Yesterday, we received a very typical call from a potential client. The man had been hurt in an automobile accident. During the call, he made a disclaimer: “I’m not the type to sue, but….” It was clear that he felt that calling a personal injury attorney is a shameful act made only by unscrupulous people trying to “game” the system and win the lottery. Little did he know that not only do we hear that disclaimer on nearly a daily basis, but also that personal injury law is anything but a lottery ticket.
It’s not surprising that people think of personal injury cases as a lottery. Everywhere billboards depict a delighted person jumping for joy that their attorney “GOT ME $1,000,000.” Often that billboard is close to another sign- one for a local casino. Together, these signs give the message is that personal injury attorneys help you to “win” a bunch of money for nothing and life will be great. To the ethical person, the false message is that contacting a personal injury attorney is dishonorable.
To begin, our attorneys have made multi-million dollar recoveries for individual clients, and the last thing these people feel is that they’ve “won” anything. To the contrary, a $1,000,000+ recovery is a terrible thing- it represents compensation for a devastating injury and a life permanently altered, ruined or lost. We have yet to meet a client who recovered $1,000,000 who wouldn’t give it all back in a heartbeat to have their good health back, or to get back the life or health of a loved one. The same is true for much lesser monetary recoveries. In our 50+ years’ combined experience, nobody who gets $1,000,000, or $350,000, is jumping for joy about it.
Nor do insurance companies just give money away. They fight hard. They are accountable to shareholders and pay what they deem appropriate- nothing more. So, in order to recover money on behalf of a client, we need to demonstrate to a scrutinizing insurance company that our client has been damaged by the careless acts of its insured and is entitled to compensation. Usually, this is no easy task.
From a financial standpoint, personal injury attorneys get paid a percentage of the recovery, and if there is no recovery we don’t earn a cent. We also front all costs, which in some cases can be in excess of $100,000. If there’s no recovery, we earn no fee and we also lose any time and money we’ve invested in the case. Needless to say, we, like all attorneys, have to be careful about how we allocate our resources.
What makes a viable case? First, there must be a significant injury. Injuries range from a “boo-boo” to death. If it’s a “boo-boo,” the case can be rejected. If it’s a permanent injury or death, then the next question is whether it was caused by the negligence (carelessness) of another person or company. A rear end collision is usually an easy case; a complex collision, a trip and fall, or a defective product injury is much more complicated and requires us to invest money for an expert opinion before we know whether there is a case. If the injury was caused by the client’s own carelessness, then it’s their own fault and there is no case.
So, the client says, “I’m not the type to sue, but…” and the question is, what’s the “but…?” The “but” may be one or more of the following:
- But… the medical bills are mounting and I can’t pay them;
- But… I haven’t been able to work since the collision or I lost my job because I couldn’t work;
- But… I have terrible pain and I thought it would go away but it hasn’t;
- But… I can’t do the things I used to be able to do because that person was texting while driving or was drunk or just wasn’t paying attention;
- But … I need money to pay someone because I can no longer do the housework without being in pain;
- But… that company knew about the problem with their product, didn’t fix it, and now I’ll never be the same;
- .. they knew of the hazard on their property and failed to fix it or warn me and now I’m hurt.
So, who is the “type to sue?” In our experience, there is no “type.” Instead, it’s someone who has been harmed by the carelessness or neglect of others, and needs to be compensated for the significant losses they suffer every day. It is people who were simply living their lives – working, picking up the kids, struggling to make ends meet- who, because of the thoughtlessness of someone else, is now forced to take legal action to try to get back some semblance of their earlier life.
If you are involved in a crash and want to know more about your rights please give us a call. All initial consultations are always free with no obligation. CUTLER RADER, P.L. can be reached at (954) 913-CASE (2273) or visit us at www.CutlerRader.com .