious injury can influence your mental and emotional health. If your injury limits your mobility and ability to work, that can be a major hit to your self-esteem and sense of independence. Don’t lose sight of your mental health during this time—caring for your spirit is just as important as healing your body.
In addition to your other medical appointments, consider beginning therapy or counseling to grapple with the trauma you have suffered. If the accident was traumatic, you may want to see a therapist with specialized experience in PTSD counseling.
Relying on Those Around You
It’s hard to lean on the people around you without feeling like a burden, but chances are good that they truly want to help you in any way they can. Offering help after an accident can feel awkward, and it’s unlikely that your friends and family members are able to zero in on your specific needs unless you speak up about them.
As you notice different tasks that are more difficult after your accident, jot them down. If someone asks how they can help, you’ll have a specific request to give. This also allows you to spread the work around, rather than relying heavily on one or two trusted family members. Going this route protects their mental health and physical strength while protecting them from burnout.
Controlling What You Can During This Difficult Time
A lot of personal injury victims report feeling a loss of control after their accident. This can show up as helplessness, despair, anger, emotional outbursts, or rapid mood swings. While you may not be able to control what has happened to you or what your recovery trajectory is, you can control some aspects of this journey.
Contact an Experienced Auburn Personal Injury Attorney
When you’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one, you don’t want to waste your precious time and energy arguing with insurance adjusters, trying to interpret legalese, or fighting for your rights. Proving negligence in a personal injury case can be challenging, and dealing with insurance companies who’d prefer not to pay you what you are owed is frustrating.
The experienced Alabama personal injury attorneys at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson LLP, have an extensive history of helping people in your situation secure the fair financial compensation that helps them rebuild their lives after these unfortunate accidents. There is no need to fight these battles or suffer alone. Contact our Auburn office today at (334) 821-3892 or online for a free consultation appointment to discuss your case. We also handle workers compensation claims.
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