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Personal Injury Cases in Montana: Get Answers to Your Frequently Asked Questions

January 31, 2020

As the old saying goes, accidents will happen. Thankfully, most accidents are minor and we’re able to go on with our lives as if they never happened. But if you’ve been injured in a serious accident, you may be in pain, worried about your recovery and unable to work. In short, you’re overwhelmed and not sure where to turn. If you’re in pain and need answers, you should contact a Billings personal injury attorney to discuss your case. 

Below are some commonly-asked questions pertaining to personal injury cases. While these questions and answers are here to help you understand some of the legalities, they are not intended to replace the assistance of a skilled attorney. 

I Have Health Insurance – Why Should I Hire a Billing Personal Injury Attorney?

While health insurance is a tremendous asset, you should be aware that health insurance will not cover all of your expenses if you are severely injured. Your health insurance will only cover your medical expenses, such as the following: 

  • Hospital stays
  • Ambulance or other medical transportation costs
  • Doctor’s visits
  • Physical therapy
  • Medical equipment such as crutches or a wheelchair

Obviously, medical expenses can be substantial, totaling thousands of dollars or even more. However, there are other losses you may face as a result of your accident that could leave you unable to pay your bills or take care of your family. An experienced Billings personal injury attorney can help you recover those losses that aren’t covered by your health insurance. 

What Expenses Will Not be Covered by My Health Insurance?

Many people don’t understand what their health insurance will and will not cover. While it will depend largely on your particular plan, you want to be especially mindful that any copays or deductibles will be out-of-pocket expenses. Some people have deductibles of $5,000 or more. Copays may not seem like much at first, but can really add up over the course of your treatment and recovery. 

Your health insurance will also not cover any lost income if you are unable to work as a result of your accident. This could also cost you thousands of dollars and have a severe impact on your future. 

Finally, your health insurance will not compensate you for any pain and suffering that you experience. For those who are severely injured, this can account for a significant portion of your claim. 

I’ve Already Received a Settlement Offer From the Insurance Company – Should I Accept It?

You may have already been contacted by the insurance company offering to compensate you for your injuries. The offer may seem attractive, but many insurance companies intentionally offer far less than what the claim is worth. First, you may not know how extensive your injuries are, how long you will be out of work, or what will be required for treatment. Second, the insurance company will want you to sign a release that prevents you from pursuing any further claims against them. As a result, accepting their offer could wind up costing you thousands of dollars in compensation that you are entitled to receive. If you’ve been offered a settlement, a knowledgeable Billings personal injury attorney can evaluate the offer to determine whether or not it is fair. 

What Compensation Can I Receive?

Under the law, you are entitled to be made whole. As a result, you are entitled to receive compensation for any losses you experience as a result of your accident. In most personal injury cases, this involves the following: 

  • Your medical expenses
  • Lost income
  • Pain and suffering

Of course, every case is different. There may be losses unique to your case that entitle to additional or specific compensation.  An experienced Billings personal injury lawyer will be able to estimate the value of your claim in order to determine how you should proceed.  

Will I Have to Go to Court?

Understandably, most people would prefer to stay out of the courtroom. The good news is that most cases settle without going to trial. Unfortunately, not all cases settle and sometimes the only way to achieve a fair outcome is to go to court. It is difficult to predict whether or not you will need to go to court at the beginning of the case. 

As the client, it is always your decision as to whether to go to trial or settle the case. Your attorney can help you understand your options, the potential risks, and which course of action they think is in your best interests. 

How Long Will it Take to Resolve My Case?

The lifespan of a personal injury case varies according to its complexity and whether the other side is willing to resolve it without litigation. In some cases, there may be complicated legal issues that need to be addressed. In other cases, the other party may be disputing the underlying facts. On average, we would estimate that most personal injury cases take anywhere from several weeks to a few months to get resolved. That said, some cases can take more than a year, especially when they wind up in court. 

What Do I Need to Prove? 

Almost every personal injury case has the same basic elements that you must prove in order to successfully pursue a claim: 

  1. That the at-fault party was negligent;
  2. That their negligence caused an accident; 
  3. That you were injured as a result of the accident. 

The specific evidence that you need will depend on your case and the circumstances surrounding your accident. 

What is Negligence? 

Most personal injury cases are negligence cases. The core issue is to prove that the other party’s negligence resulted in your injury. Negligence is when someone fails to act with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised in the same situation. As a result, you will need to prove that the other party failed to act in a reasonably prudent manner and thereby caused the accident that led to your injury. 

How Long Do I Have to Pursue a Claim?

Currently, under Montana law, you have three years from the date of your accident or injury to file a lawsuit. In legal terms, this is referred to as the statute of limitations. Three years may seem like a long time, but it passes by more quickly than you think. Generally speaking, the longer you wait, the more difficult it is to prove your claim. 

You may also be tempted to think that you don’t need to worry about the statute of limitations because you don’t plan to file a lawsuit. While it’s true that the statute of limitations applies only to lawsuits, insurance companies will not pay your claim if you are outside of the deadline to file. In fact, they will sometimes delay paying your claim just to see if you will file a lawsuit, because if you let the deadline pass, you have no leverage to force them to pay your claim. 

Who is Liable for My Injuries?

Liability for injuries will depend upon the type of personal injury case that you have. Here are some common examples: 

Identifying which party should be held responsible isn’t always easy, especially when there are corporate entities involved. In addition, almost every personal injury case requires you to deal with the other party’s insurance company. This can add another layer of complexity to your claim. A skilled Billings personal injury attorney will be able to identify the proper party to pursue and help you navigate the claim process. 

Aren’t Lawyers Expensive?

Yes, lawyers can be quite expensive and are often an unplanned expense. Many lawyers charge hundreds of dollars per hour to work on your case, including meeting with you, talking on the phone, or sending emails. Other lawyers charge a flat fee for specific tasks – this can help you budget for your legal fees, but can still be expensive. However, some lawyers – typically personal injury attorneys – charge what is referred to as a “contingency fee.” 

What is a Contingency Fee?

A contingency fee is a fee that is charged contingent upon a certain outcome. In the context of a personal injury claim, your lawyer charges you a fee only if they are able to recover compensation. If you lose your case, you pay no fee. If they win, they collect their fee as a percentage of your compensation, typically one-third but it may vary. This way you don’t risk paying a lot of money for a bad outcome, and you won’t have any out of pocket legal expenses. 

Injured? Contact a Billings Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you’ve been injured in an accident, you should at least speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. At Ragain & Clark, PC, we help people in the Billings area understand their options and work with them to get the compensation they need to put their lives back together. With over 30 years of experience, we have the knowledge and skills to successfully pursue your claim. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation, contact us today at 406-651-8888 to discuss your case and how we can help.