During my initial consultation with a potential personal injury client, the fundamental question that I'm thinking about during our first conference is whether or not I can bring any VALUE to their case as their attorney. In many cases, the answer is "no." That doesn't mean I don't want to help the injured client or I won't offer them my advice....it just means that if I take the case and act as their attorney, it won't do them much good. In fact, in some cases, bringing a lawyer on board can complicate matters and result in a negative financial result for the client. Some lawyers will take almost any case if they feel they can make some money....they unfortunately do not consider whether doing so would be helpful to the client.
Here is a perfect example of how this usually happens. A client will come into my office and present me with a property damage estimate of less than $1000. Upon further inspection, we realize that less than half of that estimate is for "parts" and the rest is for "labor." Furthermore, photos show minor damage to the car and now the client comes to me expecting me to perform some kind of "magic" for them. In some cases, they fought with the adjuster and now they've come to me. Truth is, no matter what I do, the insurance company for the responsible party is going to treat their case as a "MIST" claim. MIST stands for "Minor Impact Soft Tissue." As such, insurance companies rarely offer much money on these kinds of cases unless the client's case is very unique in some way. Some insurance companies have a policy where they don't offer any more than $500 to $3000 on MIST cases, no matter what. If you have minor property damage, you're going to get a small offer. That's just the way it goes.
Every so often, a jury will disagree with the insurance company, but in most cases, the insurance companies know that juries are stingy and won't give much money to the injured party either. The insurance companies are banking on the fact they are probably going to win 80% of the minor cases that go to trial.
Therefore, if I can't bring any value to the case, I generally won't get involved. I tell the clients, "If I take a third of your recovery as my fee (which is a common attorney's fee), then you will be left with little to nothing after this case is done." In these cases, I generally give the clients some tips about how to resolve their case without a lawyer. Remember, if I can't bring value, then I'm reluctant to get involved.
Keep in mind that all cases are different and unique, so you should take this blog post (and anything else you read on the internet) with a grain of salt. At least talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer and get some advice. That way, you can make an educated decision. In some cases, you may even want to get two opinions just to make sure.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.