One of the first questions that new client’s ask after describing their situation is whether they have a case, and if so, what it is worth. To give a completely accurate answer about what a case is worth requires a significant amount of information, much of which is acquired during the litigation process.
At the early stage of the initial client interview it would require a crystal ball to give a completely accurate answer. That said, to give a client an idea about what their case is worth there are several elements that have to be taken into account. Note that each of these elements is a gigantic legal topic, the surface of which is only scratched here. If any specific question comes to mind after reviewing this information, feel free to give Savary, APC a call to get answers.
Liability is a fancy legal word for “Responsibility”. In order for there to be a “case” the first step in the analysis is whether someone did something “wrong”. Now oftentimes this element is a no-brainer because the other person may have “rear ended” your vehicle. This is relatively clear liability.
In many situations one will hear the term “liability is disputed”, which means that, rightly or wrongly, the person who did the wrong is claiming either they did not do anything or wrong, or more commonly, that the injured person somehow contributed to their own injury. This concept of “comparative fault” will be argued by the insurance companies in almost every conceivable situation and needs to be viewed quite skeptically.
Regardless of the intricacies of the liability arguments, there is nothing that Savary APC hasn’t seen before. A frank discussion about the facts of the case at the first meeting is the best way to start preparing to meet the arguments that will be raised by the responsible party.
The second element of a personal injury “case” is “damages” which is a fancy word for the “harms” that have happened to someone. There are several different types of harms, the most common damages in a personal injury case are; medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Medical bills. The scariest part for many injured individuals is how to pay for the doctor and hospital bills they incurred for treatment arising from the accident. This is a potential source of stress and anxiety. A personal injury lawyer doing their job will take this stress and anxiety off the client’s shoulders by dealing directly with the medical providers for you.
Property Damage. In many car accidents the at fault party’s insurance company will step up and pay for the property damage. This seldom happens without some challenges being presented, such as a low ball offer or unnecessary delay. These issues require attention and follow up and this is an area a personal injury attorney can be of assistance in.
Lost wages. Another very stressful element of a personal injury case is the inability to work. The loss of income is something that can and should be paid by the at fault party. Proper documentation and tracking of these figures is a key to properly pursuing a personal injury case.
This element is another favorite of the insurance companies. Like it sounds, the causation element requires a “causal connection” between the at fault party’s actions and the harms of the injured party. Often this is obvious, for example when someone goes to the doctor immediately after being rear ended. A scenario where it is much more of an issue is when someone who is older has surgery months or years after the accident occurs. The defense lawyers love to argue that the person would have needed the surgery anyways and the accident didn’t cause the need for surgery. Again, knowing that these defenses are out there from the outset is necessary to properly prepare a personal injury case for success.
Each of the above factors must be present to determine the value of a case. The stronger or larger each of the elements are the larger the value of the case. By way of rough example, someone who is injured in a rear end auto accident and has surgery the same day has a case with a significant value. Compare that with someone who has a ‘he said – she said’ intersection accident (disputed liability) and only goes to the doctor once, a month after the accident, and one can hopefully see the difference.
All that said it is imperative that you speak to a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney who can properly evaluate your case in all respects. The above is a rough guideline to case value and is not a comment on any specific case. You should call Savary APC today to get a free confidential evaluation of the specific facts of your case to determine whether you have a “case”.