Missoula Personal Injury Attorney
A personal injury case arises from an individual that has suffered harm or sustained an injury from an accident or another’s misconduct. These cases are often caused by the carelessness or negligence of another. The Missoula personal injury attorneys at Heenan & Cook, PLLC are experienced in handling personal injury claims and they understand the laws surrounding each case.
It may be common for a personal injury case to have more than one responsible party. Our Missoula personal injury attorneys are ready to face all challenges and to help the victim recover full compensation for their injuries. If you or a family member have fallen victim to personal injuries in an accident, our attorneys may be able to help recover damages for the pain and suffering caused. Contact our firm for a free consultation.
Missoula Personal Injury Legal Resources:
- Why Choose Us?
- Why You Need a Personal Injury Attorney
- Do I Have a Personal Injury Case?
- How Do I File a Personal Injury Case in Montana?
- What Is The Statute of Limitations for Personal Injuries in Montana?
- Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Recover Higher Compensation?
- Should I Represent Myself or Hire an Attorney For My Injury Claim?
- What is a Typical Fee For a Missoula Attorney in a Personal Injury Case?
- Contact Us
Why Choose Us?
The attorneys at Heenan & Cook, PLLC are always prepared to do what is necessary for each case, whether that means settlement negotiations or going to trial. Our attorneys, John Heenan and Joe Cook, judiciously balance the need for flexibility with the need for assertive representation, helping our clients achieve the results they warrant.
Our clients rightly expect a great deal from our law firm. We believe that communication between a client and his or her attorney is essential to providing quality representation. We take pride in remaining accessible to our clients and being available to answer questions and give advice throughout the process. Potential clients can also expect that their case will be handled with the appropriate attention and professionalism. Our staff of experienced attorneys and paralegals take the time to organize details of each case no matter how big or small.
We are ready to handle a variety of personal injury claims, including, but not limited to:
- Business and commercial disputes
- Car accidents
- Construction litigation
- Insurance bad faith
- Livestock and agricultural litigation
- Professional negligence
- Property damage
- Sexual abuse
- Truck accidents
- Wrongful death claim
Our experienced attorneys and dedicated legal staff are ready to work with our clients to simplify even the most complex matters. We will work toward an efficient and cost-effective resolution.
Why You Need a Personal Injury Attorney
An experienced personal injury attorney will properly investigate every claim. They will evaluate insurance policies, calculate damages, and manage all communications and documentation with the court, opposing counsel, and other parties. Personal injury claims can start off small and become more complex as the investigation unfolds, which is why having a skilled attorney on your side is often necessary.
The main focus after an accident is recovery, and an attorney’s main focus will be to get you the compensation and justice you deserve. Generally, compensation for an injury sustained from the misconduct or negligence of someone else will include:
- Lost income
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage
These are the common types of damages, but you could also be eligible for additional compensation and losses.
Do I Have a Personal Injury Case?
Whether you were injured in an auto accident or by a defective product, the analysis is generally the same. There are three components to determine whether someone has a viable personal injury case worth pursuing: liability, damages and collectability.
- “Liability” means simply “is the injury someone else’s fault?” Analyzing liability requires legal research into what duties the responsible party had to the injury victim. For instance, in a motor vehicle accident, the analysis concerns whether the driver did anything wrong, such as crossing the centerline or driving inattentively. In an oilfield injury case, the analysis concerns whether the rig operator or owner did anything wrong which caused the injury to occur. Sometimes, while a person is badly injured, they will still not have a personal injury case because the injury simply wasn’t someone else’s fault. Or, a person might not have a personal injury case because their own conduct was more careless than the other party’s. In order to prove your injury claim, you need to show that the injury was caused by someone else’s fault.
- The second component of a personal injury claim is “damages”. What this means is, assuming the other party is at fault, what injuries did they cause? If an accident results in serious personal injuries, the answer to this question is fairly obvious. However, if the victim had a pre-existing medical condition, the issue of what caused the injuries may be an issue.
- The final component of a personal injury case is “collectability”. In other words, assuming someone else caused your injuries, then do they have the financial ability to compensate you? In most instances, the responsible person or company will have liability insurance which will cover a person’s injuries. Or, if they don’t (or if the responsible party does not have enough insurance coverage), it may be possible for the injured party to make a claim against their own uninsured or underinsured motorist policies. However, if the person or company has no insurance or no other assets, even a case with clear fault and serious injuries might not be pursuable because the responsible party simply lacks the means to pay a judgment. An experienced personal injury attorney in Missoula, MT will be able to evaluate these three components of your injury claim and help you understand whether your case is worth pursuing.
How Do I File a Personal Injury Case in Montana?
It is always important to know how much time you have to file a case. In Montana, the time limit or statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is three years from the date of your accident or injury. Also, it is possible that both parties in the lawsuit (you and the wrongdoer) can both be found partly at fault. This is known as a modified comparative fault rule.
