Personal Injury | Medical Malpractice | Professional Negligence | Bankruptcy

Overview of a Personal Injury Claim in Arizona

Once you have been injured, whether in a car crash, from a fall at the grocery store, or any other unfortunate mishap, you are entitled to recover for your personal injuries from whomever or whatever caused your injuries.  Most lawyers handle these cases on a contingency-fee basis.  This is important because many lawyers advertise a so-called “no fee guarantee”.  The fact is a contingency-fee is just that; it means the injury lawyer gets paid only if you recover for your injuries.  The so-called “no fee guarantee” is just another way of saying “I will not get paid unless I recover for you.”  The contingency fee still assures you of access to the courthouse and is the most common attorney-client agreement in personal injury matters.


Although your personal injury lawyer only gets paid if there is a recovery, you will still be giving up a share of the recovery to compensate the lawyer.  You will also be paying any costs the lawyer incurred to, for instance, obtain a police report or medical records on your behalf.  Your lawyer may have to hire an investigator or expert witness to help prove your case.  Those items are costs and are in addition to the contingency fee.


If your injuries are minor, you may feel you cannot justify giving part of your recovery to a lawyer and may believe you can handle the matter on your own.  That may be true in cases of clear liability (such as-you are rear-ended while at a stop light with both your brake lights and the stop light working correctly) and you want to recover only a medical bill.  If your case is any more involved than that, you likely will benefit from a personal injury lawyer’s services and your ultimate recovery may more than justify the contingency fee your lawyer will earn.


Your case goes through many steps from the time of your injury until your potential monetary recovery.  In fact, you may have to present your case to a jury before the insurance company for the person or entity that caused your injuries will compensate you for your losses.  Each step along the way lays the groundwork for the next step and a misstep could be costly.


Although your claim will be against a person or entity, you will be seeking compensation from the insurance carrier for that person or entity.  Your dealings will likely be with a claims adjuster who has no interest in your case and is employed by an insurance company with virtually unlimited resources.  While the claims adjuster owes a duty to the insured person or entity, the adjuster’s goal is to pay as little as possible and to move your claim file off his or her desk as quickly as possible.  As your lawyer, I will have an interest in you and your case and will be committed to obtaining as large a recovery as possible and will go the entire distance (to a jury trial) if necessary to get you your fair recovery.


From start (telling the insurance company you have a claim to bring) to finish (getting your recovery), there is much to be done.  First and foremost, you must get the treatment you need.  If treatment is not readily available, I will help you secure competent and appropriate treatment.  If you missed work, you will need to gather the evidence necessary to support that lost time.  That can be problematic if you are self-employed or work on a commission basis.  Once you have completed treating for your injuries, you will have to collect all your medical records and your medical bills.  If you have other losses (such as loss of value to your vehicle-even after it is been repaired) you will need to provide evidence of such losses.  Not everyone completely heals from personal injuries.  You may need a report from your treating physician to outline any lingering problems, including an estimate for future cost of care.  The above necessary actions are all things that your personal injury lawyer does so you can focus on healing and getting back to your regular life.


Once all the above information is obtained, you are probably ready to make a demand for settlement.  This is more involved than simply handing the adjuster your records, bills, and other documented losses.  The adjuster needs to know why the insured should have to pay for your losses and why you should be paid anything in excess of your actual expenses.  The demand letter I send on behalf of my clients analyzes the liability part of the case and sets forth the specific details justifying your demand.  The adjuster may then make an offer to settle and from that point, you will negotiate with the adjuster until you reach a resolution or file suit.  No matter what you demand, the adjuster will likely offer a small percentage of that demand unless there is an issue with limits of insurance coverage.  For instance, you may have a catastrophic loss but the person who caused your loss may have a modest insurance policy.  Keep in mind that the minimum required automobile liability insurance coverage in Arizona is $15,000.  The adjuster will want you to settle your claims against the insured in exchange for that modest insurance payment.  If the adjuster is unwilling to pay the minimum amount you will accept, and the insurance policy has a higher limit than the settlement offered, your next option is to file a lawsuit and go to trial if necessary.  As your personal injury lawyer, my team and I will handle all those matters.


While no one is obligated to retain a personal injury lawyer, the issues that must be considered (from securing appropriate medical care to confirming adequate insurance limits to reaching a resolution) strongly suggest that you will benefit from our services.


I have been a Phoenix personal injury lawyer for over 35 years and my firm, Clarke Law Offices, handles many types of personal injury cases.   For cases of clear liability and minor injuries, including third-party liability (where you make a claim against the insurance company for the person or entity causing your injuries) and uninsured motorist claims (where you must use the coverage available through your own insurance company because the other driver was not insured), I charge a flat 25% fee up to the filing of a lawsuit.  If we must file suit, the fees in such cases will never exceed 30%.  Remember, there may be costs in addition to the fees.


We hope 2013 is prosperous and rewarding and we truly hope your life is not interrupted by personal injuries.  If you are not so fortunate, just remember, we are here if you need us.

The School Shooting in Newtown

One mass killing is one too many. We have seen far too many in any one of our lifetimes. The Aurora, Colorado tragedy is still fresh in our minds and it could have been surpassed by the Oregon mall shootings were it not for the perpetrator’s weapon jamming.

Today, Monday, December 17, 2012 we are all still trying to come to grips with yet another mass killing; this one took the lives of twenty of our nation’s most valuable treasures, our young children. The youngest was five and the oldest was seven. Losing any one of these beautiful young people would have been tragic regardless of the reason; to have lost so many in such a senseless and incomprehensible way is grotesque. Add to the loss of these young people the adults who had committed their lives to the education, well-being, and moral compass of all young people and this catastrophe takes on even greater significance. We may yet find an accurate connection between the perpetrator and the school, one of the families, or one of the faculty members but as it stands, the senselessness of this brutality is compounded by the lack of any apparent motive or connection.

We have put off for too long the dialogue we must have as we begin trying to make certain that the survivors of those lost know that our support and love is with each and every one of them. This isn’t a time for the extremist, those who oppose all firearms on the one hand and those who believe that even the most reasonable and responsible regulations are in absolute derogation of their second amendment rights, to control the dialogue. Few could argue that the solution is to ban all firearms or to even ban most firearms. Few could argue that the second amendment, as valuable and important a part of our freedom as any other provision of our Bill of Rights, is so sweeping and sacrosanct that any regulation is an overreaching infringement on our rights. Rather, it is the time for reasonable people to identify their common objectives and to work through their differences to achieve those objectives.

It is also important to note that this is not just a second amendment or gun ownership issue. Events like this were so rare when I was growing up that it was easy to see that in one given instance there was a breakdown. It may have been at the family level, the school level, or at some other social level. Now these events occur more frequently and while family, school, and society are factors, the increase in this senseless violence must cause all of us to reevaluate our roles in our own families and our own environments. Each of us can clearly do a better job in our lives and that includes using our best efforts to be a positive influence for all those around us; it also includes facing the issues and not side-stepping reality. Time is critical and the issues are essential. Each of us will hopefully find a way to participate in searching for a solution.

I will keep the people who are living through this tragedy, the surviving parents, siblings, spouses, and other family members as well as the young children and adults who lived this tragedy firsthand, in my thoughts and prayers and ask that they be blessed with the strength and courage they will need to both accept that those they lost are serving a greater purpose and to know that as a nation we just may be able to take the destruction of this tragedy and build a better way.

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