How to evaluate your personal injury case

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Working as an accident/injury attorney over the last two decades, the number one question clients ask me at the initial interview is “Do I have a case?”  The second most popular question is “What’s my case worth?”


Both questions are usually a good starting point for explaining to a prospective client some of the factors we rely upon when evaluating the value of a case. Think of a personal injury case as if you were playing the slots at the Hard Rock.  Your best bet would be to pull the handle and watch as 7 7 7 shows on the screen.  In an accident case, the 3 sevens correspond to liability, damages and whether the at-fault party has a deep pocket.


Liability

Liability has to do with who caused the accident.  Sometimes there are various percentages of blame to go around.  Many times, liability is not so cut and dry because there are no independent witnesses, both parties may share in the blame; the at-fault person left the scene; or the incident may have occurred through no ones fault.  In a typical case, a client will explain to the attorney his/her version of how an incident occurred.  The attorney then has to do some leg work to determine who caused the incident, whether there is coverage (a deep pocket) and the extent of the injuries sustained by the client.


Damages

Damages signify your economic and noneconomic losses.  Immediately after an incident, it is difficult to answer the true value of a case because the injured party just started receiving medical care for the injures sustained,  and at that stage; no one can predict how long your treatment is going to last, your prognosis and what future care you may require.  As noted above, damages are broken down into economic and noneconomic losses.


Economic Damages

Medical expenses for the acute phase of your injury through the date your physician believes you have reached a point of maximum medical improvement.  The future treatment anticipated by your medical provider over your lifetime as a result of your injuries and the amount its going to cost to take care of you over your lifetime.


Lost Wages

As a result of your injuries, has your ability to earn your pre-injury wages been affected?  How? Do you need to be retrained in order to get back in the workplace and obtain a job within your restrictions? (i.e.  A roofer of 20 years involved in an accident and can no longer do that work.  He/she must be retrained.)  Your economic loss would be the amount of time you are out of work, the expenses for your retraining as well as the changes in your pay until you reach a level where your earnings would be similar had you continued working as a roofer.  Economic losses also include out of pocket expenses that are related to your injuries, and the impact the accident has had on your financial situation; including property damage.


Non-Economic Damages

These types of damages are very hard to put a value on.  They include damages for your pain and suffering, mental anguish, humiliation; loss of enjoyment and loss of your quality of life.  Typically, noneconomic damages doesn’t equate to much monetary value unless you have undergone a procedure; have some real debilitating condition due to the accident and you can establish that the at-fault party did something reckless, tried to flee or tried to cover up something.

In summary, it is very hard to answer what your case is worth at its inception.  Be weary of attorneys telling you that they can get you a certain amount of money or friends telling you that they have a friend whose lawyer got him a truck load of money.  Each case is different.  Each defendant is different and each person who has the authority to settle a case is different.  Let the process work, ask lots of questions and comply with your attorney and medical provider’s instructions.  Listen to their recommendations, and that will take you a long way.


For more information about personal injury/accident cases, please call The Dickstein Law Firm at (954) 893-8000 or visit us on the web at www.flahurt.com.