Frequently Asked Questions

Automobile Accidents

What should I do if I've been involved in an auto accident?

If you have been involved in an auto accident, the most important thing you can do, besides tending to your injury and others in your vehicle who may have been hurt, is to obtain as much information that you can under the circumstances. This is especially true if it was someone else's fault and you think you may have suffered a serious injury. Visit our page on car accidents for more helpful tips on what kind of information is important for a negligence claim.

After taking care of your medical needs, it is helpful to contact an experienced New Hampshire personal injury attorney. We here at Van Dorn, Curtiss & Rousseau, PLLC stand ready, willing, and able to help all seriously injured negligence victims.

I was injured in a car accident and my car sustained very little visual damage. The other driver was at fault and their insurance company is denying my claim. They say because there was so little damage to the car, I am lying about my injury. What can I do?

Insurance companies will use many tactics to deny claims. Unfortunately, some juries will believe the insurance company when they claim that little damage equals no injury. However, there have been scientific studies to show that vehicle damage is not proportionate to injury. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true. Do not let the insurance company bully you out of getting the compensation you need. You should seek advice from an experienced personal injury attorney.

I was injured in a car accident and it was the other driver's fault. They didn't have insurance. What can I do?

It is likely that your own insurance policy will provide benefits. Many people don't realize that many car insurance policies have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. This coverage is required in both New Hampshire and Vermont. Your insurance company should cover your expenses, including all medical expenses and lost wages.

However, it is still an insurance company, and its adjusters may attempt to deny you coverage. If that happens, you may file a claim against your own insurance company. Typically, this is referred to as a "bad faith" claim. It asserts that the company acted unreasonably in its payout offer or in the denial of your claim for benefits. Our seasoned attorneys can take action on your behalf against unfair insurance company tactics.

I was in an automobile accident and the payout offered by the insurance company seems low. What should I do?

This is very simple: Get a lawyer. Insurance companies are notorious for protecting the interests of their shareholders over providing just compensation to deserving accident victims. Insurance companies offer low payouts at first to try to get the case settled with the least amount of loss as possible. After that, they will use their financial power and political clout to try to wait out your claim and force you into an unfair settlement.

You have already been the victim of a horrible accident. Don’t be the victim of a greedy and powerful insurance company! To get the award you deserve and to protect your rights, you will need an experienced team of legal professionals who are familiar with bad faith insurance company strategies and who will fight for the just compensation you deserve.

Personal Injury

What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is an issue when the person injured in an accident may bear some responsibility for causing the accident. An example of this would be a car crash where you are injured, but you were also partly responsible for the wreck. Say a jury awards you $100,000 for all of your damages, but finds that you were 20 percent responsible, and the other party was 80 percent responsible. You would receive $80,000 of the $100,000 verdict.

What is a contingency fee?

Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means the attorney isn’t compensated for their work unless they help you win a jury verdict or settlement award. Van Dorn, Curtiss & Rousseau, PLLC uses a contingency fee policy for all personal injury cases, whether it be a premises liability, medical malpractice, car accident, or dog bite claim.

What happens at the initial consultation with a personal injury attorney?

Generally, you and the attorney will begin by reviewing the facts of your case to determine what, if any, legal rights you may have. If the attorney determines there is merit to your claim and you decide to pursue, we will draw up a fee agreement for you to look over and sign. This document will detail in writing the distributions of any settlement award or jury award.

When I meet with a personal injury attorney for my first consultation, what information should I provide?

The more information you can provide about your personal injury claim, the better the attorney can assess your case. Bring with you whatever documentation you have regarding your claim including police reports, photographs, medical records, medical bills, and any other relevant information.

How much is my case worth?

The value of a personal injury claim is determined by a variety of factors. Most important is the nature and extent of the injury. The more serious the injury, the more the case is worth.

Some questions about the injury that affect value include:

  • Has the injury caused disability?
  • Has the injury caused disfigurement?
  • Was the victim hospitalized and for how long?
  • What medical treatments were necessary?
  • What are the medical bills?
  • Did the victim lose time from work? If so, how much time?
  • How long will the disability last?

