There really isn’t any magic formula and I never describe a case as a good case or a bad one. Instead I talk about expectations. You can have good or bad expectations. It all depends on what those expectations are and whether they are reasonable in light of the evidence and the law of the case.
There are two general categories of all evidence. First there is liability and then there are damages. Those two categories make up the entire gamut of evidence and how to think about it. Let’s call them baskets and with each question or bit of testimony you can place each in one of those baskets.
In the liability basket goes all evidence about who is responsible for either violating the standard of care or who is liable and under what theories. If we assume the case is a car-truck collision we can place all questions about how the accident happened, when, where and how in the liability basket. Was the law violated having to do with posted speed limits, lanes of travel, being on the correct side of the road, watching where you’re going, paying attention to the road and traffic conditions and driving using due care. Those are all liability questions.
Then there is the law that will be applied to your case. Is the law favorable to a claim like the one you are involved? That question you will need to ask the lawyer who may be able to answer that question or maybe not. Car accidents tend to be straight forward and the law clearly defined. But in Whistleblower cases the law may be cloudy and not well defined by the case law that interprets the statutes.
When we ask questions about how badly you were hurt, how hard was the impact, medical care or treatment, medical bills, lost wages, reduced earning capacity along with pain and suffering these are all damage type issues and as such you can place them in the damages basket.
So when clients ask if they have a good case, I have to explain it in terms of both liability and damages. You may have a perfect liability case, but when it comes to damages the case is simply not worth what you want. If your case is 100% someone else’s fault but there damages are $1,000.00 it makes little sense to spend $2,000 on expert fees and litigation costs, because the client will get nothing. In that instance we have a good liability case but a poor damage case and one in which the client’s expectations will never be met. If your expectation is one of getting $100,000.00 for a case that has a value of $25,000.00 as the client you might think the lawyer is bad, but in reality the lawyer may have done a hell-of-a-job just getting an offer of $25,000.00. I get asked quite often for a second opinion about the offer and without seeing all the evidence and talking with the lawyer it’s nearly impossible to give such an opinion.
Looking at liability issues you can have a lot of provable damages but if you’re 50% at fault for the collision you will only get 50% of the damages awarded. That means after litigation costs and contingent fees of normally 1/3rd you may not be a happy camper. But that’s reality. Is that a bad case or a poor result? Probably not; it’s likely the best result the evidence would allow.
Many attorneys call me asking for a second opinion on whether they are missing something about the case and whether the amount of money offered is adequate. Most attorneys hate to go to the client with a final offer that will not meet the client’s expectations. As my firm’s motto we pride ourselves on telling clients what they need to hear not necessarily what they may want to hear. I’m not going to tell a client I can always meet their expectations. Many times we can exceed those expectations but not every time and in those instances I just tell them why.
I wrote an article several weeks back explaining to a woman that she would never be my client. People think we shoe every horse that comes into the barn. Well, we don’t. We turn away many potential cases and clients for various reasons but one reason in particular is the client will not present well to a jury and their expectations are unrealistic, making my job impossible. I have no interest in spending 100’s of hours working a case and hundreds or thousands of dollars in litigation costs only to have the client bad-mouth me to other potential clients. I’d rather not be involved. In those instances the case and client aren’t a good fit and from my standpoint it’s a bad case for our firm.
Sometimes I take small cases because the client’s life will be improved with just a little bit of money from the settlement. I had one lady contact me to thank me for handling it three years after we settled her case for $3,500.00. That seemed like a small case to us, but to her it meant the difference between having to pay medical expenses immediately or not having a Christmas for her kids. She thanked me for taking the time to help her put food in the refrigerator. To many law firms this single mother’s case isn’t a case they will take because the fees aren’t high enough. Is it a good or a bad case? It is a good case to that single woman, her family and to my firm (that is interested in helping people – we focus on people not fees) but to other law firms that refused to take her case, it was a “bad case”.
Good and bad are relative terms. So answering the question, “Do I have a good case?” is difficult to answer. Instead ask do we have strong liability case? And, about damages ask if the damage case is one that will be expensive to prove and likely to settle for an amount that justifies the litigation costs.
If a client sets themselves up with thinking my case has to be worth X number of dollars that’s usually a bad sign right from the get-go. We don’t value cases based on a wish list. I wish I had a million dollars is not the way we value cases. We value cases based on the liability and damage aspects of the case and so should you. And a yes and no answer to that simple question aren’t likely to be accurate.
I’ve asked several of our members of the InjuryBoard attorneys to get together to write a series of posts answering common client questions and providing useful answers that clients or potential clients can review from time to time. They have responded, in my opinion wonderfully. I encourage you to read these posts and to consider InjuryBoard attorneys as people who you would hire to assist with your case, claim or lawsuit. They are a good bunch of people with varied legal experience and we work as a network that I compare to the largest law firms in the country. We share information, cooperate with one another, refer clients and are developing the largest body of written legal resources available on the Internet. We are for all practical purposes your best investment for injury prevention, safety information and for handling your legal work. And I invite you to contact us when the need arises.
Now here are the attorneys and the linked titles to what we have so far written in this series. For the previous series about interstate highway accidents see the last post by Mike Bryant of St. Cloud, Minnesota and you’ll be able to access all of the previously written articles.
Those attorneys writing in this series about client questions include:
Besides Mike Bryant the writers include Devon Glass from Church Wyble, P.C., Steve Lombardi from The Lombardi Law Firm, Wayne Parsons of Wayne Parsons Law Offices, Rick Shapiro from Shapiro, Cooper Lewis & Appleton, P.C., and Pierce Egerton from Egerton & Associates.
Series about Common Questions Clients Ask
I was in an automobile accident. What should I do? Ten Tips For Hawaii Drivers, Wayne Parsons on September 14, 2009 - 3:59 AM EST.
Steve Lombardi , September 15, 2009 11:00 AM
Steve Lombardi , September 15, 2009 8:48 AM
Car Accident Injury Client: What Makes the Case Good or Bad? (The Collision & Medical Care) , Rick Shapiro September 16, 2009 9:38 AM
Being a Client: More Tips To Help Improve Your Case If You've Been In An Car Accident , Devon Glass , September 17, 2009 8:39 AM
Presumed Guilty: How to Avoid Having Insult Added to Injury When You’ve Been Hurt in a Car Crash, Pierce Egerton , September 18, 2009 4:28 PM
What To Do After An Accident When The Adjuster Is There First, Mike Bryant | September 19, 2009 6:26 PM
What Questions Is The Lawyer Going To Ask Me At The Initial Interview For My Injury Or Death Case? , Wayne Parsons | 20 September 2009 12:01
And this one, What makes a case good or bad?, Steve Lombardi, 21 September 2009 12:57 PM