My relative is paralyzed after a serious accident, what can I do to get her lawsuit started for her?

A: It is good that you are thinking ahead for her. There is a lot of investigation that is required at the earliest possible time following a catastrophic accident, so the sooner the law firm is retained the better the chances of success. You can approach the role of guardian in many different ways. Depending on your paralyzed relative’s needs you may consider a durable power of attorney, a court ordered conservatorship with limited powers, or becoming a representative payee for the purpose of receiving SSI or SSDI benefits for your injured family member. These are topics to discuss with the law firm right from the start. The law firm can also arrange to make hospital or home visits with prospective clients.

I think my good friend is behaving strangely following a terrible accident, what are the signs of brain damage or tbi?

A: A person that has suffered tbi, a traumatic brain injury, may exhibit a wide variety of symptoms. Some important ones to note would be memory loss, loss of consciousness, lack of coordination, slurred speech, confusion and inability to pay attention, delayed verbal responses, erratic emotions or mood swings or a vacant stare. There are many other ways that a person might also have symptoms following a brain injury. To be safe, take your friend to a physician and get a referral to a neurologist. If the doctor suspects tbi, he may order neuropsychological testing. If cognitive deficits are found a method for accommodating the person’s problem can be instituted. Knowing more specifically what the problems are, such as visual disturbances, loss of balance or memory loss, enables all to find ways to protect against risk and eliminate substantial worry and anxiety that accompanies tbi and cognitive deficits.

I am not sure what my 30 year old daughter will be able to do for herself. She had a closed head injury, a fractured skull and some bleeding in her brain. Can the lawyer help with these decisions?

A: Yes. Because there are so many different types of legal arrangements where one party acts to some extent on another person’s behalf because of brain injury or a grave illness. The relationship between the injured person and his or her agent is governed by state law and some relations, such as Conservator, involve court appointment and supervision. To learn about the various options for such situations is an important step as soon as practicable after a catastrophic injury. Whether there should be an attorney-in-fact, or limited power of attorney, or durable power of attorney are just a few of the things to discuss as options. Because the brain injury patient may have lost some ability to reason or make judgments regarding things like finance, he or she deserves all the various kinds of help needed. This might divide into many different categories, such as finances and paying bills, arranging medical and home care, and modifying exercise programs.

When is the best time to hire a lawyer?

A: The best time to retain a personal injury lawyer or wrongful death case attorney is right away. Cases are won or lost on the evidence, and the sooner the lawyer can get started taking statements from witnesses, shooting photographs of important things, and preserving essential evidence in the case, the better. The fee is a percentage of the recovery, so it does not cost more, and in many cases, the fee is lower if a case is settled earlier without extensive litigation, which can result in more money to the client from the settlement.

What kinds of expenses are involved in my case, aside from lawyer fees? And do I have to put up the money?

A: The expenses are advanced on the case by the law firm and reimbursed from the settlement funds.

The first thing that costs money in the handling of a case is the investigation. Investigators are used to take statements from witnesses, photograph the scene of the accident, the damage to the vehicles, and to locate other important evidence. There are also fees for the reports obtained from police departments, fire departments, and other investigative bodies.

Next, hospitals and physicians’ offices charge for copies of their medical records and bills. Experts, such as physicians, life-care planners, accident reconstruction, safety engineers, biomechanical engineers, economists, or others, may be necessary to prove the issues in your case. Expert charges are frequently the most expensive part of litigation, with hourly rates varying from $150 per hour to $1,000 per hour. In each case the expenses are managed very carefully to accomplish the dual goals of proving all issues in the case and not spending more than necessary to do so. The law firm is reimbursed for the expenses of the case from the funds that are recovered for the client.

Will the person that caused the accident have to pay the settlement personally?

A: Normally, the answer is no. Most drivers, homeowners and property owners buy liability insurance. The insurance company that insures the defendant pays for both the entire legal defense (including experts) and also pays any settlement or judgment against the defendant. Some large corporations and many governmental agencies do not have insurance and do pay settlements directly. In the average case, however, there is no personal payment by the wrongdoer.

Do I have a case if I was partly to blame for the accident?

A: In California a plaintiff is entitled to recover the value of his or her case reduced by the percentage of fault for the accident due to the plaintiff’s own negligence. This system is called “comparative fault”. Even if you are partially to blame for the occurrence of an accident you may still be able to recover enough to make your case worthwhile. This should be discussed in detail with your lawyer.

How do the lawyers get paid? I don’t have much money.

A: In personal injury, wrongful death, nursing home abuse and sexual molestation (or harassment) the law firm does all the work without the need for the client to pay anything! Lawyers in these cases are paid only from the money collected in the settlement of your case. The fees are a percentage of the money collected. This system allows anyone to hire the best law firm possible for the case with no money!