Value is also impacted by liability. How obvious is it that the other party negligently caused the injury? If the liability (negligence) of the other party may be difficult to prove the settlement value of the personal injury claim may have to be discounted to account for the potential difficulty in proving the case.

Most cases must wait until the claimant reaches a medical endpoint before they can be evaluated for settlement. This means when the patient is released from treatment and the medical providers are able to predict a future course for the victim. The longer the consequences of the injury persist, the more value the case has. Evaluating a personal injury case for settlement is as much art as science. Turn to our skilled personal injury attorneys at Van Dorn, Curtiss & Rousseau, PLLC for guidance.

Am I eligible for a personal injury lawsuit?

Every personal injury claim has one recurring theme: negligence. Negligence is simply the failure to exercise the type of care that a reasonable person in society would exercise under the same circumstances. Personal injury lawsuits are quite frequent and range in scope from simple slip-and-falls to bodily damage caused by improperly assembled furniture to injuries sustained while on the job. Where a duty of care is established, a person or corporation fails to meet that duty, and injury results from this failure, then the case can potentially be heard in court. Meet with us for a free consultation. We can help you determine if you have a personal injury claim.

Wrongful Death

How do I bring a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death claim may only be brought by the personal representative of the decedent's estate. If the decedent had a will, the will may state who is to be appointed as the administrator, or personal representative of the estate. Otherwise, you would need to go to probate court and have a personal representative appointed. Generally, this will be a close relative of the deceased. However, laws vary from state to state. Read more on our wrongful death page, or schedule a free consultation.

What is a survival action?

A survival action is a type of wrongful death claim. This type of claim may be brought when the decedent does not die at the time of the injury causing event but passes sometime afterward. With this type of claim, the decedent's estate may bring action on the decedent's behalf to recover damages including pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages.

Medical Malpractice

My spouse recently died while being treated at a hospital. I think the hospital did something wrong, but the hospital won't release the medical records. What can I do?

Federal law mandates medical providers release a patient's records to the patient or their representative. Under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, medical providers can only deny the release of a patient's records in limited circumstances, and they must explain their reasons for the denial. If you are having trouble obtaining medical records you can contact the Department of Health and Human Services. Also, if you suspect a possible claim of medical malpractice and the medical provider refuses to release their records, it may be advisable to speak with an attorney. We offer free case consultations in these situations.

What are some types of medical malpractice?

There are many types of medical malpractice cases, but most of them fall into the following categories:

  • A doctor’s failure to diagnose
  • Failure to gain the patient’s consent
  • Surgical errors
  • Prescription errors
  • Negligence in diagnosing associated diseases

All of these types of medical malpractice can result in serious injuries and permanent disabilities that can cause the victim lost wages and employment opportunities, pain and suffering, and an overall decline in quality of life. If you or a loved one suffered malpractice in New Hampshire or Vermont, please contact Van Dorn, Curtiss & Rousseau, PLLC by phone at (603) 556-4148 or online to schedule a free consultation.

Is it true that legislators are attempting to limit medical malpractice recovery in New Hampshire?

Yes, but not only in New Hampshire. Physician lobbies are pushing for this reform on a national scale. In 2006, a massive restriction of tort recovery barely failed a vote in the U.S. Senate. While this effort ultimately failed, you can rest assured that the insurance companies and physicians will step up their efforts to block payouts in the courtroom by using bad-faith tactics and financial advantage.

Do not be a victim twice. If you have been the victim of medical malpractice, turn to professionals you know you can trust and who will put your best interests first. Van Dorn, Curtiss & Rousseau, PLLC will use the most respectable expert medical testimony available to establish you claim in court. We are not afraid to take on big insurance companies and doctors to get you the recovery that you deserve and we will not stop until you have had your fair chance in court!

Premises Liability

What is premises liability?

Property owners have a duty to keep their property safe or warn visitors of any hazards that may exist. If someone is injured on another's property because of unsafe conditions or inadequate warnings, the owner may be responsible for any damages that result. This duty is not limited to private house owners. Apartment landlords, hotels owners, and commercial building owners all have a responsibility to keep their property safe.

