What is my case worth? This is one of the questions that we hear most often. Many of our clients just want to know how they are going to get their medical bills paid and what they are going to do about the wages they are losing. Some of them have already been stressed out by the tough economic times and now suddenly, things have become even tighter. The question may not even really be about right now, but may be just as much about the next week, month or even years down the road. How am I going to pay my mortgage when I can’t work? So they ask what the case is worth.
I wonder how other lawyers answer the question, especially since the answer is usually not available at the time people are looking for a lawyer. There are effects of the injury, what the doctor says and unfortunately it truly does depend on the coverage. The clients want some certainty at this time. The easy thing would be to just throw a number out there. But, they don’t come to us at an easy time and they don’t hire us to take the easy way out. The truth is often we don’t know at the start of a case. You are actually better off if it’s less money and you get better. Those are actually our happiest former clients. But, if you are hurt long term, we know how to present your case in the best light.
It is the difference between hiring a law firm that understands how to evaluate your loss vs. hiring a plaintiffs claims adjuster. It may not be fast , but we will look at your case and present it in the most comprehensive light.
We regularly meet with potential clients who have been offered small sums as the insurance company works to get out of responsibility and to close the file. They know that there are a percentage of people who really need money, so they will prey on that group. In these economic times, it happens all of the time.
If you are facing that choice, please keep in mind:
– For a minor, there is no way that they can settle the case without Judicial approval. I’ve seen companies try to get around this, but it’s against the law.
– When the settlement discussions are going on, is the adjuster practicing law? Do they talk about:
- if you need a lawyer,
- about the value of the case,
- or present their version as to fault?
All of these get very close to giving you legal advice. We do it and we need to follow up with information on the statute of limitations. The non lawyer does it and they are breaking the law. They also, intentionally or not, can be very very wrong.
– Most car collisions involve the tort thresholds in Minnesota. Basically, you need to have $4000 in medical expenses, a permanent injury or 60 days loss of enjoyment of life. You meet one of those and you have a claim for pain and suffering. You don’t and you have no claim other than the bills, wage loss and property damage. I look at the small offers this way. If you meet a threshold and have a permanent injury, is there any way that is worth that amount? If you don’t meet a threshold, well, what did you really lose by waiting and making sure?
– The insurance company wants a settlement quick. They often make their offer within days or weeks of the collision. While some cases can be evaluated at that time, usually it takes time to get a full view of your injuries and to also get through a year’s cycle. Is there something that you do in the winter or summer that will cause you problems? It’s worth waiting to make sure you can play softball or snowmobile without problems. The statutes of limitations were made longer so that you have the chance to see the affect of your injuries.
It’s always worth talking to a personal injury attorney to make sure you are aware of all of your rights. If the offer is fair, we will tell you. We also can give you proper legal advice and answer your questions.
Don’t make the mistake of undervaluing yourself. As we tell many of our clients, we may be smart enough to do some of the things you do with your daily job, but it’s doubtful we will do it completely right. Severe injuries are not the time to learn how to protect you and your family and most definitely not the time to take legal advice from the other side. Take your time and learn who and what is out there for help.
A founding partner with Bradshaw & Bryant, Mike Bryant has always fought to find justice for his clients—knowing that legal troubles, both personal injury and criminal, can be devastating for a family. Voted a Top 40 Personal Injury "Super Lawyer" multiple years, Mr. Bryant has also been voted one of the Top 100 Minnesota "Super Lawyers" four times.