Here is a question I get quite often and it comes in slightly different variations but the ultimate question is always the same. What is my case worth? The underlying question seeks a legal shortcut that will help them avoid having to hire a lawyer believing it will shorten the time needed to handle their case and get it settled in a week.
“What some laypeople fail to appreciate is how it’s not possible in every case to get the amount you have in your head.”
Every injured person wants to receive fair compensation and they expect to receive the maximum award that is humanly possible. What laypeople fail to appreciate is how it’s not possible in every case to get the amount you have in your head in a week’s time. Some laypeople for whatever reason can convince themselves of the impossible.
"My case is worth a million dollars because my case is different than the sixty trillion other personal injury cases coming before it! Because I have such a good case the insurance company will want to get this over with and pay me that amount. A good lawyer should know this." Then the dream ends and you should awaken...
There are two aspects of every personal injury case: liability and damages. And, along with liability considerations there is comparative fault that spreads responsibility and therefore may reduce the amount of damages you may receive. That’s how it is in personal injury cases, but in workers’ compensation there are so many variables that it’s not even possible to list them all in one sentence. Today I get this question about valuing a p.i. and a w.c. case. In this guy’s situation he’s trying to do it without a lawyer and that is the fastest and truest method of ruining a claim in either venue.
Let’s see what this guy wants me to prophesize about.
Question: How do I send a counter offer to an offer by my employer's insurance company I am willing to settle for?
Question Detail: DOI: 6-10-1982. I was pinched between a tractor & trailer as it was making a U-Turn to position itself to back into a shipping dock. My injuries were a puncture in my left upper leg and sprained ribs which are very similar to dislocated ribs. As a result of the sprained ribs, alignment in my neck and back was destabilized. The only effective treatment for the ribs and neck pain has been periodic adjustments by Chiropractors. They began on a regular basis for a couple years. For the past 15 years I have needed adjustments periodically for about 4-6 months, 1 - 2 times weekly for maintenance. As a result of the misalignment and destabilization, arthritis, disc erosion, scoliosis, and other related problems have settled in my back and neck. The destabilization of my back, neck, and now the pain experienced from the complications that have settled in have required periodic adjustments for realignment and strengthening. The injury occurred in CA. and I now live in Ohio. This has become a problem due to CA using a Utilization Review Board to approve or disapprove treatment now. Originally, CA Workers Comp. Board stated as part of award, "Future medical needed for treatment." The URB now has denied every request I have submitted including appeals, for medical treatment. In order to proceed any further with getting a lawyer, I would have to work with an attorney familiar with CA's process most likely with a lawyer in CA. The Insurance Company that has been paying for treatment has made an offer to settle the claim and has asked me to respond accepting or countering. Their offer is $12,000. I am wanting to find out what I can counter with. I am going to have the eroded condition of my neck and back plus the discomfort along with limited mobility as a result of the pain experienced as described earlier. To settle would obviously require me to absorb future medical costs for the rest of my life. My current age is 58 y.o. Please review and if possible state.
Answer: First, I’m an Iowa lawyer. Second, let me say we’ve had several clients with similar accidents. One worked for U-Haul and a lady backed into one truck pushing it into another while our client was standing between the two. The second was at a shipper and our client, a security guard, was backed over by a semi-truck as she was taking temperature readings in the reefers. Each client was smart enough to hire a lawyer soon after the accident; each client received a substantial settlement. Neither case could or would be settled in a few weeks. Now back to today’s question and answer.
While I'd like to direct you with a simple answer that provides a quick way to accomplish settlement; it's simply not advisable. You don't know what you're doing and clients that think there is a quick way to settlement usually shoot themselves in the foot by settling too cheap or with an incorrect and cockamamie settlement formula. There is no simple formula. The practice of law is difficult. I know some lawyers make it appear easy, but it’s not when it’s done right. It's appears that way because they have a system for handling the case, not because they apply a magic formula. So go hire a seasoned lawyer in California.
Consider this, you’re asking an Iowa lawyer about California law and I’m not licensed to give opinions about California law or Ohio law. I practice in Iowa and am licensed in both Iowa and Florida. So that’s another problem. But I’ll give you this, Iowa law may apply to your case, but without sitting down or talking on the phone about the facts I can’t tell. I just can’t tell.
Fourth, your case started in 1982, that’s a long time ago and frankly the statute of limitations may have run on your claim. A lawyer licensed in California should be able to tell you whether you still have the right to proceed with a workers’ compensation claim under California law. Maybe you do or maybe you don’t but only the lawyers in CA can answer that question.
For any lawyer to just answer your question would be to expose them to a malpractice case. Bottom line, hire a lawyer and stop playing lawyer. You’re wrecking your case.
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