I was injured on someone else's property. Now what?

The most important thing you can do is keep records of everything relating to your accident. Keep track of any medical bills and expenses, take pictures of the scene and get a copy of any police reports, if applicable. You may also want to speak with an attorney, especially if the responsible party's insurance company refuses to pay for your damages and medical expenses.

Are hotels responsible for criminal acts that take place on their property?

Simply put, yes. Though the hotel may deny responsibility in the hopes that you just go away, the truth is that they are responsible for what happens on their property if they knew or should have known there were risks to their guests. Premises liability isn't just about slip and fall cases. Premises liability cases involve clients who have been victims of assault, robbery, gunshot wounds, or rape due to a property owner’s negligence in providing adequate security measures. Faulty alarm systems, insufficient lighting, and malfunctioning security gates all contribute to conditions that foster dangerous crimes and often result in critical injuries and, in the worst scenarios, death.

Our attorneys have litigation experience with these difficult cases. We design the best plan to prove negligence on the part of the property owner, a plan that includes the most expert testimony, and we secure jury awards that other law firms can’t compete with. That’s why other lawyers send these cases to us. Call Van Dorn, Curtiss & Rousseau, PLLC at (603) 556-4148 for counsel.

Dog Bites/Pet Attacks

What is the one-bite rule?

This means if a dog or pet owner's animal bites another person, they may not be liable for any injuries sustained in the attack. The logic behind this is that the owner wasn't aware that their animal was dangerous. If you were injured by a dog bite, our attorneys will dutifully explore the owner's potential liability.

How many people are bitten by dogs each year?

There are roughly 800,000 dog bites each year. One out of six results in an injury that requires some form of medical attention.

My child was bitten by a neighbor's dog and the neighbor refuses to pay the medical bills. What should I do?

It is often difficult for people to accept the fact that their beloved pet has done something horrible. Dogs, as well as many other domesticated animals, have become such an everyday part of our culture and lives that they are frequently considered a part of the family.

However, this does not remove any blame or liability from the owner of the animal. The simple fact of the matter is that pet owners have a responsibility for their pets and what their pets do. Every year in the U.S. there are over 4.5 million dog bites reported. Someone must take responsibility. We will pursue the compensation you deserve if your child has been bitten by a neighbor's dog.

General Legal Questions

Should I mediate my case?

Mediation is a valuable process that we recommend in many of our cases. It is an informal process that in no way binds you to an agreement. Rather, it is a negotiation process where the parties control the substance of the discussions and the scope of any agreement reached. It is beneficial in disputes where the parties have been unable to reach an agreement but have expressed a desire to settle without going to court. It is also beneficial even if you are willing to go to court.

During the mediation, all communications and information shared is confidential and will not be admissible should you have to litigate this dispute. Furthermore, mediation can avoid the costs and delays of litigation.

What should I expect to happen during mediation?

Generally, when you arrive at the mediation, the mediator will likely hold a joint meeting with all the parties, facilitating the discussion and setting out some ground rules to help structure the day. The next phase of the mediation will be a series of separate sessions where the mediator meets with you and your attorney to ask you questions and pose hypothetical situations. This is a chance for you and your attorney to explore your position and identify potential ways in which an agreement with the other party can be reached.

When the mediator is conducting separate sessions with the defense, you and your attorney will have a chance to speak privately. You can use this time to ask your attorney questions or voice concerns with how the mediation is progressing. You should not be surprised or discouraged if the mediator asks you to brainstorm some creative and possibly unrealistic settlement proposals. This is just a way to encourage all the parties to keep an open mind about the process. You are always free to reject or accept any proposal. Also, depending on how things unfold, the mediator may or may not propose specific suggestions for settlement.

Most importantly, remember that the mediator will play a neutral role in the mediation process. He or she will not have any power to decide the issues in this dispute. Rather, their role is to assist the parties in reaching a settlement. The mediator will structure negotiations and act as a vehicle between the parties. In this sense, they will serve as a facilitator, not a judge.

What are interrogatories?

