FAQs About Accident & Injury Lawsuits in Iowa
What is the difference between a claim and a lawsuit?
A claim is usually the initial stage of a case. It usually consists of your lawyer contacting the responsible party or their insurance carrier or lawyer to tell them that your lawyer believes that you are deserving of financial compensation. Whether the other party agrees they are responsible, and if so, the amount of money which each side believes is appropriate compensation are usually discussed. If the parties come to an agreement, the case can be "settled" without a lawsuit being filed. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, a lawsuit is filed in court.
A lawsuit is the mechanism by which the courts are brought into the process. The process is designed to result in a "trial." A trial is where each side calls their witnesses to testify before a judge or judge and jury. The judge or jury listens to that testimony, and then decides whether a party is liable, and if they are liable, the appropriate amount of compensation which the liable party should be required to pay.
Just because you file a lawsuit does not mean that your case is required to go to trial. Cases often settle even after a lawsuit is filed.
What is mediation?
Mediation is really just a meeting between all the parties and a professional mediator. The mediator is usually a lawyer experienced in handling cases similar to your case, either as a plaintiff's lawyer or as a defense lawyer or both. The mediator reviews the case facts, and listens carefully to both sides to get a good understanding of what each side believes are the important aspects of the case. It is the mediator's job to try to educate both sides on considerations which they may be overlooking or not giving sufficient weight, in order to try to facilitate them reaching a voluntary agreement. If the mediator is unable to facilitate a voluntary settlement between the parties, the case proceeds through litigation to trial. The information presented in mediation remains confidential and cannot be used at trial.
How much does it cost to hire a lawyer or bring a lawsuit?
Initial consultations are free. Most cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, which means that my fee will be a percentage of the ultimate recovery. There are also certain expenses that need to be paid as a case proceeds, and these can vary greatly from case to case. These fees include the fee which must be paid to the court to file your case, the cost of obtaining your medical records or other necessary evidentiary documentation, and the amounts paid to doctors or other witnesses to obtain information from them or to arrange for their testimony. In most cases I will advance these costs during the course of your case and am only reimbursed for the amount spent when money is recouped from the responsible party. If you and I decide to work together on your case, we will prepare a written agreement laying out how the fees and costs are to be handled in your individual case.
How soon do I need to decide?
The passage of time is important. Memory fades with time and the area where your injury occurred may change. It is important to consult with an attorney as early in your case as possible. Although some records are not time sensitive, there may be important details relating to your particular case which need to be documented early. Consultations are free, and the sooner you speak with an attorney, the better position you will be in to decide what you need to do.
There are also important limitations on how long you have to file a lawsuit, and if you fail to file a lawsuit within that time frame, you will be forever barred from ever pursuing compensation. The amount of time you have to file a lawsuit depends on the type of case you have.
How much is my case worth?
This is the most common question for which there is usually no definite answer, because some of the considerations which come into the calculation are subjective. Some of the factors to consider are the amount of medical expenses you have incurred and will incur in the future, the amount of money you have lost as a result of being unable to work, the amount of money you will lose as a result of being unable to work in the future, the degree of your injury, the duration of your injury, and whether your injury will continue to affect you in the future. These are all important considerations, but are not the only considerations. Other considerations which sometimes come into play are whether the responsible party has the ability to pay and whether you may have played any role in causing your own injuries. There is no guarantee of any particular outcome in any particular case. However, I will not take your case unless I believe I can obtain a positive outcome for you given all these factors.
FREE Consultations in Des Moines Accident & Injury Cases
Des Moines lawyer, Ward Rouse, offers free consultations to accident and injury victims. Please call 515.223.9000.