Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I afford to hire an attorney?
Personal injury, medical malpractice, workers' compensation, and civil rights cases usually do not require any fees paid up front. Instead, attorneys charge on a contingency fee basis for these types of cases, which means that if you reach a monetary settlement or achieve a verdict in your favor at Court, the attorney will be entitled to a percentage of your award as the legal fee. If you do not reach a monetary settlement or achieve a verdict in your favor, you do not pay a legal fee.
However, many lawyers also advance case-related expenses (ex: filing fees, obtaining medical records, hiring medical experts to testify) up front and are reimbursed for these separate expenses out of the recovery as well, assuming a settlement is reached or a verdict is achieved in your favor. In the event that a settlement is not reached or a verdict goes against you in Court, you may be asked to repay these case-related expenses. The financial arrangements of your case should be discussed with your attorney ahead of time so that you understand the fees for which you may be responsible.
2. When is the best time to contact a lawyer?
If you believe you have a potential case or think you may need legal representation, it is best to contact a lawyer right away. In general, cases are won or lost on evidence. The sooner an attorney can evaluate your case, obtain statements from witnesses, take photos of damages, and gather essential evidence, the better end result you will achieve.
Contact the law firm of Winegar, Wilhelm, Glynn & Roemersma today if you have any questions regarding a personal injury, medical malpractice, family law, workers' compensation, bankruptcy, or criminal defense matter. Our experienced attorneys will be happy to address your questions and concerns.
3. Will I have to file a lawsuit and what happens when I do?
If a settlement is not reached after you bring your claim to the attention of the defendant, you need to file a lawsuit. While you are not required to retain a lawyer to file a lawsuit, it is advisable that you do so. Moreover, filing a lawsuit does not mean you lose all possibility of settling. In fact, settlements can still be reached any time after you file a lawsuit, and even after a trial has begun. Sometimes, just filing a lawsuit can show a defendant that you are serious about your case and prompt the defendant to renew more sincere settlement negotiations.
A lawsuit begins by filing a complaint. The person filing the complaint is called the plaintiff and person against who the complaint is filed is called the defendant. The defendant must file an answer addressing the allegations contained in the complaint and must raise any defenses the defendant may have. Thereafter, the discovery period begins and later a trial may occur depending on each case's individual circumstances.
4. How long do I have to file a lawsuit?
Defendants are protected under the law by the applicable "statute of limitations" for each respective type of case. In short, the statute of limitations is the time period during which a lawsuit must be filed. If the applicable statute of limitations expires before the lawsuit is filed, the case can be dismissed as untimely.
For example, the statute of limitations for most medical malpractice cases is two years from when the victim discovered or should have discovered that his or her injury or illness was the result of physician negligence. Other cases have similar timelines, which is why it is extremely important to contact the experienced attorneys at Winegar, Wilhelm, Glynn & Roemersma soon after the injury, illness, or event has occurred in order to review your case.
5. How long does the legal process take?
Given the broad range of cases that exist, it is difficult to estimate the time needed to complete the legal process. While there are often no quick settlements, the dedicated attorneys at Winegar, Wilhelm, Glynn & Roemersma are focused on obtaining "full value" for your injury, which requires thorough investigation, evidence gathering, and litigation preparation. As a general rule, you should never count on the settlement of a lawsuit for immediate income.
6. What is discovery and what is its purpose?
Discovery is the exchange of information by parties to a lawsuit. Discovery occurs after a complaint is filed and is the sometimes-lengthy time period before a trial that allows both parties to "discover" information in the case. The purpose of discovery is to narrow the basis for the complaint by allowing both parties to investigate each other's claims, defenses, and supporting evidence, thereby ultimately minimizing the surprises to either party during a trial or facilitating a resolution of the case.
Common discovery tools include interrogatories and depositions. Interrogatories are written questions submitted by one party to the other, which must be answered under oath and can be used later at trial. Depositions are formal interviews where one party's attorney asks a series of questions to an opposing party or witness in the presence of a court reporter. Answers in depositions must also be given under oath and can be used later at trial.
7. Will an attorney at Winegar, Wilhelm, Glynn & Roemersma take my case?
Because each personal injury, medical malpractice, workers' compensation, or civil rights case has its own individual set of factors which can affect whether or not the case is successful, we encourage all individuals who feel that they have been victims of negligence, discrimination, harassment, or injured on the job to contact our offices. Our dedicated attorneys carefully review each potential case because we are committed to only taking cases that can actually help our clients. Even if you are unsure about your case, the law firm of Winegar, Wilhelm, Glynn & Roemersma can help you determine whether or not you are entitled to compensation.
