The Answers You Need for the Questions You’re Forced to Ask
One of the worst aspects of pursuing a case—whether you’re fighting for injury compensation or trying to settle a divorce—is not knowing what to expect. Before you get yourself knee deep in the details of your case allow us to answer some of your questions first. We’ll help you be more fully prepared and more confident as you move forward.
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What if I can't afford a personal injury attorney?
Many people assume they do not have the funds to hire an attorney. The high settlements and hourly rates of big-name lawyers lead many people to believe that attorneys are for the wealthy. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth—especially for victims of serious injuries. While many lawyers are paid by the hour, the majority of injury attorneys work on a contingency-fee basis, meaning the injury victim does not pay anything up front for legal representation.
The Potential Costs and Fees Associated With an Injury Lawsuit
In a contingency-fee arrangement, the attorney will cover all court costs until the matter has been resolved. If the attorney is successful, his fees are paid with a portion of the amount recovered—usually between 30-40% of the total damages, as well as reimbursement for any costs paid on the victim’s behalf. If the attorney does not win the case, the victim only needs to pay for any costs the attorney covered out of pocket.
Some of the most common questions about payment for legal services include:
- How much is the contingency fee? The amount of contingency percentage is based on the complexity of the injury, the details of the accident, and the time and effort it will take for the attorney to build a strong case. If the case is likely to go to trial, the attorney may quote a higher percentage because trials can double or triple the time it takes to resolve a case.
- What costs are not included in the contingency fee? Common costs deducted from the settlement include filing fees, the hiring of medical experts, employing an investigator, copying and mailing, and records requests.
- Is it worth it to hire a lawyer? In most cases, it is worth the cost of hiring a lawyer if the injuries sustained are severe. A successful injury case can pay for the victim’s lost income, disability, lost quality of life, and past and future medical treatment—even after the amount paid to the lawyer has been deducted from the settlement.
The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum understand that victims are often struggling financially after an injury. That is why we offer free initial consultations for injury victims and explain our payment schedule before we begin working on a case. Contact us today via our online form for your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer.
Is workers’ compensation paid under state or federal law?
In Rhode Island, any worker employed by a private employer, state agency, or local government is owed benefits under the state workers' compensation board. However, there are some Rhode Island residents—such as federal workers or maritime employees—who may qualify for workers' compensation under a federal law.
Qualifying for Federal Workers’ Comp Benefits
While the majority of workers’ compensation programs are administered under state law, some workers are exempt from state workers’ compensation due to the location, risks, or injuries associated with their work. In these cases, injured workers can collect wage replacement benefits, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and disability payments through the U.S. government.
Federal laws make compensation for a work-related injury or an occupational disease payable to:
- Federal and postal employees. The Federal Employees' Compensation Act grants workers' compensation benefits to millions of federal employees, including postal workers. Injured federal employees can make a claim for benefits through the nearest district office of the Division of Federal Employees' Compensation (DFEC).
- Maritime employees. Employees who work on open water, oil rigs, or offshore platforms can collect injury benefits under federal maritime laws, including the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), Defense Base Act (DBA), and Jones Act.
- Energy employees. The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) provides compensation to current or former employees of the Department of Energy (DOE) who have been diagnosed with a radiogenic form of cancer after exposure to radiation, beryllium, or silica during their term of employment. The EEOICPA also provides survivors’ benefits to families of employees who have died as a result of work-related radiogenic cancers.
If you are seeking compensation after an injury at work, our attorneys can examine your situation and help determine how much you’re owed for lost wages, medical bills, and other accident costs. Simply fill out our easy online contact form, or call Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum to set up a consultation with our work injury attorneys.
How can a car’s black box help my car accident case?
After a car accident in Rhode Island, you must prove the other driver’s negligence in order to obtain compensation. An important piece of equipment that help you obtain evidence is the car’s black box, which is also referred to as an event data recorder (EDR). While many people associate black boxes with airplanes, they are installed in most motor vehicles, even in some older ones. If you were injured in a car accident in Rhode Island, evidence from this box can help you obtain the compensation you deserve for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering following a car accident.
