You don’t say? Today’s question stems from trying to bake something; then the stove blew up, she slips, falls, injures a shoulder and ends up with surgery to mend the injured shoulder. What are her legal options? Get your answers straight in your head because all your wanna-be-lawyers will want to second-guess a real lawyer. Before I answer her questions, allow me one rant. Don’t the lawyers out there hate being asked by relatives for advice only to be interrupted with them telling you what they think the law is, rather than just listening to what the licensed lawyer has to say? Am I alone in this one? Okay, that’s enough of my rant, let’s get to the question.

Question: Ultimately I'd like to know how much compensation I’d receive when I needed surgery after the stove blew up in my house.

Question Detail: The stove blew up and it burned my face. Trying to escape, I then slipped and fell causing a left shoulder break. [Not a good day I see.] The shoulder required surgery, a cut was closed with 4 stitches and it all required 9 months of physical therapy. [Did I point out this was not a good day for her?] I'm still on pain meds but would like to settle up my case and so what should be the approximate compensation.

Answer: Wow, interesting damages, did they all happen in the same incident? Why did the stove blow up? Maybe that’s a case, but who knows because you’re playing lawyer and want to save a few dimes and to give away the dollars. But, that’s your choice so let’s see if we can estimate value.

What was in the stove? Cakes don’t usually blow up; neither do brownies, but meth does. Maybe like lawyering you shouldn’t be baking. But let me assume for the sake of this Q&A what you were doing was legal and the stove had a defect. Big assumption but let’s try that one on for today.

Like I told the guy asking a question just before you, no one can say how much when we aren't aware of all the relevant facts. All good lawyers will say this because there are two aspects of the case influencing the value of the case. The first is liability and the second damages. Read what I wrote to the other potential clients about how much their cases are worth. [Do a general search on Lombardi Law for “case value”.]

Remember most states now operate under the law of comparative fault. Comparative fault means damages are reduced by the injured person’s fault percentage. Generally, the amount you will ask for is not known until all relevant facts are discovered; meaning until liability is determined. After that it’s all about the medical condition. But the medical condition can’t be known until you’re finished with the medical treatment and the doctor states his or her opinions on the issues of future medical care, permanent impairment and restrictions. Only then will the lawyer able to determine how much to seek in damages. So come on get serious here, what are you thinking? Are you thinking of just pulling a number out of the air and hoping you’re happy with it? Handling your own legal case would be like me trying to bake a cake. It would be only half-baked and lousy to eat. So go out and hire a lawyer using a contingent fee contract and then sit back and allow them to do what they do for a living. You go back to baking and blowing up stoves. As for comparative fault, let’s discuss it for the lawyer-wann-be’s.

Comparative Fault - The law will also want to know why the stove blew up. The reason is to determine if you were also at fault and if so, your damage award will be reduced by the percentage of your assigned fault. Clear?

Here allow me to give you an example. If a person were misusing the stove they would be at fault and depending on how they were misusing the stove it could result in some kind of a reduction to complete elimination of any damage claim. Cooking meth would be one such misuse. I'm not implying that was your situation, but we need to know more about liability before valuing the end result. 

This is where non-lawyers make the biggest mistake. They don’t know how to evaluate liability so they simply ignore it and value the case based only on some cockamamie idea about the value of a medical condition. And know this, I’m not picking on just laypeople playing lawyer; licensed lawyers who don’t practice personal injury but want to big in the ‘big money’ will play personal injury lawyer. And they will commit malpractice doing so. The only question in that case is whether or not the client will figure it out and fire them before settling. But let’s get back to this lady’s case.

Your situation isn’t much different from the case I answered last week, because your case seems to be at the same stage as his. Tell me what the doctor’s opinions say about being off of work, restrictions on future activities, the need for future surgical procedures including plastic surgery for the burns, how long you’ll need to be in the hospital and out of work and then I can begin to figure out the amount. What do you earn for a living, how long have you had the job, what skills did you have to acquire and what did you have to learn in order to have your job? In other words, how special are your skills and have those skills been diminished. Burn cases are a unique form of personal injury work and require unique medical and work-related expert opinions. Burn cases normally settle for a great deal more money than say soft-tissue injury cases. Why? Because of skin grafting and how it’s done, that’s why. It’s almost cruel how they remove dead skin.

There are no shortcuts to a reasonable and proper settlement so stop playing around. 

Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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