Additionally, there is a cap, or limit, on damages for personal injury claims. Damages are in place to make the victim whole again, which is why courts will prohibit award amounts that are unconscionable.
An investigation leading up to filing a claim for personal injury will likely determine the fault and expected damages. After an attorney has established the client’s case, they will then file the necessary documents with the court. Usually, a case will start with settlement negotiations to avoid the court process.
What Is The Statute of Limitations for Personal Injuries in Montana?
Every state sets timeframes for how long individuals have to file lawsuits after sustaining an injury caused by another party. This time frame is called the statute of limitations. In Montana, the personal injury statute of limitations is three years from the date an injury occurs. This means that injury victims have a three-year timeframe with which to file a lawsuit against the alleged negligent party. If they fail to do so, their case will usually be dismissed from court, and they will be unable to recover compensation for their losses.
However, if a personal injury victim in Missoula focuses solely on the statute of limitations, they may still miss the other deadlines involved in their case. Since the vast majority of personal injury claims in Missoula and throughout Montana are resolved through settlement with insurance carriers, we have to examine the deadlines put in place by these insurance carriers.
Most insurance carriers require that an injury be reported to them within a day or two after the incident occurs. For example, if an individual is injured in a car accident, they must report this incident to their insurance carrier as promptly as possible. Failing to do so could result in the carrier significantly delaying the claim or even denying it altogether.
We strongly encourage you to speak to a personal injury lawyer in Missoula as soon as possible to ensure that you get your claim filed on time with the insurance carriers or, if necessary, with the civil court system in Montana.
Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Recover Higher Compensation?
While it is certainly possible for an individual to pursue compensation on their own without assistance from an attorney, this may not be the best route. For claims that involve anything more than a minor injury, individuals are much more likely to recover higher compensation amounts if they have an attorney by their side. Studies have shown that individuals represented by a personal injury lawyer are likely to receive three and a half times more in compensation.
You may actually wonder how personal injury victims can come out on top when they have to pay attorney fees. The reality is that pursuing a case can be costly, and most personal injury lawyers take these claims on a contingency fee basis. This means that the attorney will handle all the upfront and out-of-pocket costs related to the case, and the injury victim will not have to pay any legal fees until after the case is over.
After the attorney successfully secures compensation for their client, the injury victim will pay a percentage of the total compensation amount to the attorney. Even after accounting for this contingency fee, personal injury victims in Missoula are still likely to recover more compensation than they would otherwise have received had they tried to handle the case on their own.
If you are still unsure about whether or not an attorney will be able to help your particular situation, we encourage you to set up a free consultation with us so we can help you determine the best steps moving forward. Our goal is to make sure that you come out on top, not behind.
You definitely do not need an attorney for every small accident case. Sometimes, the costs of hiring a lawyer outweigh the benefits. We explain to people in some circumstances that it is not cost-effective to use an attorney to prosecute their claim, and that they are better off not hiring us to prosecute it. Other times, however, we can show an injury victim how we can add serious value to their claim and enhance their chances of recovery.
Here are some factors to consider in deciding whether it makes sense to hire an attorney to prosecute their injury claim:
1. Small Damages vs. Large Damages Cases
In a case where there is only damage to a vehicle, or minor and temporary injuries, it may make sense to simply handle the claim yourself. The amount of damage to a vehicle should be fairly straightforward through tools like Kelly Bluebook. Likewise, if only minor and temporary damages are sustained, it should be easy enough to put together the medical bills related to these injuries and get them paid. In a small case, where the damages are only to the vehicle, or where the injuries are minor and have gone away, it is probably feasible to resolve your claim yourself.
It can cost me tens of thousands of dollars to prosecute even a seemingly straightforward injury claim. Obviously, it would not make sense for us to pay this amount of money to prosecute a claim with the goal of recovering, say, $3,000 in property or temporary injury damages. In these situations, where damages are relatively small, I tell people that it is not cost effective for them to hire us.
Also, insurance companies are more often receptive to resolving small damage claims because they are not paying as much. If your injuries are severe or ongoing, however, it likely makes sense to hire (or at least talk to) an experienced personal injury attorney about your claim. In these instances, the attorney’s specialized knowledge and ability to value the claim and convey information to the insurance adjustor is invaluable.
Moreover, if your claim is not resolved with the insurance company, it will be decided in court. Insurance companies hire good lawyers to defend injury claims. The insurance company’s lawyers are familiar with the court system and rules, and know all types of ways to convince juries to pay injury claimants as little as possible. An experienced injury lawyer will be able to prosecute a serious injury claim has a better chance of navigating the court system and recovering fair compensation for an injury victim than if the person tried to do it alone.
