Every so often I get a call from a prospective personal injury client who correlates the "bad" behavior of the responsible party with the value of their potential personal injury case.
For example, I got a call recently from a prospective client (Jennifer) who was rear ended in a mall parking lot. It was a low speed impact, and Jennifer was in mild discomfort. As it turns out, the responsible party (a young man in his 20s) was driving with an expired license and was rude to her at the scene of the accident. He wasn't a very nice guy.
Apparently, he also refused to provide Jennifer with his insurance information at the scene because, in his estimation, the accident was so "minor" and there was no visible damage to either car. However, after much heated discussion, he offered to pay for the damage himself because he did not want to "involve" the insurance companies. Jennifer felt he was hiding the ball and wasn't being honest with her. He reluctantly gave her his insurance information when she threatened to call the police.
She told me, "I can't believe this guy! He didn't want to give me his information...he was driving without a proper license...and he was rude to me! He probably doesn't even have insurance on top of that!" I told Jennifer that I understood her frustration. However, her focus on his "bad" behavior, while understandable, was probably irrelevant to whether or not she had a claim for personal injury worth pursuing. I explained, "Jennifer, I understand your concerns but whether or not the other party was mean to you, had no license, cussed at you, doesn't go to church on Sundays, or is rude to his own mother has very little to do with your case."
At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is this:
(1) Was he at fault?
(2) Were you injured?
(3) What is the likelihood of proving the injury to the satisfaction of a jury or insurance adjuster?
(4) Is there insurance available from the responsible party? If not, then is there "uninsured motorist" coverage? Is it worth going after him personally in court?
Jennifer was so focused on his rude and irresponsible behavior that she lost sight of the facts that actually matter most. She just wanted him to "pay for his actions." She wanted me to essentially "go after" this guy and "punish" him for his misdeeds! I explained that unless we can show he was drinking while driving (arrested at the scene) or doing something totally crazy, then our chances of seeking "punitive" damages (damages designed to punish someone for their actions) are little to nothing. Even though it might be a factor, his insurance company is not likely going to pay "punitive" damages. They don't cover him for that.
In most cases, if the responsible party admits fault, their "bad" or reprehensible behavior at the scene of an accident is generally irrelevant, even if it makes you angry or upset. Just because someone was a jerk at the scene of an accident, or was driving with an expired license, or doing anything else that was "bad" in your opinion, doesn't mean your case is necessarily worth pursuing. For example, if you got rear ended but there is minor or little property damage, then your case is probably not worth pursuing even if the defendant was the biggest jerk in the world at the scene.
It is certainly understandable to be upset with the responsible party for causing the accident, and especially being upset if they weren't obeying the law or were rude to you. That is a perfectly legitimate human response. However, when all is said and done, the focus should be on two things - liability and damages. Without clear liability and significant damages, discussing the bad or rude behavior of the responsible party won't get you very far with most juries and insurance companies. If the responsible party admits to causing the accident, his/her behavior after that won't matter much in most cases.
If you want more information or need help with your personal injury matter, please call our office at (661) 414-7100. We will let you know if we can help with your accident case.
VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: Hello everybody, my name is Robert Mansour. I'm a lawyer in the Los Angeles area, and one of my areas of practice is personal injury. One of the questions that I get at the very beginning of many cases is the client will call or they'll show up to my office and they'll say, “How much is my worth? How much can I get?” Usually, that's a warning sign. That's a client who might be thinking dollar signs, and that's not usually a good fit for me.
I tell the client, “Look. I don't know how much your case is worth. You just had the accident a couple of days ago. We don't know the nature and extent of all of your injuries. We don't know whether or not you're going to have any residual problem from the accident. We certainly have no idea how much your medical bills amount to, how much your future medical bills might be. We still don't even know if this has had an effect on your job or not whether you lost money from work, et cetera.”
Also, there are subjective issues that have to do with car accidents what's usually called pain and suffering. That's a little bit more intangible, and everyone's case is kind of different. For example, I had a case where my client was involved in a car accident. His economic bills were not that high, but he missed his father's funeral as a result of the accident. So here's a fellow on his way to his dad's funeral. Accident happens. He misses his own dad's funeral. That is very, very severe.
I had a case where an elderly lady loved to do gardening, and because of the accident she was no longer able to get on her knees and do gardening in her yard. This was a very big deal for her because she was losing something that meant a lot to her. She really enjoyed that hobby. So there are sometimes intangible factors that have to do with the value of the case.
