Sunday, August 9, 2009

I Was Injured In An Auto Accident--What Is My Case Worth?

Last week I met with a potential client who was injured in a collision. She had met previously with another attorney, who told her at the initial meeting what her case was worth. The client was rather taken aback by this (which is why she came to see me), and I don't blame her. After over twenty years of handling Ohio auto and trucking personal injury cases, I'm still amazed when I hear from clients that other attorneys have told them what their case is worth over the phone or at the first meeting. This is wrong, premature, and is often the byproduct of ignorance or arrogance.

Every person's case is like a fingerprint--each one is unique. Evaluating a case involves reviewing a litany of information such as the accident report, the client's medical treatment records, the client's past medical history, his or her recovery or prognosis, and all other relevant information. This process takes time, and often can't be completed until the client is finished with medical treatment.

What's more, any injury claim will often take on a life of its own. Like life in general, some cases will get better over time and some get worse. Here's a perfect example. Sometimes clients will be involved a horrible collision, like a rollover. Some will initially be stiff and sore and bruised all over. Many suffer neck or other orthopaedic complaints. Some of those orthopaedic problems require extensive follow up treatment. On the other hand, some clients, because of good genes, good pre-accident health, or sheer luck, will make remarkable recoveries with very little treatment.

You never know how or when you'll recover until after the passage of some time. That's why it's presumptuous for personal injury attorneys to presume in all knowing fashion at the initial meeting that they know what your claim is worth because they've "seen this before." Your case value should be based upon the unique facts of your case, and not what your neighbor or Uncle Willie settled his case for three years ago.

At the right time, you should be told a monetary range of what your case is worth. The initial client meeting is the wrong time. But hey, if you want to choose an attorney who can tell you in drive thru fashion what your case is worth, that's your choice. Just remember that with any drive thru, sometimes they mess up your order...

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