A personal injury case is not the lottery!
There are some people out there who still believe that a personal injury case is going to make them rich! Like they’ve hit the mother lode – won the lottery. I have bad news – You’re not going to get rich from your personal injury case. This is a huge myth that needs to be dispelled immediately. The law allows adequate compensation – the law doesn’t say you will be able to retire due to a personal injury case. That’s not to say some people don’t collect significant amounts, but that’s because their case is worth a good deal of money – not because they won a lottery of some sort!
If you didn’t get hurt, don’t bother bringing a personal injury claim.
Sometimes some people believe that just because there was an accident, they are entitled to some kind of compensation. Without any damages, you can’t simply collect money.
I’m reminded of a fellow who slipped at McDonald’s. I asked him if he was hurt. He said, “No, I’m fine. My pants got a little wet, but otherwise, I’m fine.” I told him that without an actual injury or lost wages, he doesn’t have a case. I have clients who call and say there was a bug in their fast food sandwich, but they weren’t hurt by it. Again, no case there either! Simply because something happened to you doesn’t mean you have a personal injury case to pursue. Life happens every day. Sometimes bad things happen and we simply move on with our lives.
There are still clients who don’t understand, so I give them the following example which seems to help: Imagine if I went to your home and slipped on your lawn. I wasn’t hurt, but I knock on your door and demand $10,000 from you! Are you going to pay me if I wasn’t hurt? Probably not.
One of the most difficult things that I do as a lawyer is managing the expectations of my clients. This is especially challenging on personal injury cases.
Everyone remembers the famous TV commercial where an accident victim says, “Larry Parker got me $2.1 million!” Of course, most people did not notice the man saying this famous expression was most likely sitting in a wheelchair after having been paralyzed by a car accident. When a client comes into my office regarding a car accident case, I have to make sure they don’t have dollar signs in their eyes. Recovering from an auto accident case does not involve becoming independently wealthy, obtaining a shortcut to retirement, or any other way to beat the system.
What the Law DOES Provide
The law provides compensation for reasonable medical expenses that were incurred due to the accident. These are called special damages or economic damages. In addition to this, in most cases, people can recover general damages or “non-economic” damages. This is also sometimes known as pain and suffering damages. Focus has to be on the word reasonable.
What is “Reasonable”?
Clients who have $10,000 worth of medical bills are often surprised the insurance company for the other party doesn’t believe the treatment they received was worth $10,000. In fact, insurance companies routinely examine every single charge from the doctor and hospital and test each entry for “reasonableness.” They will compare each charge to what they believe is reasonable in that particular region of the country.
In many cases, they use software to assist them with this task. The trouble is, some insurance adjusters do not exercise enough judgment and place too much trust in such software. In some cases, it is the luck of the draw! Some adjusters are simply more reasonable and open minded than others. Some make it their mission to make your life miserable. Others see the forest from the trees.
So keep in mind, recovering monetary compensation in a personal injury case is not anything like winning the lottery. You need to get that out of your head. If I sense that my client is trying to get rich from an accident, I will probably not accept their case. They need to understand that the law is simply designed to attempt to make them as whole as possible. It will never be a pleasant experience. I tell my clients all the time, “You’re not going to walk out of this experience saying, Gee, wasn’t that terrific! I wish I could do that again!”
Some of my clients are “reluctant” to bring any kind of lawsuit. They come to my office for a consultation and explain, “Look, I don’t want to cause any kind of trouble. I even feel funny about coming to you.”
First of all, if you’ve been involved in a serious car accident, there is nothing to feel funny about. If someone was negligent and caused you injury, you don’t need to be super-polite to your own detriment. There is nothing to be ashamed of…if you were injured, you deserve compensation.
However, it is natural to sometimes feel that way. An experienced personal injury attorney is not about revenge or “sticking it” to anyone! A good lawyer is honest and works for people to secure what law allows when clients have been injured by someone else’s carelessness. Remember it is what the law allows! We are working within the system. The system was designed to protect victims.
Most personal injury lawyers work hard to make their clients happy and to recover as much as they can for them. Of course, a good lawyer will also set realistic expectations. They should not promise you the moon just to get your case.
I once had a client who didn’t “want to sue anybody!” It was basically “against his religion” to bring any kind of claim against anyone. Truthfully, that is pretty noble versus some folks who want to sue everyone all the time. Unfortunately, he had fallen due to the negligence of another, and he re-tore his rotator cuff as a result. Now he had a serious rotator cuff injury. Well, now he is facing surgery as a result of this incident, and his shoulder is causing him tremendous pain on a daily basis. He was supposed to be enjoying his retirement but now he is in great pain every day. Because he tried to “tough it out” and didn’t want to “bother anyone” with a claim, he made no mention of the accident to his doctors. Now the insurance company for the guilty party is denying the claim, arguing the accident never happened because my client did not mention it to his doctors. Truth is my client was “old school” and didn’t want to report his injury claim because he didn’t want to be “a bother.” He was a really nice fellow who didn’t want to take advantage of the system. However, the system isn’t fair and he should be compensated!
If you have an accident, don’t be ashamed to bring a claim. That is why responsible people carry insurance – to compensate those they inadvertently injure! That’s exactly why you should bring a claim if you have an honest injury. Keep in mind you are not “suing” anyone immediately anyway. Most of the time, your case will be settled during the pre-litigation phase, well before any lawsuit has been filed.
Some clients have the wrong idea. They believe the personal injury case is like winning the lottery. They believe there is no possible downside. While it is true, a lawyer usually doesn’t take a “fee” unless there is a recovery, there are COSTS that cannot be ignored. You MAY be on the hook for those costs if things don’t all work out in the best possible manner.
Here is an example: When I used to work as a defense lawyer for the insurance companies, we would often make offers on cases. In one case I remember vividly, plaintiff Vivian was offered $3500 prior to trial. It was a “take it or leave it” offer that she declined. Without getting into all the legal mumbo jumbo about this offer, she ended up owing the defense thousands of dollars because a jury ended up awarding her less than the $3500 we had offered. Some lawyers fail to inform their clients of this harsh reality. The defense can technically make you an offer, and if you reject the offer, you MAY be on the hook for their costs in defending the case. I have simplified the process for purposes of this article but the point remains – If you’ve been involved in a car accident or other injury case, you need to understand that you haven’t won the lottery. You are entitled to reasonable compensation – economic and non-economic if the situation warrants it. However, don’t listen to lawyers who promise you millions of dollars only to get you to sign up with them. They are usually afraid to tell you how these lawsuits really work. They need to advise you of the pros AND cons of proceeding with your case.
I have too many years of experience handling these kinds of cases. I’ve learned that you MUST be candid with your clients. They really need to know what they are getting into and what the potential upsides and downsides might be. If you want a candid and realistic approach to your personal injury case, please feel free to contact me for a free personal injury consultation. If you want some lawyer to promise you the moon, then I suggest you continue your search for a personal injury lawyer. I will always be realistic and candid with you. I will make you aware of all the fees and costs. My clients appreciate that.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.