Interrogatories are a formal set of written questions submitted by one litigant against the other as a step in the “discovery” or fact-finding process. Interrogatories are generally the first method used by your attorney during discovery and are commonly followed by depositions.

Interrogatories will only become a factor in your personal injury case if a formal suit is filed against the defendant. Skilled personal injury attorneys like the ones at Van Dorn, Curtiss & Rousseau, PLLC may be able to settle your claim for a fair and just settlement through negotiation and mediation without having to file suit. Therefore, not every personal injury client has to answer interrogatories.

If however, a suit is filed in your case, your personal injury attorney will use interrogatories to learn basic facts, identify witnesses and experts, and identify documents and other tangible things. This information will be very important at trial. If you receive a set of interrogatories from your attorney, you will probably notice that they are very broad, asking a wide range of questions. You may even ask yourself “why do they want to know that, it has nothing to do with the accident” or “are they allowed to ask me that?” Remember, interrogatories are used to get information about any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party.

What is a deposition and how should I prepare for mine?

Depositions are a type of “formal” discovery device (as compared to an informal discovery device like a private investigation). Depositions are taken after a suit has been filed in court and after interrogatories and all necessary documents have been collected. The reason for this is that interrogatory answers and certain documents (such as the police report) will be necessary to plan and execute an effective deposition.

Depositions are both expensive and time-consuming; however, they are a key part of your personal injury case. Depositions may be taken of any party or nonparty. They are necessary to interview certain witnesses such as the defendant because this may be the only time your personal injury attorney may interview the defendant prior to trial.

Depositions are also very useful in determining the credibility of potential witnesses, exploring what potential expert witnesses will testify to at trial, and by pinning down essential details and facts of your case. In fact, this may be the only time prior to trial that the defense attorney cannot directly control the responses of the individual being deposed.

Most likely your attorney will want to meet with you prior to your deposition. He or she will review the general format that the deposition will take and will answer all questions you have. Don’t be nervous, your attorney will be with you the entire time. Plus, remember you can always take a break during the deposition to speak your attorney.

Should I hire an attorney?

The answer is probably yes. Dealing with insurance companies can be tricky for someone who is not experienced in personal injury law. A personal injury attorney has more experience in valuing cases and negotiating with insurance companies for fair settlements. Also, without representation of an attorney, an insurance company is less likely to offer reasonable compensation for your injury. Without an attorney, they know you are not in a position to bring them to court. An attorney has the leverage to get them to pay a just settlement.

Still, there are some instances where an attorney may not be required. If your damages aren't that extensive, hiring an attorney won't make much sense. Still, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney before going it alone.

What is lost earning capacity?

Lost earning capacity is when a person is injured and no longer able to earn the same kind of money they made prior to their injury. For example, a skilled carpenter makes on average between $25 - $30 an hour. Now, because of their injury, they have permanent back problems and they cannot do the work they did prior to their injury.

As their attorney, we would send them to a vocational specialist who can measure their lost earning capacity. The specialist may determine the injured worker has lost 1/3 of their earning capacity. This can be a result of hiring an extra worker to do the heavy work. While the injured worker made $30 an hour before the injury, they can only make $20 an hour after the injury. With the help of an economist we would measure what that loss amounts to over the work-life of the worker and then we would come up with an amount that would represent the loss of earning capacity.

What is loss of quality of life?

Loss of quality of life is a measure of damages to compensate an injured person for the things they can no longer do as a result of the injury. An example of this would be an avid outdoors person who is injured and is confined to a wheelchair. That can be a tremendous loss for somebody.

Can I hire another attorney if I do not feel my current representation is sufficient?

We often get calls from personal injury victims who are dissatisfied with the level of service they are receiving from their attorney. If the caller has a valid gripe against their present lawyer, we will consider taking over their case.

The fact is, a client may change lawyers whenever they want to. The other attorney may have a claim for services rendered and any compensation received from a verdict or settlement; however, our firm will work out any fee disputes with the other attorney without the client having to pay extra fees.

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Backed by over a decade of collective experience, our seasoned attorneys can navigate personal injury victims through multiple legal matters.

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