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Let Our Personal Injury Law Expertise Work for You

We understand that the legal process is confusing and stressful for most people, so we work to answer every question and put every client at ease. These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) cover some of the basics, but should not be substituted for consultation with an attorney about the unique circumstances of your case.

Getting Started

Do I Really Need A Lawyer?

Every case is unique and not every case requires legal representation to reach a fair result. Sometimes, during an initial consultation we might suggest that the client attempt to settle the case on their own, rather than reducing their potential settlement by hiring an attorney. Many accident victims are unfamiliar with the process of settling a personal injury claim and they simply need some advice on how the system works and how to present the case before managing it on their own. We are not helping ourselves or you by taking a meritless case. If we think a case will be impossible or unlikely to prove, we will tell you so.


Do I Have A Personal Injury Case?

Every negligence case requires five elements: duty, breach, cause, proximate cause, and damages. If someone negligently causes damage to your vehicle and you are not injured, you do not have all the elements necessary to bring a personal injury claim. The fact that someone acted irresponsibly and you could have been injured is not enough to bring a claim.


What Is My Role As A Client In A Personal Injury Case?

We pride ourselves on learning every aspect of a client’s case. That means we take the time to get to know you above all else. Our goal is to turn you from a claim number into a person in the eyes of the insurance adjuster. We often ask our clients to write an “impact statement” to explain the effect of their injury on their lives. Often, clients have given up hobbies or can no longer play with their children or participate in events they used to enjoy. That change can have an emotional toll not only on the client, but everyone in their life.


What Should I Bring To My Initial Consultation?

We will be in a better position to evaluate your case if you bring key items with you: your insurance declarations page (that shows your insurance coverage), the police report or defendant’s information, photographs of the accident, and any pertinent medical documents. For medical documents it is helpful to have any out-of-work notes, ER discharge paperwork, prescription receipts, and referral orders.


What is the process and fee for hiring Burnett & Williams to represent me?

What Is The Process And Fee For Hiring Burnett & Williams To Represent Me?

We have an initial meeting with every client where we go over the basic information of your case and make an initial decision of whether or not you need an attorney. If we believe your case has merit, and our firm is the best fit for you, we will send an Engagement Letter, which details the arrangement of hiring our firm. We allow 14 days for you to consider your options before returning the Engagement Letter to us.

How Is The Lawyer Paid?

Our firm, like most personal injury firms, works on a contingency basis. That means we don’t earn a fee unless we get money for you. Our fees are based on a percentage of the amount recovered. While our fees are contingent, the costs associated with the case are the client’s responsibility regardless of the outcome, though many times we will advance these expenses and deduct them from the award. Those costs include expert witnesses, depositions, filing fees, and serving subpoenas. Costs vary depending on the complexity of the case. Medical malpractice cases, for example, often require expert testimony.

How Much Are These Costs, Usually?

The total amount of expenses is based on the complexity and longevity of your case. An automobile accident case that settles in a matter of months will cost significantly less than a complicated medical malpractice or wrongful death case. We will consult with you prior to advancing any substantial costs.

How Much Is My Case Worth?

Every case is different. Factors that can impact the value of a case can include the facts of the accident, the extent of your injuries, the amount of time lost from work, and impact on your future health and well-being.

At the beginning of a case it is difficult to estimate the value, but as the case progresses, we will be better able to discuss with you what your case is worth.

Personal Injury and Claims Process

How Long Will My Case Take?

It depends on a variety of factors. The type of claim, degree of injury, and the position of the insurance company or defense lawyer can all affect how long it takes for a case to conclude.


What Is The Timeframe In Which I Can File A Lawsuit?

With limited exceptions, persons over the age of 18 must file their lawsuit within 2 years of the incident date to protect the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations, however, is different for minors.

What Is A Statute Of Limitations?

Every claim has an “expiration date” from the time it happens until you are no longer able to bring a claim. This “expiration date” is known as the statute of limitations. In Virginia, persons over the age of 18 must file their lawsuit within 2 years of the incident date to protect the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations, however, is different for minors.

It is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible so that we can investigate your claim before filing a lawsuit.

When Should I Hire A Lawyer?

There are time limits on your right to file a lawsuit, and you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible if you believe you have a case. If you have tried to resolve the matter on your own and run into a brick wall with the insurance company, then you need to hire a lawyer.

What Is The Difference Between Mediation And Arbitration?

Mediation and arbitration are two methods for settling cases without the expense of going to trial. Mediation tends to be less formal, and is used more frequently than arbitration for personal injury cases.

Mediation uses a neutral third party to act as a guide or negotiator. Often, the mediator is a retired judge who can offer insight on how a jury might decide a case. During sessions, the mediator meets with each side privately to facilitate negotiations. The parties may not come to an agreement during mediation.

Arbitration is generally more formal than mediation. Both parties are given an opportunity to explain their position to the arbitrator, who then renders a legally binding decision which both parties must honor.