PERSONAL INJURY FAQs
8. What is a personal injury case?
Personal Injury refers to any situation wherein one person is injured because of another's actions or negligence. Personal Injury is a very broad area of law and encompasses many types of cases, which can include slips, falls, motor vehicle accidents, construction accidents, wrongful death, medical malpractice, spinal cord injury, and brain injury. This area of law is designed to protect citizens against negligence and the damaging actions of others. Each personal injury case is unique, and a consultation is recommended to review your case's specific details.
9. What is negligence and how is it determined?
In short, negligence is the failure to act reasonably in a given situation. Negligence can include doing something that should not have been done or failing to do something reasonably called for in a given situation. Negligence does not simply mean doing something wrong.
10. How much is my injury claim worth?
There is no easy method to determine how to place a price tag on injury, pain, and suffering. Because each personal injury case is so unique, there are no hard and fast rules, and a magical mathematical equation does not exist from which to derive an exact dollar amount. However, it is vital that the worth of your case be accurately determined before a jury decides your case or before a settlement can be reached.
To accurately determine the worth of a case, one's lost wages, medical expenses, and property damage must be ascertained. In addition, a claim can be made for pain and suffering, mental anguish or emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and lost opportunities.
Using this information as a base, attorneys use general formulas that have been developed to calculate a monetary figure for damages in personal injury lawsuits. In general, the total damages are calculated by considering a number of factors, including the degree of the defendant's liability, the nature of the injury, the plaintiff's credibility, the defendant's credibility, the plaintiff's age, the strength of the evidence, and whether there are any witnesses. The formulas merely serve as guidelines. Every case is different, thus every outcome is different.
The New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys at Winegar, Wilhelm, Glynn & Roemersma use their vast years of experience to carefully assess your damages based on your specific injury, pain, and suffering. Our dedicated attorneys vow to provide you with the most effective legal representation possible in order to ensure you receive the results you deserve.
MEDICAL MALPRACTICE FAQs
11. How do I know if I have a medical malpractice case?
Simply stated, medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional's negligence causes or contributes to a patient's injury or death that would not have occurred otherwise. A medical malpractice case is one in which the acceptable standard of care is not provided by a medical professional, resulting in a patient's ultimate injury or death. In many medical malpractice cases, the medical professional is unable to give the patient or the patient's family a valid answer as to why the patient suffered death or a deterioration of his or her health.
Medical malpractice cases cover a wide variety of situations, including: surgical mistakes; failure to diagnose; cancer misdiagnosis; emergency room negligence; birth injury; and medication errors. To find out if you have a valid medical malpractice case, contact the experienced attorneys at Winegar, Wilhelm, Glynn & Roemersma today.
12. What is the medical malpractice "standard of care"?
In general, "standard of care" is defined as "how a reasonable medical professional would act in similar circumstances." Violations of the standard of care occur when a medical professional creates a foreseeable, unreasonable risk of harm to a patient. If a violation in the standard of care causes an injury or death, the medical professional may be liable for medical malpractice. If you have any questions regarding the standard of care, contact our New Jersey and Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys today.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT FAQs
13. I have just been in a motor vehicle accident, what should I do?
First, your health is the most important issue. If possible, receive a full medical examination following the collision and report any tenderness or other injuries, no matter how minor they may seem. Even if you feel unharmed at the time of the accident, you may discover your injuries later since serious injuries sometimes do not cause immediate pain. Thereafter, make daily notes of the effects of any injury: where it hurts; how often it hurts, what brings about the pain, how it limits your activities, etc.
Next, you will need to give a statement to the police. It is important that you avoid making any claims of fault until all the facts are uncovered. You will understandably be shaken and upset after an accident, but it is important to give only the information you know.
If you are able, also try to document the situation by writing down everything you remember while it is still fresh in your memory. Remember to obtain the name, address, license number, and insurance information from the other drivers involved.
Finally, contact the attorneys at Winegar, Wilhelm, Glynn & Roemersma to discuss your accident BEFORE making statements to the other driver's insurance adjuster or agreeing to a low initial settlement offer. From a minor fender bender to a major life-threatening collision, accidents can become more expensive than one first anticipates and can result in unexpected or serious injury, time off from work, and hassles in dealing with insurance companies.
Our attorneys can help you determine the true extent of your injuries and the actual amount of money required to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
14. Can I still receive compensation even if an accident might have been partly my fault?
Even if you might have partly caused an accident yourself, you can still receive compensation from anyone else who was careless and partly caused the accident. The amount of another person's responsibility is determined by comparing his or her negligence with your own. For example, if you were 25% at fault and the other person was 75% at fault, the other person must pay - through the insurance company - 75% of the fair compensation for your injuries. This rule is called "comparative negligence."
