INJURED VICTIM CALLS ME AND ASKS “DO I HAVE A PERSONAL INJURY CASE?”
I will frequently get phone calls asking “do I have a personal injury case?” Of course, this is a very important question. I begin by asking the potential client the particular facts of his or her personal injury case. If the facts are not good and I do not think that I can settle or win the case, then the answer to “do I have a personal injury case” will be probably not. If the facts make out a case for liability or fault on the part of the wrongdoer and that fault causes the potential client’s injuries, then the answer to “do I have a personal injury case” is probably a “yes”.
EVERY PERSONAL INJURY CASE IS DIFFERENT IN SOME WAY
There are no two identical personal injury cases. “Do I have a personal injury case?” takes some work on the part of your potential personal injury lawyer. Your potential personal injury lawyer must thoroughly go over the facts of your case, must visit the scene of the accident to get a true picture of the facts, and must interview the potential client and any witnesses to the potential client’s accident. This is all necessary for the experienced personal injury lawyer to create a good answer to “do I have a personal injury case?”
EVERY PERSONAL INJURY IS DIFFERENT
Every person who is injured in whatever type of accident will sustain his or her unique set of bodily injuries. If someone is injured in a car accident, then that person may have “whiplash” and other soft-tissue injuries. Another person in a similar car accident may have more serious injuries like facial lacerations, concussion and broken bones or fractures. Every injury is different depending on the particular person and even depending upon their prior accidents and prior injuries.
In that every injury is different, your personal injury lawyer must make sure that your injuries justify the answer to “do I have a personal injury case”. For example, a broken bone or concussion are injuries that merit great attention on the part of your lawyer and on the part of the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Now, if someone is injured due to the fault of another, and suffers a broken fingernail, then that case would not merit a personal injury lawyer’s attention.
The answer to a broken fingernail case would of course be “no” to “do I have a personal injury case”? It is not that a broken fingernail is not worth some money if the other side is at fault, but since it is not a serious injury and not permanent, most personal injury lawyers would not ever take such a minor case with such a minor injury.
SOFT-TISSUE INJURY CASES
A personal injury lawyer may similarly analyze a soft-tissue injury case like a “whiplash”. A “whiplash” case does have merit, but some personal injury lawyers do not take these types of soft-tissue injury cases as they are more difficult to prove from a causation standpoint. It is much harder to prove a injured victim’s “whiplash” injury than it is to prove a fracture injury case. You can readily see a fracture on X-Ray and everyone usually thinks that a fracture is a very serious injury. When it comes to soft-tissue injuries, these are injuries that you cannot see on X-ray. You have to believe that the injured victim is telling the truth and is in pain.
Another reason that some personal injury lawyers are not eager to take soft-tissue injury cases is that they do not feel like the potential money settlement justifies their precious time. Since I like to help everyone, even those with minor injuries, I usually take the smaller cases, the “whiplash” and soft-tissue injury cases. Most personal injury lawyers know that these type of cases settle for between $6,000-$15,000, so they may not get too excited about that type of settlement.
Some personal injury lawyers only accept “big” personal injury cases with serious injuries (like fractures/broken bones, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, death, etc.) You need to make sure that your potential personal injury lawyer is optimistic and excited about helping you no matter how minor your injuries may seem.
EVERY PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER NEEDS TO STUDY THE LAW BEFORE ANSWERING THE QUESTION: Do I have a personal injury case?
A personal injury lawyer cannot answer the question: Do I have a personal injury case unless he or she looks at 3 elements.
These 3 elements are liability, causation and damages.
LIABILITY OR FAULT
First, there must be liability which means there must be someone at fault. If there is no liability, then there is no case. For example, if you are driving down I-25 and veer off the highway and hit a tree due to no fault of another, then there is no liability and there is no at fault party to pursue. However, if you veered off the highway because another driver fell asleep and pushed you off the highway, then there is said to be “clear” liability and that other driver is “liable” or at fault. The first thing that you need in order to have a successful personal injury case is good liability where the other party is at fault for your accident and injuries.
The second element of a solid personal injury case is causation. If the other driver or at fault party did not “cause” your injuries, then the case stops there and you must take care of your injuries and medical bills yourself. The at fault party must have “caused” your injuries for that party to be responsible or liable. Liability and causation are the hallmarks of a personal injury case and without both of these elements, then it does not matter how badly you are injured and the answer to do I have a personal injury case is going to be “no”.
The last element of a solid personal injury case is whether or not you have suffered injuries and financial damages. If you have the first two elements and have suffered injuries, then you can recover money damages in the State of Colorado. Thus, the answer to “do I have a personal injury case” is a solid “yes”.
Colorado used to be a no-fault or PIP state, but changed to a fault state as the legislature thought this would save money and cut down on the number of lawsuits. Of course, it has had the opposite effect and things were arguably better for injury victims when Colorado was a no-fault state. In any event, the more severe your injuries, the more money that can generally be sought against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If you have relatively minor injuries, like “whiplash” your case will be worth less money, minor, soft tissue Why? The insurance companies still have a hard time believing in the validity of “whiplash” or soft-tissue injuries.
Some insurance companies will fight tooth and nail when you have this type of injury case and it generally does not make sense to file a lawsuit when your damages are less than $10,000, as court costs and litigation can eat up this amount of money.
It is normally better to settle your minor, soft tissue injury case without going to Trial as it is always a risk to let a jury decide your fate, especially with injuries that cannot readily be seen. On the other hand, if you have more serious injuries, like a fracture, head injury, permanent scarring, herniated disc (s), then it could be beneficial to litigate your case. But litigate only if the insurance company is not willing to settle, pre-suit in an amount that is reasonable given your exact injuries. It can take 1-3 years to litigate your case in order to force the insurance company to realize that your injuries and damages are worth what is being asked for.
A lot of cases do settle during the litigation process, in Mediation which is where you and your personal injury lawyer, along with the other side (the insurance company adjuster and maybe their lawyer) sit down with a neutral mediator and try to settle your case without spending more money in Court.
So as you can see, there is no easy answer to “Do I have a personal injury case?” Every case must be studied on its merits and any good personal injury lawyer will take the time to determine liability, causation and damages. If your potential personal injury lawyer does not take the time to do this, then find a personal injury lawyer that will!