An EDR Records Helpful Information
A car’s black box records data about the vehicle’s functioning abilities in the moments before and during a collision. The specific information that is stored will vary depending on the manufacturer of the motor vehicle. Most EDRs record data on a continuous loop but will store the information for a period of time following a crash. Some of the helpful information that an EDR can provide includes:
- Speed of the vehicle and any changes in speed before the accident
- Speed of the auto at the time of impact
- Pedal use, including time spent accelerating or applying the brake
- Seatbelt use
- Airbag deployment
- Number of collisions and the time between them, which can be useful in a multi-vehicle crash
Obtaining a Lawyer to Preserve Black Box Data
One reason it is important to retain an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible after a car accident is to preserve the data in the negligent driver’s black box before it is recorded over or the EDR is replaced or lost when the vehicle is repaired. Our skilled lawyers understand the importance of preserving black box and other evidence that can help to win your case before it is lost or destroyed. To learn more about how we can assist you, call our office to schedule your free initial consultation today.
What does it mean when a lawyer offers a free consultation?
Most injury attorneys use a contingent fee to charge for their services, meaning a client will only pay the attorney if the case is won. Since the attorney receives a portion of the damages in a contingent arrangement, it’s important that he carefully weigh the potential outcome against the chances of winning the case—and the victim will likely want to know what to expect in the weeks after hiring a lawyer. A free consultation offers a way for both parties to see if working together on the case would be worthwhile.
Getting the Most From a Free Consultation
Free consultations offer many different benefits to victims. First, it allows them to meet with attorneys before committing to work with them, reducing the likelihood of changing attorneys during litigation. Victims are not limited to the number of free consultations they can have while trying to find a lawyer. This allows them to compare legal representatives risk-free until they find the one they want to hire. Finally, victims can get a sense of what to expect throughout the legal process, helping to prepare themselves for a future case.
If you have suffered an injury, a free consultation is an opportunity for you to learn:
- If you need a lawyer or not. An attorney should tell you how to resolve your claim in a way that makes the most financial sense, even if that does not include hiring a lawyer. An attorney should advise you of anything you can do on your own that could resolve the claim (such as filing paperwork) or whether you do not have a viable claim (such as if the statute of limitations has expired).
- If you trust the attorney to handle your case. You should use a consultation to gauge whether an attorney has the experience necessary to win your case. In particular, it is a good idea to ask how long the attorney has been practicing law and how many of your particular injury case he has successfully resolved.
- If you’re ready for the next steps. While an attorney cannot definitively tell you the outcome of your case in a first meeting, he can tell you which strategies and procedures are likely to succeed and how long the case will take to be resolved. You should also learn what your responsibilities will be and how often you can expect to hear from the lawyer as your case progresses.
The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum are proud to offer free initial consultations for injury victims, allowing you to learn your legal options at no cost to you. Contact us today via our online form to schedule your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer.
Is the driver in the rear always liable in a rear-end collision?
Rear-end collisions account for many car accidents and can leave victims suffering serious injuries. It is often assumed that the driver in the rear is the negligent party. However, as with any type of accident, there are always exceptions to this rule.
When the Driver in the Rear Is Negligent in a Rear-End Crash
Under Rhode Island laws, all drivers are required to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them, so they have sufficient time to stop or slow down to accommodate the motorist in that vehicle. In most rear-end crashes, the driver in the rear is presumed not to have stayed back far enough and is considered to be the negligent driver. These individuals may have been engaged in unsafe driving practices such as distracted driving, drunk driving, or speeding. In these situations, this motorist is responsible for compensating the victims for their injuries.
When the Driver in Front Could Be the Negligent Party
Some rear-end collisions are caused by the driver in the front. Here are some of the scenarios when this person could be found negligent:
- He reverses suddenly
- He turns on his turn signal and begins to make a turn, but changes his mind before executing the turn
- His brakes lights are not working
- His vehicle has a flat tire or other mechanical breakdown, and the driver does not pull over or turn on his hazard lights
What If Both Drivers Are at-Fault in a Rear-End Collision?
Rhode Island follows the pure comparative negligence fault system. This means, both drivers who were partially at fault in a rear-end crash can recover some compensation for their injuries depending on their level of fault. For example, if the driver in front was 20 percent negligent, he could recover 80 percent of the amount that he would otherwise be entitled to.