A few states supposedly bar you from any compensation if your own carelessness substantially contributed to the accident ("contributory negligence"). But in practice, the question of whether your negligence actually contributed to the accident is a point to negotiate with the defendant's insurance adjuster.
DIVORCE & FAMILY LAW FAQs
15. I am getting divorced. Do I really need an attorney?
Even if you have a simple, uncontested divorce, it is probably wise to consider hiring an attorney because the attorney can guide you through the process and prepare the necessary paperwork to get you divorced.
Furthermore, if there are any disputes or complications regarding division of assets and debts, taxes, child custody and visitation, child support/alimony, and especially if your spouse has hired a lawyer, you need the experienced family law attorneys at Winegar, Wilhelm, Glynn & Roemersma who are intimately familiar with the court system and the laws of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and can ensure that your rights are protected.
16. Once a court issues a child support order, can the amount of support that is paid be changed?
The amount of child support is modifiable under certain circumstances and through a variety of methods. The simplest method is for the parents to agree to a change, but the court must still approve an agreed-upon change in order for it to be enforceable.
When there is no voluntary agreement, the party seeking the change must request a court hearing at which each side will present, usually through counsel, the reasons supporting and opposing the modification. The court usually will not grant the request unless there has been some fairly significant change in circumstances that justifies the change, such as a significant increase in either parent's income through a remarriage or job change or a substantial change in the needs of the child. Changes in the child support laws, too, may justify a change in previously issued orders.
Also, an increase in the cost of living can warrant an upward modification of child support, but generally these periodic increases are provided for in the original order so that the parties do not need to make repeated court appearances each time there is a significant change in the cost of living. Other anticipated changes that can be provided for in the original child support order include a reduction upon the emancipation of each child, an increase when a child enters college, or any other change based on an event that the parties anticipate and that will have an impact on need or ability to pay.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION FAQs
17. I was injured during an accident at work, what should I do?
In general, both New Jersey and Pennsylvania's Workers' Compensation Act operate as no-fault systems providing very specific benefits for anyone injured during the course of their employment. All employers are required under law to carry worker's compensation insurance, and coverage for their employees begins the moment they begin to work.
If injured on the job, make sure you report the injury to your employer immediately because a lengthy delay in reporting the injury can result in permanent loss of all benefits under the Act. Be sure to notify a supervisor, superintendent, human resources department, or anyone in authority at the employer's place of business. Simply reporting your injury to a co-employee will not satisfy this notice requirement.
Contact the experienced workers' compensation attorneys at Winegar, Wilhelm, Glynn & Roemersma for representation in order to help you file your claim correctly and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for your work-related injury.
18. Can my employer harass or fire me for filing a workers' compensation claim?
No. Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania law prohibit an employer from harassing or discharging an employee in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim. Your employer could become liable for additional damages in a separate civil lawsuit for retaliatory discharge or wrongful termination. If you have been fired or feel you are being harassed by your employer for filing a claim, contact the attorneys at Winegar, Wilhelm, Glynn & Roemersma immediately.
19. What type of workers' compensation benefits am I entitled to?
An employee or his/her dependents can receive workers' compensation benefits for an injury or death arising out of and in the course of employment. The employer or its insurance carrier must potentially pay for one or more of the following benefits:
(a) Medical Treatment - includes unpaid medical bills already incurred and necessary future medical treatment reasonably required to cure or relieve the effects of the injury.
(b) Temporary Total Disability Benefits - available to replace wages lost during the period of disability - payment of 70 percent of an employee's average weekly wage, not to exceed the maximum rate or fall below the minimum rate set by statute in effect during the year of accident
(c) Permanent Disability Benefits - available to injured workers after medical treatment is received if he/she experiences continuing pain or impairment on their lifestyle.
(d) Death Benefits - dependants can receive 70 percent of the deceased worker's wages.
CRIMINAL DEFENSE FAQs
20. I was just arrested. What should I do? Do I really need an attorney?
Remain silent. Do not speak to the police. Exercise your First Amendment right to remain silent. No matter what a police officer promises or possibly threatens you with, you are never required to speak to them.
Next, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the law, investigate your case, determine your options, formulate a defense, help you navigate the criminal justice process, and protect your rights.