How do you know if your claim is large enough to warrant hiring an attorney? Although there are no hard and fast rules, generally a serious injury claim is one where significant medical bills (more than $5,000) have or will need to be paid, and/or where the injury is not temporary but rather causes long-term or permanent pain or disability
Sometimes the costs don’t justify attorney involvement. If the injury is severe, however, an attorney may be critical to obtaining fair compensation.
2. Limited Insurance Money May Mean Attorney Involvement is Not Justified
Unfortunately, sometimes people have serious personal injuries which will requires tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to compensate, yet the responsible party has limited sources from which recovery is possible. For instance, an injured person’s medical bills alone might be $100,000, but the responsible person might have only a $25,000 insurance policy and no personal assets to collect against. In this type of situation, I usually tell the injured person that it does not justify hiring me, and instead simply direct them to claim the insurance policy limits. If the insurance company then refuses to pay the policy limits, I may become involved at that point in time.
Sometimes, there are additional sources of recovery which the injured person may not be aware, and I can help the injury victim make claims against those sources of recovery as well.
In situations where the amount of available insurance money does not come close to compensating an injury victim, it makes good sense for the injured party to get a free consultation with an experienced injury attorney, but not hire an attorney unless the attorney can explain what value they will add to your claim.
The higher the potential monetary value of the claim, the more likely the insurance company will work hard to pay as little as possible to resolve it.
3. Decide Your Willingness to Work on Your Claim and Negotiate with the Insurance Adjustor
In order to receive fair compensation from an insurance company- either through negotiations with the insurance adjustor or through a legal proceeding- injured individuals will need to gather and support your claim with evidence. This can include gathering medical records, interviewing witnesses, retaining experts, and researching the legal aspects of the claim.
When you hire a personal injury lawyer, the lawyer takes care of all of this for you. (We tell our clients that when they hire us, we take on the stress of dealing with the claim so they can focus on getting better.) You may be willing to spend the time and energy to gather necessary documentation and negotiate your claim with the insurance adjustor or present your claim in court. Most people do not relish this task.
Experienced personal injury lawyers know how to navigate the claims process and legal system. Your own background and experience with the legal system should help you decide whether you can handle your injury claim by yourself, or whether you should hire an experienced personal injury attorney.
4. Beware of Attorneys Who Want to Charge by the Hour or Who Demand Upfront Retainer Fees to Handle Your Injury Case
Most reputable personal injury attorneys take on injury claims under a “contingency fee” contract. That means that the lawyer gets a percentage of the recovery and if no recovery is had, then the client loses nothing. When our firm takes on a personal injury case, it is always on a contingency fee basis.
We also advance the costs of prosecuting an injury case, which can be expensive. Taking a case on a contingency fee means that we believe it is a strong one and that we will win it for my client. We have as much risk riding on the success of the case as my client does. A contingency fee makes our firm partners with the client in a very real sense. We have a personal incentive to get as much money for the client as quickly as possible.
Beware of an attorney who offers to take on your injury claim on an hourly basis, or who insists on an upfront retainer to prosecute the claim. It can take hundreds of hours to effectively prosecute an injury claim. A lawyer who prosecutes an injury claim on an hourly basis is not as “invested” in your case as a contingency fee lawyer- if the lawyer loses your case, the lawyer still gets paid.
5. Determine Whether the Lawyer Will Add Value to Your Injury Claim
Clients are rightly concerned to ask how much a lawyer will cost them. Most reputable personal injury lawyers will want to handle your claim on a contingency fee basis where the injury victim pays a percentage of his or her recovery when the case is resolved, usually one third (although in some circumstances, a higher or lower percentage may be justified). In order for it to be worth it to hire an injury lawyer, the injured party must consider whether the lawyer will add a significant percentage to the case.
Studies by the insurance industry tell us that, on average, injured parties who hire lawyers receive over three times more money than those who represent themselves. For example, if you can settle your claim yourself for $30,000, or hire a lawyer who will charge you 1/3 to settle your claim for $100,000, it makes sense to hire a lawyer. Don’t be afraid to ask prospective lawyers you speak to what specifically they will add to the value of your claim.
What is a Typical Fee For a Missoula Attorney in a Personal Injury Case?
Most Montana personal injury lawyers will charge a contingency fee of between 33 1/3% and 50%. Many Montana injury lawyers charge a “graduated” fee where the fee starts at one percentage, but then goes up as the case progresses. At Heenan & Cook, our contingency fee remains the same and never goes up as the case progresses.
Contact Heenan & Cook, PLLC Today
The Missoula personal injury lawyers at Heenan & Cook, PLLC understand the importance of getting our clients favorable results. We have over 40 years of experience handling complex litigation and personal injury matters. Our attorneys are always prepared to tackle any case.
We will always work with the client’s best interest in mind and fight for their rights.