Clients’ Biggest Fears When They Come With A Personal Injury Case
In this article, you will learn:
- Significant concerns of clients during personal injury cases
- Why you may not have as strong of a case as you think
- Traits of a strong personal injury claim
Often, a client’s biggest concern is how they will survive on a day-to-day basis given this serious injury or condition. “I can’t go to work, I can’t take care of my children, I can’t, in some instances, move around freely. What am I going to do? How is this going to affect me? Am I going to be able to receive proper medical care? Am I going to be able to get some sort of resolution? Will I be okay?” The main concern that most clients have when they contact me in regard to a personal injury claim is their medical condition, how they are going to get better, and how long that may take. So, I tell my clients, the most important thing to do is to tend to yourself first, make sure that you get the right medical care, and take care of your medical injuries; we’ll take care of the legal issues.
I think that sets their mind at ease somewhat because they know they can concentrate on the issues that are limiting their lives, and I will help them with the legal concerns.
Why Everyone Injured In An Accident May Not Have A Viable Personal Injury Claim
Not everybody has a viable case, and many people come to me where I simply state, okay I can’t help you, for one reason or another because the economics of it don’t work for you, or because the fault or the liability that arises in the situation is so clearly against you that you’re going to have a very difficult case to prove. That does not mean that every time there’s a situation where there’s a question as to who is at fault that we would turn down that case. We will take on difficult cases, and we often take on these difficult cases and we attempt to dig beneath the surface and establish that the liability or the fault of the party isn’t as apparent as it would seem to be on the surface.
We’ll conduct an investigation, take a look at the scene and photographs, we’ll hire experts to determine if the fault lies in someone other than the injured party, and often, we will against the odds, reach a conclusion that the injured party is not at fault despite what appears otherwise. For example we just had a case that concluded recently, it was scheduled for trial, we were on the trial calendar, and the client was an elderly woman who was involved in a traffic accident with a police officer. The police officer had his siren going and his emergency lights on. Under Rhode Island law, once that’s activated, it would be up to us to establish that the police officer was not merely negligent which is the usual standard to find somebody responsible. We had to establish that the police officer acted in reckless disregard of a person’s safety.
So, the case was initiated about three years ago, and we went through the discovery process and unfortunately, the plaintiff client was found in violation of traffic safety laws for having failed to yield to an emergency vehicle, and that finding was going to be used against her at the trial. We still stuck with the case, and it wasn’t until recently after the police officer was deposed, after we conducted a very thorough discovery process, that we learned that the police officer himself had an internal affairs review, and the police department had found that the police officer was responsible for failing to exercise due care while he was passing the vehicles with the siren on. So the long and the short of that is that a case that had no apparent value from the outset, particularly after the client was found to be in violation of traffic laws, turned out to have a significant value, and we were able to resolve a claim with a settlement that was very satisfactory to the client.
So, cases that appear to be difficult or not worthy of bringing oftentimes need a further exploration. On the other hand, there are cases, without being flippant, I don’t think I would take a second look at.
What A Strong Personal Injury Claim Looks Like
A personal injury case is comprised primarily of two elements. One is liability, which refers to who is at fault in a particular situation, and the other aspect of a case are the damages that have occurred as a result of the incident. A strong case has good elements on both fronts. There is good liability, meaning that the fault of the other party is well established, and there are significant damages that warrant a strong recovery. That’s what a strong case looks like. So, any variation of that becomes a weaker case, and what an attorney who has been involved in this sort of practice, for as long as I have will look at is, a balance of what the liability is as compared to the damages. So, if you have a strong liability case without strong damages, that might be a case you would take because the liability is strong and there’s not going to be a huge economic cost to establish fault.
If you have a weak liability case, but you have significant damages, you might want to take a look at that even though the liability isn’t apparent, the damages may justify taking a deep closer look at this sort of case. That’s especially true in Rhode Island, because Rhode Island has what we call pure comparative negligence state. What that means is that in some states, if you are more than 50% at fault, you cannot recover anything, which is true in Massachusetts, where I also practice. In Rhode Island, however, if you are determined to be 80% at fault in a case, you’re going to be able to collect 20% of your damages. So even if there’s a question as to your responsibility or fault in a case, if you have strong damages, you may be able to make it worthwhile for your client to pursue a claim on the basis that you’re going to get a recovery, even if the client is primarily at fault.
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