When it comes to car accident cases, or other injury cases, there are times when involving an attorney doesn’t really add value to your case. When a client contacts my office, there are several things that I discuss with them. I would say at least 50% of the time, I tell the client they are better off without a lawyer. There are several factors that influence this advice.
First, if the property damage is not extensive, it is difficult to persuade a jury to give more than a few thousand dollars to the injured party. While the impact may seem huge to the client, it doesn’t matter what they think. All that matters is what an insurance adjuster or jury may think. If they have to squint to see the property damage, it’s going to be an uphill battle. If the dollar amount of the property damage estimate is low, people often think the impact was “minor."
Second, simple soft tissue injuries are a tough sell. Remember that all that matters is what an insurance adjuster thinks – or what a jury thinks. Since September 11th, juries don’t really care much for plaintiffs who complain of ‘soft tissue’ injuries. Most average people have aches and pains. Everyone is having a tough time with something. Some have financial troubles, family issues, illness, etc. Folks simply don’t have patience for others who complain of aches and pains from car accidents.
In my 18 years of practicing law, most were spent as a defense lawyer. I’ve handled dozens of trials, and I can only recall a handful of times when the jury awarded the plaintiff more than $3000 in a soft tissue injury case. In most cases, they awarded the plaintiffs a big fat zero!
Finally, if medical treatment has been delayed or inconsistent, I am reluctant to handle the case – regardless of the injury in most cases. Insurance adjusters and juries see delays in treatment as a liability. If you delay or have serious gaps in medical treatment, then your actions beg the question: How bad could your injuries be? If you were really hurt, you would have been more proactive about your medical treatment!
When clients call my office, I tell clients they might be better off without me, especially when you consider the typical one-third contingency fee in personal injury cases. If I know the recovery will be minor, why should I take 33% of the client’s potential recovery? That often leaves them in worse position. There are times when a client really needs help, even with a minor case. However, a good lawyer shouldn’t take every case that presents itself. It is our duty to tell clients of their options, and they can decide. However, there are times that I won’t take the case because it simply would be a disservice to the client. I just give them some advice and encourage them to get a second opinion.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.