The Onstad Law Firm Mission: Getting You Justice
When you suffer damages through the negligence of another person or corporation, or a defective product, justice is getting you fair and reasonable compensation for the damages you sustained. In the initial contact with you we obtain basic facts to help us understand whether or not we will likely be able to help.
This overview gets us started on our investigation and pursuit of justice for you. Next, we apply our knowledge of the law and past experience to develop a plan of action. If we believe the facts provided and the law support you making a recovery of significant money damages, we then enter into an agreement with you to proceed.
We normally accept cases on a contingency fee basis. What that means is that you are not responsible for any attorney’s fees or expenses unless we make a recovery for you.
The claim can end with a settlement before or after filing a lawsuit. It may take a jury trial to finally resolve your claim. Our past experience is posted on our website so that you may see what we have done in the past.
Every case is different.
Here is a more in-depth explanation of how a car accident case is evaluated. Remember each case has unique characteristics.
Vehicular collision cases are easier to assess because most anyone involved in one has a driver’s license and knows the rules of the road. If you are stopped at a red light, and another vehicle crashes into the rear end of your vehicle, you immediately assume the driver of the vehicle that rear-ended you is at fault and should pay you for the damages that were caused. Many cases get complicated because more than one person acted negligently. In addition, car accident cases can become complex when your damages are larger than available insurance and there are subrogation interests that must be satisfied.
FOUR ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS
- FAULT, which means negligence. Negligence is a failure to use ordinary care, which means failure to do that which a person of ordinary prudence would have done under the same or similar circumstances or doing that which a person of ordinary prudence would not have done under the same or similar circumstances.
- FAULT CAUSES INJURY OR DEATH - This element is simple when a collision causes multiple skeletal trauma, treated in an emergency room immediately following a collision. The cause injury requirement is not so clear if the injury is a soft tissue injury to a person with previous similar injury or when a pre-existing condition is aggravated and becomes symptomatic.
- INJURY OR DEATH CAUSES DAMAGES -Every injury affects the victim differently. There is no automatic formula. Damages are generally broken into three categories (economic, non-economic, and exemplary). Economic damages include out of pocket expenses for medical treatment and for loss of wages, income (reduction in earning capacity) and cost of repair or replacement of property. If there is a wrongful death, economic damages include the amount of money the decedent would have contributed to a spouse, child, or parent in his or her lifetime had he/she lived, and loss of household services. Non-economic damages include physical pain and mental anguish, physical impairment, mental impairment, and disfigurement. If there is a wrongful death, economic damages include loss of love, affection, care, counsel, companionship, grief, and mental anguish. Bystander damages can be recovered if one witnesses the death or serious injury of a loved one. Exemplary damages can be assessed to punish the wrongdoer and set an example for others if the fault on the responsible party arises to gross negligence or malice.
- PARTY AT FAULT HAS ABILITY TO PAY THE DAMAGES - In the vast majority of cases, the party at fault’s ability to pay damages will be the limits of his/her liability insurance. If the party at fault has an insurance policy with limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per occurrence, it is not likely that one would ever collect more money than that from such a negligent party. If the limits are $1,000,000 per person and $3,000,000 per occurrence, there would be much more money available to the party at fault to pay damages. The victim often has an automobile insurance policy that has uninsured/underinsured motorist protection (UIM). Such a policy would come into play if the victim’s damages were greater than the amount of the person at fault’s available insurance. One example is the victim’s damages are $500,000, the party at fault has $100,000 per person in liability coverage. The insurance carrier for the party at fault tenders the $100,000, the victim’s UIM carrier grants permission to settle, and the victim has $100,000 per person in UIM coverage. The victim could recover an additional $100,000 from his/her UIM carrier.
Subrogation is a circumstance created by law or contract which gives the entity (health insurer, Medicare, Medicaid, worker’s compensation, or other entity) that paid for the victim’s medical expenses a right to get reimbursed out of any recovery of money damages from a negligent third party. The law on subrogation is complicated. However, it is not likely that any damage case can be settled without accounting for any subrogation and achieving an agreement with the entity that holds the subrogation right. In most instances, the victim’s attorney can require that the subrogee (entity with the subrogation claim or lien) establish its right to subrogation, and negotiate a reduction of the amount.