There is great danger in not having professional advice from someone with specific knowledge, experience, and expertise to protect you and to ensure the best possible outcome. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney intimately familiar with criminal law, the justice system, the Rules of Court, and the Rules of Evidence can provide you with meaningful advice, answers, and guidance. The practice of criminal defense law consists of thorough legal research, factual investigation, as well as diplomatic and skillful negotiation with the prosecution.
21. Can I get the charges against me reduced or dropped?
In many cases, you can. This is where an experienced and knowledgeable defense attorney's skills come into play. Before you make any decisions about whether or not to accept any type of plea offer by the prosecution, you should have an experienced criminal defense attorney thoroughly investigate the particular facts and circumstances of your case. Your attorney can utilize the fruits of a successful investigation as bargaining chips to negotiate with the prosecutor for either a reduction or dismissal of the charges against you.
22. Shouldn't I just plead guilty to DUI if my breath/blood alcohol test results were over the legal limit?
No. High BAC test results are often completely irrelevant in formulating a winning defense. For example, if the officer violates your Constitutional Rights by stopping your vehicle without legally sufficient cause, the court is required to suppress all evidence seized subsequent to the stop, including the blood or breath test results. Furthermore, there may have been one or more errors during the chemical testing process that can only be uncovered after carefully investigating and analyzing the testing protocol and scientific results with a toxicologist or criminalist experienced in handling DUI cases. Alcohol testing is not always accurate. Procedural errors, faulty or improperly maintained equipment, improper testing methods are always a possibility in a DUI case. If you simply plead guilty based on the test results alone, you may be giving up your opportunity for a dismissal or reduction of the charges against you. This is precisely why you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to investigate your case and provide you with the best advice given the particular facts in your case.
23. Will filing for bankruptcy stop harassing phone calls from bill collectors?
Yes. Upon filing bankruptcy under any chapter of the United States Bankruptcy Code, an "automatic stay" goes into effect that will immediately get all creditors off your back. Creditors, including collection agencies and attorneys, are then required to immediately cease all further communication with you and may not take any further action to collect a debt from you.
24. What property might I lose if I file for bankruptcy? Will I lose my home?
One of the biggest worries you may face in considering filing for bankruptcy is the possible loss of your home. Although there are a few situations where you may lose your home, keep in mind that bankruptcy is not designed to put you out on the street.
In Chapter 13, you lose no property, but rather file a repayment plan with the bankruptcy court to pay back your debts over time. While your Chapter 13 plan is in effect, your creditors cannot contact you, sue you or repossess or foreclose on any of your property. Chapter 13 allows you to catch up on delinquent mortgage and motor vehicle payments.
In Chapter 7, you are allowed to keep all of your "exempt" assets. In most cases, this includes everything you own. However, if you owe money on your home or motor vehicle and want to keep these assets, you must reaffirm these debts and keep making your regular payments or, alternatively, you must pay the creditor the "fair market value" of the property.
PRODUCT LIABILITY FAQs
25. What is product liability? What do I need to prove in a product liability case?
Manufacturers and retailers are responsible for ensuring that the products they make or sell are safe for consumer use. State and federal laws provide remedies for victims of product defects. Defective products do not perform as can be reasonably expected or may simply be unreasonably dangerous as designed.
In cases where the victim was injured while using a product for a foreseeable intended purpose, the manufacturer or retailer is responsible. Examples of defective products include automobiles that are not crashworthy, defective tires, dangerous drugs, dangerous toys, and faulty industrial machinery.
In order to have a successful product liability case, you must prove that (1) the product was unreasonably dangerous or defective, (2) that you were injured from foreseeable use of the defective product, and (3) that the injury was caused by the product's defect.
CIVIL RIGHTS/EMPLOYMENT LAW FAQs
26. I am being sexually harassed at work. What should I do?
That answer depends on the nature of the sexual harassment.
If you have been subjected to a hostile work environment or if the harassment is quid-pro-quo, (A supervisor told you that a sex act would protect your job, or would get you a raise or promotion), you should contact an attorney right away because you likely have an immediate cause of action against the company.
However, remember that only individuals with supervisory authority over a worker can engage in quid-pro-quo harassment, since it requires the harasser to have the authority to grant or withhold job benefits. If a hostile work environment exists or quid-pro-quo harassment by a supervisor occurs, the employer is strictly liable. This means that the victim does not need to prove that the employer knew or should have known of the harassment or the hostile work environment.
If you are being sexually harassed by a co-employee, you should immediately report the harassing conduct to a supervisor or someone else in your company who has authority to do something about it. If your company/employer refuses to take the claim seriously, you should contact an attorney for advice or file a complaint with the appropriate government agency. Do so as quickly as possible, as federal law and many states have strict time limits for seeking relief.