FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

At Cannon Hadfield Stieben, we have experience handling many different types of legal disputes. We find that the same questions come up often, so we’ve set up this webpage to answer some of the most common questions we get from clients.

Please note, this is only general information about the types of cases we handle. It is no substitute for legal advice from your own attorney. No attorney-client relationship is formed by the information on this website.

Personal Injury

How much is my personal injury case worth?

This is the question we get asked all the time by our personal injury clients. And unfortunately, we can never answer it quickly. To know how much a case is worth, we have to dig through all the documents in the case, understand whether there are liability issues, how much the medical bills are, know whether you missed work or school, and whether there were preexisting injuries that complicate the situation. And that’s just the start. Most cases have even more complicated sets of facts to work out. The only time a personal injury lawyer should tell you what your case is worth is right before a demand goes out to the insurance company. Before that, we would just be guessing.

How long will my case take?

This is also an “it depends” answer. At the short end, we can get a simple case finished in a matter of a few months from intake to settlement. If a case goes to litigation, however, it can be a number of years before your case is resolved. In the end, the deadline to keep in mind is the statute of limitation. In Colorado, where we do most of our work, the statute of limitations for a car crash is 3 years. For other types of negligence, it’s 2 years. Other statutes of limitation apply in other situations too.

Who is going to pay my medical bills?

In the end, you are responsible for paying your medical bills as you are the one with the contract with the health care provider. However, there are a couple of different ways that you can get help paying for the bills. First is health insurance. Most people have it, though not all, and it can help get the majority of the bill paid. Another option is your medical payments coverage in your car insurance. This will cover you if you incur medical bills as a result of a car crash. If you don’t have either type of insurance, you’re in a difficult spot as the at-fault party’s insurance usually won’t pay your bills until the end of your case, which can be a long time. Some medical providers will treat you on a lien basis and will wait to get paid until the end of the case. However, you would still be on the hook for the bill if you don’t recover.

Can my employer terminate me for missing work?

This is a very tricky question. There are many possible answers depending on your situation. If you qualify for FMLA leave, then you can take that to treat your injuries. If your employer has established a short-term or long-term disability program, that might also help. Finally, if your injuries have resulted in a long-term disability, but you are still able to do your job with reasonable modifications, you may be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Do I need a lawyer?

Yet another difficult question. The short answer is that you should probably consult with a lawyer if you have incurred medical bills as a result of an accident that was someone else’s fault. A good personal injury lawyer will be able to tell you fairly quickly if you need a lawyer or not. Very few personal injury lawyers charge for initial consultations, so you don’t have anything to lose by calling and setting up an appointment.

Why do you need to order my medical records?

Some clients wonder why we have to order their medical records when the client could get them themselves. Well, we’ve found that when we order the records, we are much more likely to get a full set than when we ask our clients to get them. For example, if you had surgery, you might not know to ask for the anesthesiologist’s bill as well as the surgeon’s. Also, you hired us in part to take away the stress of handling the medical records collection process. You don’t need to be running all over town getting records.

What sort of damages can I claim?

In Colorado, you can claim damages for economic losses, noneconomic losses, and physical impairment. That means you get damages for everything you had to pay for, your pain and suffering, and compensation for those things you couldn’t do while you were injured.

Do I have to pay tax on my personal injury settlement?

Generally, the answer to this is no. However, if you deducted medical expenses related to your injuries in a previous year, you may have to pay tax on that portion of the settlement. In any event, you should discuss your settlement with your tax advisor or a specialist tax attorney.

What is a contingent fee agreement?

A contingent fee agreement is an agreement where you pay your lawyer out of the settlement proceeds rather than paying up front. The fee is calculated as a percentage of the settlement or judgment you receive. Now, there are exceptions to the “no win, no fee” nature of a contingent fee agreement. And even if you don’t have to pay attorney’s fees, you might have to pay for the costs of pursuing your case.

How much does it cost to bring a personal injury case?

This depends on the length of time the case takes. If you settle early in the process, the costs will likely only equal a couple of hundred dollars for medical records. But if you file a lawsuit, the costs add up fast. The Colorado district court filing fee is $420. And if you have to pay a doctor to testify, it usually runs into the thousands of dollars.