Also, there's really no ledger of value of body parts. You can't just go and say, “Well, you hurt your hand. That's $35 or $35,000 or $10,000. You hurt your hip, you hurt your eye, you hurt your this.” There's no such schedule of pricing. There's no open market for body parts that we can use to kind of figure out what the value of your case is going to be. So a lot of it has to do with how the case progresses as well as intangible factors and then, of course, there's the issue of the insurance company that you're dealing with.
Sometimes there are issues such as insurance policy limits. You can't get any more from the other party because they don't have enough insurance. You may or may not have enough insurance at your end. Also, keep in mind that there are liens that might be placed on your case. For example, your health insurance company might expect to be repaid. Your car insurance company, if they've paid anything out they might expect to be repaid. Any doctors we might hire to assist us in your case, they expect to be repaid, and that might affect your final number.
As you can see, it is very difficult to just give people a number in the very beginning and say, “Your case is going to be worth x.” Frankly, that is a warning sign. I had a client one time. He showed and he says, “Listen. I'm not going to get involved in this unless you can guarantee me that I'm going to walk away with $15,000 in my pocket.” I said, “Well, we're not going to be able to work together because I cannot guarantee you that nor can I even speculate about that at this point.”
So, for me, generally the clients who come to my office are clients who don't have dollar signs in their eyes. They're not there because they think they won the lottery, but it is a question that does cross people’s minds. There's nothing wrong with knowing that all of these various factors go in to determining the value of your case.
Again, remember, you're always going to think your case is worth more than the other party's insurance adjuster is going to think. You're always going to think your case is more than perhaps 12 people in a jury box are going to think. In any event, I appreciate you stopping by and watching this video segment. Again, my name is Robert Mansour, and thank you very much for watching.
Please call (661) 414-7100 for a free case evaluation. We serve all of Santa Clarita and its communities of Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Castaic, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Palmdale, Lancaster, etc.
Some people get into a car accident and think they've won the lottery! They expect lots of cash to roll their way. However, reimbursement and compensation in personal injury cases often doesn't live up to the tall tales some may believe. Years ago, I actually had a client who thought her sprained neck was going to get her $250,000. After this encounter, I make sure my clients have reasonable expectations about their personal injury case.
I'm not really sure why some clients have such unrealistic expectations about their personal injury cases. Perhaps they've heard stories from others who got a lot of money or perhaps they've watched one too many late night TV commercials from attorneys who make personal injury cases look like some kind of lottery system. I suppose the average personal injury cases don't make the news, so people naturally aren't aware of them. They hear about the occasional person who recovers millions from McDonalds for spilled coffee. Without knowing more about such cases, they figure THEIR case must be worth a great deal too.
The trouble is there are still some people out there who think their personal injury case is their path to riches. Your accident case is NOT your lottery ticket, NOT your pension plan, and NOT a retirement plan. If you have unreasonable expectations, you need to reevaluate your position and talk to an experienced attorney who will give you reasonable expectations. Don't go to any lawyer who will tell you what you want to hear.
Attorney Robert Mansour handles personal injury cases in Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic, Palmdale, Lancaster, Northridge, Chatsworth, and surrounding communities. If you want a candid assessment of your personal injury case, call (661) 414-7100 for a free consultation.
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.
Hi, this is Robert Mansour. There are five common mistakes I see in personal injury cases that I want to share with you.
The first one: Giving far too much information to the adjuster during that very first phone call. Not a very good idea.
No. 2: Failing to take pictures of all the vehicle damage, injuries, etc. You’ve got to document those things.
No. 3: Waiting too long to go to the doctor if you’ve been injured. The longer you wait, the more the insurance company is going to say that you had no injury whatsoever.
Also, not mentioning your injuries to the doctor. You go to the doctor but you forget to mention something or you figure you’re going to tough it out and not say anything to the doctor. A very common mistake.
Finally, you have to have reasonable expectations when it comes to your personal injury case. This is not the lottery. No one is going to get rich. It’s all about fair compensation.
If you have any questions about this or anything else, please contact my office. Thank you.
Don’t hire the lawyer who promises you the highest recovery for your personal injury case.
Some clients will “shop” attorneys to see who guarantees them the biggest result. Lawyers who guarantee you any kind of result are simply trying to get you to become their client. There is no way to predict how a personal injury case is going to unfold. A lawyer can give you an “idea” but don’t just pick a lawyer because he/she says your case is worth more than the last lawyer told you. Get a lawyer who’s going to be honest with you. There are some honest lawyers out there….I promise!
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.