If you’ve been injured in an accident you’ve not only been hurt physically, you’ve also been hurt financially. Your injuries have caused you to incur medical bills for the doctors who have treated you. You may have been unable to work while you were recovering. Your property may have been damaged as a result of the accident. Finally, you’ve had to endure the pain caused by your injuries while you’ve healed. Still, you may be wondering whether it’s worthwhile pursuing a personal injury lawsuit to recover the money that you’ve lost.
There are two questions that every personal injury lawyer hears on a regular basis. One is “Can I sue?” The other is “Do I have a case?” While both of these questions are important, neither accurately captures the information that a person injured in an accident needs to know. The more accurate as well as more important question to ask is “Do I have a case worth pursuing?”
If you ask a lawyer “Can I sue?”, the answer will almost always be yes. Every citizen of the United States has the right to pursue a valid lawsuit in our court systems. On the other hand, if you ask a lawyer “Do I have a case?” the answer will usually be “It depends.” That’s because there are a number of specific factors that determine whether a given personal injury case is worth pursuing.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at those factors, what they are and how they can influence the viability of a case. Remember, every personal injury case is different. In the end, you won’t really know if your injury case is worth pursuing until you consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
In every accident, someone is at fault for the events that caused the injuries involved. Sometimes that fault lies entirely with another person. Sometimes the fault lies entirely on the person who was injured. Sometimes the fault lies on both parties involved in the accident to one extent or another.
In order to determine fault, a court begins by looking at two things - duty and breach of duty. Duty is the legal requirement to act reasonably to the people around you. There are some things that you should do and there are some things that you shouldn’t do under any given set of circumstances. For example, you shouldn’t exceed the speed limit or tailgate while driving, but you should keep your eyes on the road. Many duties are based on common sense.
A breach of duty occurs when someone acts unreasonably and does something that they shouldn’t have been doing (or fails to do something that they should do). If that unreasonable action results in injury, the unreasonable person is said to have been negligent.
In order to determine whether you have a case worth pursuing, you first have to establish that your injuries were the result of someone else’s negligence. Obviously, if you were totally at fault for your own injuries, your case is not worth pursuing, since you cannot sue yourself. However, under California law, you can still recover damages even if you were partially at fault for the accident that caused them. Therefore, even if your own negligent actions contributed to your injuries, as long as someone else’s actions also caused you harm, you may have a viable case.
You could have been in a violent accident that was clearly caused by someone else’s negligence. However, if you were not injured as a result, you do not have a case worth pursuing. The reason for this is because injuries are a key element of any personal injury case. The cost of medical treatment, loss of income, and pain and suffering caused by injuries are what make up the bulk of any award for damages. Therefore, without injuries, there can be no recovery through settlement or judgment even if someone else’s negligence caused the accident in question.
Furthermore, minor injuries usually do not provide enough damages to make a case viable. Pursuing an accident case, either through settlement or litigation, is an expensive process. A personal injury attorney works on a contingency basis. This means that he or she will only be paid for their fees and costs if there is a successful recovery. If the amount of the potential damages in a case are not enough to even offset the costs of the case, let alone the attorney fees, there is no incentive for any attorney to take the case.
If someone else is responsible for your injuries and if those injuries are severe enough to warrant litigation, then the next question you have to ask is how will the award for damages be paid. This is perhaps the most critical issue in any case assessment.
In nearly every personal injury case, the money that funds settlements and pays judgments comes from insurance. Unfortunately, not every person who may negligently cause injury to another has sufficient insurance to cover the cost of the harm involved. In fact, in a number of cases, the party that caused the injuries has no insurance at all.
Cases where the other party does not have insurance are often not worth pursuing. A person irresponsible enough to not carry insurance is very often not responsible enough to have assets sufficient enough to pay for a judgment against them. In some sense, they are “judgment proof”. An injured party could prevail in the litigation process only to spend years fruitlessly trying to find and garnish the wages of the person who injured them.
In the end, the decision of whether you have a personal injury claim worth pursuing needs to be made with the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer. Only an experienced attorney can honestly assess your case and give you their opinion on its potential merits.