Who pays for the costs of my case?

In the end, you will have to pay the costs of your case. However, most personal injury lawyers are willing to advance the costs of a case on behalf of their clients. Sometimes, the attorney will have a limit they can advance though. If your attorney advances costs, you will have to pay him or her back at the end of your case.

How much work is a personal injury case?

Personal injury cases are a lot of work for attorneys. And they have done them before. If you try to handle your case by yourself, you will find they are very complicated and time consuming. Even if you hire a personal injury lawyer, you will have some work to do. We might know your case well, but we still need your help communicating with us about your treatment. In addition, if you end up in litigation, you will have to answer written questions from the other side and sit through a deposition and maybe trial.

Employment

How can I have a claim if this is an at-will state?

At will employment means you can generally be terminated for any reason at all. However, there are a few reasons employers cannot terminate you. The most common reason is discrimination. Your employer cannot terminate you because of your race, creed, color, religion, sex, or national origin. There are a few other statutes that create exceptions from the at-will employment doctrine. If you think you’ve been wrongfully terminated, contact an employment lawyer today to discuss your case.

I’ve been harassed at work, do I have a case?

This depends on why you are being harassed. If it is because of a “protected characteristic” you may have a claim. The big characteristics that can lead to harassment claims are race, creed, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, or disability. If a supervisor or coworker is bullying you based on one of those characteristics, you should speak to a lawyer.

I’m being harassed at work, can I quit and still bring a case?

The short answer here is yes. It is legally permissible to bring a claim after you quit a job based on harassment that you suffered at that job. However, the more complete answer is very complicated. In most employment cases, damages are measured primarily by lost wages. And if you quit your job, you usually can’t claim lost wages. There is an exception to this though. If conditions at your job were so bad that any reasonable employee would have felt compelled to quit, you can claim constructive termination, and claim lost wages despite quitting.

I’m being harassed at work, can I quit and still bring a case?

The short answer here is yes. It is legally permissible to bring a claim after you quit a job based on harassment that you suffered at that job. However, the more complete answer is very complicated. In most employment cases, damages are measured primarily by lost wages. And if you quit your job, you usually can’t claim lost wages. There is an exception to this though. If conditions at your job were so bad that any reasonable employee would have felt compelled to quit, you can claim constructive termination, and claim lost wages despite quitting.

Isn’t this just normal workplace banter?

Possibly is the answer here. Every workplace has jokes, and sometimes those jokes hit a little close to home. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have a claim. The law does not require perfect behavior in the workplace. However, if your supervisor or coworkers are making you feel harassed, unsafe, or discriminated against, that is not normal. If these interactions rise to the level of inappropriate touching or sexual propositions, you should definitely speak to a lawyer right away.

Civil Litigation

How long does a lawsuit take?

Unfortunately, the answer is usually measured in years. A simple case might get resolved in a little under a year, but that’s the exception. Usually, if you’re involved in a lawsuit, you should expect to be involved for the foreseeable future.

How much does a lawsuit cost?

This depends on how complicated the lawsuit is as well, but even for the simplest of lawsuits, the bill for legal fees alone will usually reach tens of thousands of dollars. That is before you hire expert witnesses.

Can I do it myself?

This is not recommended for anything other than the smallest lawsuits. Colorado’s small claims court has jurisdiction of cases up to $7,500. If you aren’t looking to recover more than that, you can probably take the other side to small claims court by yourself. But if you’re out more money, you probably need to talk to a lawyer.

I’ve been sued, what now?

If you’ve been sued, you should talk to an attorney right away. You only have three weeks from the time you get a copy of the complaint to respond. Once you talk to an attorney, he or she should be able to point you in the right direction. That may mean hiring an attorney yourself, or it may mean asking your insurance company to defend you. Either way, if you’ve been sued, talk to an attorney.

My insurance company says I’m not covered, what now?

Unfortunately, you probably have to hire an attorney yourself. If you don’t you risk losing your case through a “default judgment.” If you’re an individual, you might be able to represent yourself, although it’s not recommended, but if you’re a business, you usually can’t represent yourself in court without a lawyer.