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What is my Case Worth? (Injury just happened)
Injured accident victims often ask, during their initial interview with us, “What is my case worth?”
This is often an impossible question to answer at the initial interview. Suppose a 40 year old healthy man has just had his foot amputated in an collision that was not his fault. In this case we could say the damages are worth in the millions. Suppose the collision was caused by a WalMart truck driver. In that case, there is no limit to what is collectible from a jury award, so additional facts, such as lost income, past and present, complications of the injury, including psychological injuries, etc., would become relevant and could not be answered at the initial interview.
Now suppose the foot was amputated in a boating accident and there is no reason to suppose that the boater at fault is a wealthy man or has millions of dollars in liability insurance. But the at fault boat operator claims the tragedy was caused by some defect in the boat’s steering. Maybe there is a claim against a repair shop or the manufacturer of the boat. But this would be something that would be impossible to know at the beginning of the case.
More typically, a potential client comes in with a hurt back after being rear-ended in a collision. What is unknown at the initial interview is what an MRI will show about the back, and even how long and what kind of treatment the person will receive. Likewise, we do not know how much insurance the at fault driver has, or even if the insurance information the adverse driver provided the police is still accurate or if the policy was cancelled for non-payment. Many potential clients we see also don’t know what insurance of their they have. For example, do they have med pay and or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage? This is information that potentially affects the value of the case.
Some lawyers will over-promise on the value of the case on the theory that if the case turns out to have top-dollar value they have signed up a good case, and if the case turns out to worth less that the lawyer’s initial evaluation, the lawyer and the client can part ways or, more likely, the client will end up settling for the lower evaluation. We try to be honest at the initial interview and don’t over-promise just to sign up the case. Some of the factors that go into evaluating a case after the accident victim has been treated are discussed at:"How are Money Damages for Physical Injury Determined?"in the "Accident & Injuries" section of this website.