If you were the victim of a rear-end collision caused by a negligent driver, our experienced car accident attorneys can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more about your legal options, fill out our convenient online form to schedule your no-cost initial consultation today.
How long will it take to settle my car accident case?
If you are the victim of a car accident, you are probably anxious to settle your claim quickly, so you can pay expensive medical bills and get on with your life. While an experienced car accident attorney can give you an idea of how long it will take to resolve your claim, there are many factors that may cause your case to take longer than you would like.
Factors That Affect Settling a Motor Vehicle Accident Claim
The majority of car accident cases settle without the need to go to jury trial. Some may settle without filing a lawsuit while others must be aggressively litigated before the insurance company decides to be reasonable. Here are some factors that can determine how long it takes to resolve a case:
- Your medical recovery. How quickly you heal from your injuries will impact the length of time it takes to settle your case. It’s important to wait until you reach your medical maximum improvement—the stage of your treatment where you have fully recovered or have recovered to the point where your doctor can give you a final prognosis—before settling. At that point, you’ll have a tally of your medical expenses, have the total of your lost wages, and know the pain and suffering you’ve endured, all of which will be included in the amount you receive.
- Larger claim. If you suffered more severe injuries or a permanent disability, the value of your claim will be higher. The insurance company will investigate your claim more thoroughly and may not dispute or try to reduce or deny your claim.
- Disputes. If you have serious disputes about who caused your crash or the extent of your injuries, it will take your attorney longer to resolve them and settle your claim for what you deserve.
- Insurance company. Some insurance companies have a reputation for being more difficult to negotiate with and may take longer to respond to your attorney’s initial demand letter and other offers of settlement. They may do this in an effort to wear you down and get you to accept less than you are entitled to.
While it can be frustrating to go through this process, you do not want to settle too quickly for less than you are owed. If you suffered injuries in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, call our office or start an online chat to schedule your free consultation today.
What happens to the ring after a broken engagement?
Even if partners are able to amicably end their relationship, they may have differing opinions about who keeps the engagement ring. Courts have devised a way to determine who is the “rightful” owner—but there may be more than one way to determine who should have the ring.
Courts May Decide Who Keeps the Ring After a Broken Engagement
Courts traditionally view engagement rings as “conditional gifts,” or a gift that is contingent on a future event (marriage). If the condition is not met, the giver has the right to get the gift back. Conditional gift decisions are usually no-fault, so it does not matter which partner broke the engagement. However, there could be extenuating circumstances where returning the ring is not fair to the receiver.
When determining who should keep the ring, the law may consider:
- The ring as a gift. Some courts consider the engagement ring as a gift from one partner to the other. If the ring constitutes a gift, the giver has no right to revoke it, and the receiver will get to keep it. However, engagement rings are only considered gifts in rare cases.
- The ring as compensation. A ring can be considered compensation under the law as long as both parties acknowledged that the ring was being offered as compensation. For example, if a man proposes marriage by offering an expensive ring to a partner who has lent him a considerable sum of money or performed work for him in the past, the ring may be considered compensation.
- Who broke the engagement. Some courts take into account the reason or party responsible for the broken engagement when considering who should keep the ring. This "fault-based" approach is sometimes used to award the ring to the receiver if the giver is the one who called off the wedding.
A broken engagement can lead to awkward and painful situations. Our family law attorneys can take over the burden on your behalf, allowing you to move on with your life as easily as possible. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to learn more.
What does premises liability mean?
Premises liability is an area of law that determines who is responsible for injuries on public or private property. Just as car accident laws regulate driver behaviors and responsibilities, premises liability laws outline a property owner’s responsibilities for preventing injuries to visitors and guests. If a property owner is found negligent, he can be held liable for the costs of a victim’s medical bills, lost income, and other damages.
Cause of Action in a Premises Liability Case
Accidents such as slip and falls or even assault can all give rise to premises liability claims. However, the law requires the victim to prove a number of factors in order to hold landowners responsible for injuries on their properties. For example, a victim may have a cause of action (right to file a lawsuit) against the owner if the victim:
- Had a right to be on the property. Customers generally have a right to be on a business’s property, while visitors and tenants are protected when on residential property (although some trespassers may be able to sue after a slip and fall).