What Happens After I Hire A Law Firm?

Once your case has been evaluated and a decision is made to proceed, you and your lawyer will gather all the information needed to either settle the case or take it to court.

When you hire an attorney, the insurance adjuster is no longer allowed to contact you directly. We know that dealing with adjusters can be a hassle, especially when you are trying to get your life back together after an accident.

If you are still getting medical treatment for your injury, we will postpone attempting to settle your case until your treatment is complete or you reach “maximum medical improvement.”

Will My Case Go To Court?

We attempt to settle every case without filing a lawsuit. However, we prepare every case thoroughly, so that if we need to go to trial, we are fully prepared. If an insurance company decides to deny a claim, we may have to file a lawsuit in order to continue settlement discussions. Certain insurance companies are more likely to require suit to be filed before making a meaningful settlement offer.

Even if suit has been filed in your case, it can settle any time before the trial date.


If I Am Injured By Someone Else And May Have A Claim Against This Person, At What Point Should I Contact A Doctor?

If you are injured in an accident, you need to seek medical treatment right away. If you postpone getting treatment, you might make your injuries worse. Even worse, the insurance company will use your behavior as a defense to the case. They might claim that you were not injured in the accident, but at some later time through no fault of their insured.

Will You Refer Me To A Doctor With Whom You Work?

No. You should seek a doctor based on your personal preference, health insurance benefits, and convenience, not based on your case. Insurance adjusters and jurors are suspicious of doctors who get involved in a client’s treatment as the result of a lawyer’s referral. You should see a doctor that you feel comfortable with and will give you the treatment you need for your injuries. One exception is that if a person has a worker’s compensation claim, usually they have to see the doctor recommended by the workers compensation insurance carrier.

Applicable Insurance Coverage

Who Are We Filing A Lawsuit Against, The Individual Or The Insurance Company?

The lawsuit is filed against the individual that caused the accident or injury. As part of their insurance contract, the insurance company is required to defend the claim on behalf of their insured. So while the suit is in the individual’s name, the insurance company is the one making the decisions and ultimately paying the settlement or verdict.


Should I Use My Own Insurance?

YES! If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance, you have it for a reason: to cover medical expenses in case of an injury. While it is possible that your health insurance may be able to seek reimbursement for the amount they pay for the cost of treatment, it is often better to pay your health insurer back what they paid (often less than the cost of treatment) instead of being personally responsible for the full amount of the treatment.

What Is Automobile Liability Insurance?

Liability insurance covers you if you are at fault in an automobile accident that resulted in injury to another person. This coverage protects your personal assets. While Virginia only requires $25,000 in liability coverage, that amount is often insufficient to cover a serious injury. Given today’s high medical costs, a moderate collision can cause injury in excess of $100,000, which is why it is important to carry coverage well beyond the required minimums.

What Is Medical Payment (MedPay) Insurance?

MedPay covers the medical bills of you and the passengers in your vehicle after an accident, regardless of who is at fault. MedPay is designed to help pay for immediate and short-term care. It is often used prior to health insurance for accident-related treatment. MedPay generally covers reasonable and necessary expenses for medical, surgical, dental, and chiropractic treatment. It also covers hospitalization, ambulance services, X-rays, nursing services, prosthetic devices, and funeral services. It is no substitute for broader health insurance, however, as few companies are willing to sell more than $25,000 worth of MedPay coverage. Even if you have health insurance or belong to an HMO, having MedPay is a good back-up plan.

What Is Uninsured And Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Insurance?

Underinsured or Uninsured Motorist insurance protects you in the event that the person who injures you has little or no liability coverage. If you have UIM coverage in the amount of $300,000, and someone with only $25,000 in liability coverage seriously injures you, then once the $25,000 is paid, you are eligible for $275,000 in coverage from your own insurance. UIM coverage is a way for you and your family to protect yourself against underinsured drivers. You should purchase UIM coverage in the same amount as your Liability coverage.


What Should I Do If An Insurance Company Asks Me To Sign A Release?

Once you sign a release, you are settling with the insurance company and can no longer file a lawsuit for your claim. The property damage and personal injury cases are often distinct, and so signing a property damage release will not hinder your personal injury case. You should never sign a personal injury release until your injuries are fully treated. If you are uncertain whether or not you should sign a release, you should contact an attorney.

The Insurance Company Is Asking Me To Sign Medical Authorizations – Should I Do That?

If you are planning to hire an attorney, you should not sign the medical authorizations sent to you by the insurance company. Even if you are handling the case on your own, you can send the medical records to the insurance company yourself, and you do not have to sign a release.

Once we begin working on your case, our office will be in charge of collecting all of your medical records, and we will send the accident-related records to the insurance adjuster once you are finished with your treatment and we are ready to make a demand. Likewise, if you are filing a claim under MedPay, we will send your records to the MedPay adjuster in order to get your check for medical benefits as soon as possible.

Your Case Deserves Expert Evaluation.