- Was hurt by a defect the landowner knew about. Both homeowners and businesses have a duty to make their properties safe for invited guests (such as clearing away snow and ice from steps and sidewalks). The victim may have grounds to sue if the owner knew about a hazard on the property but failed to correct it and failed to warn visitors about the dangers.
- Was injured because of the landowner’s negligence. Negligence can exist in many forms—from an owner’s inability to recognize a hazard (such as failing to install lights in stairwells and alleys) to allowing a defect to exist that is in violation of the local building code.
- Suffered significant losses as a result of the accident. A victim may be owed compensation for the costs of medical treatment, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, out-of-pocket expenses, and permanent disability related to the incident.
If you were injured on someone else’s property, our attorneys can explain your legal options at no cost to you. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online form to schedule your initial consultation with a premises liability lawyer.
Can I be taxed on my car accident settlement?
In general, car accident settlements and judgments are not taxable. However, as with many areas of the law, there are exceptions to this rule. Depending on what you are being compensated for, you could owe taxes on some portions of what you receive.
Example of a Possible Settlement of an Auto Crash Claim
If a negligent driver caused your car accident, you are entitled to be compensated for your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. If the at-fault motorist’s actions were especially egregious, you might be awarded punitive damages to punish him. Here is an example of what a victim could receive in his settlement:
- $20,000 medical expenses
- $35,000 lost wages
- $75,000 pain and suffering
- $12,000 property damage
What Parts of a Settlement Can Be Taxed?
The amount you receive is not treated differently if it is through a settlement or jury trial for tax purposes. Here’s what is taxed and not taxed:
- Medical expenses. Reimbursement for medical expenses is not taxable unless you took a deduction for out-of-pocket expenses on your income tax return. In that case, the reimbursement you receive is taxed.
- Lost wages. You will owe taxes on the lost wages portion of your settlement because it reimburses you for work income you did not receive while you were recovering from your injuries.
- Property damages. Compensation for your vehicle or other property repair or replacement costs is not taxable.
- Pain and suffering. Taxing pain and suffering damages is complex. If your pain and suffering is due to a physical injury, it is generally not taxable. However, if you are receiving it to compensate you for emotional distress, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, this would not be considered a physical injury. You would owe taxes on this portion of your settlement.
- Punitive damages. You would owe taxes on any punitive damage award.
Do you need the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney who will protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve? Fill out our online form, or call our Cranston office to schedule your free consultation today.
How long will it take for my divorce to become final?
Many spouses want to know how long it will take to be officially divorced after filing. In Rhode Island, an uncontested divorce may be granted in as little as 75 days—and some divorces may be granted even sooner if they qualify for expedited processing. However, wait times are often longer if the court imposes a waiting period, the parties cannot agree, or there are other complexities.
Factors That Can Affect the Timeline of a Rhode Island Divorce
The biggest factor that will impact the length of a divorce is whether the separation is contested or not. The Rhode Island Family Court allows uncontested divorces to receive a hearing approximately 75 days after papers are filed. If both parties agree that there is no chance of a reconciliation and sign a waiver requesting expedited treatment, the court may grant a divorce immediately.
The amount of time it takes for a Rhode Island divorce to be finalized depends on:
- If you require a temporary court order. Some spouses need a temporary court order to establish which spouse will live in the house, which spouse will have custody, and other terms of the separation. Temporary hearings on these matters are usually scheduled about five weeks after filing.
- The length of the waiting period. Divorces do not become final until after the expiration of the mandatory waiting period that starts after the first hearing. Divorces granted on the grounds of "irreconcilable differences" have a 90-day waiting period before they are final, while "separate and apart” divorces have a 21-day waiting period.
- How long you and your spouse have lived apart. If you and your spouse have been living separately for three years or more, the court may waive the waiting period.
- If the case goes to trial. Only divorces where both spouses agree on all of the terms of the divorce will qualify for expedited treatment. If you and your spouse are not in agreement by the hearing date, your case will be classified as a "contested divorce," and you will be given a date to meet for status conference. At the conference, the spouses, their attorneys, and the judge will meet to settle the unresolved issues. Once the parties agree, the judge will schedule the divorce hearing. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the case will go to trial, and the divorce can last for several months or even a year.
Our family law attorneys can advise you on your best options and ensure you settle your divorce in the most beneficial manner. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online form to learn more about your options.