What Personal Injury Attorneys Consider and Investigate When Taking on a New Case
Have you been injured on the job or in an auto accident? Do you think you may need a personal injury attorney but aren’t sure if they will accept your case? As much as the attorneys at Kanner & Pintaluga would like to help every injured party, there are some circumstances that make winning a case or negotiating a fair settlement difficult or even impossible.
Who Was Responsible for Your Injury?
The most important factor in any personal injury case is being able to prove negligence and culpability. There are many potentially responsible parties. In a workplace injury case, even if your own mistake led to your injury, your employer could still be the responsible party.
Were you given the proper safety training to understand the risks? Was adequate safety equipment available? If you didn’t have the tools or education to do your job safely, then the company should be responsible for your injuries.
If you rear end the car in front of you because your brakes failed and both you and the other driver suffered back and neck injuries, should you be held liable? In that case, if your brakes were defective or improperly installed it could be the mechanic’s negligence or manufacturer negligence for shipping defective brake components.
Even if you think you may be the responsible party for accident injuries, you may still want to consider speaking with an attorney. Personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys have lots of experience taking a broad view of accidents. They carefully consider all the potential factors and causes of your accident and will be able to determine if the liability is yours or another parties.
But, if it’s a relatively clear-cut case that your injuries were due primarily to your own actions and choices, you may have trouble finding an auto accident or personal injury attorney willing to put in the hours on your case.
Contingency Fees Make Personal Injury Lawyers Choose Carefully
One of the most attractive features of hiring a personal injury attorney is their contingency fee. They fight your case for free until you are offered a fair settlement, or they get you a positive verdict at trial. If they don’t recover any money for you, then you’re not expected to pay them back for their time and effort.
Attorneys not only put in their own time for free up front, but they also must pay their staff and overhead costs. They may even need to invest in accident reconstruction professionals or expert witnesses to strengthen your case and improve your chance for success.
All told, personal injury lawyers take a big financial risk for each client they represent. If a personal injury attorney doesn’t think your case has enough of a chance to win and make that investment worthwhile, they may not be able to represent you.
Laws Can Be Tricky and Often Favor the Business or Other Party
Proving negligence isn’t always a clear cut, easy thing to accomplish. You may slip in a puddle at a grocery store and, depending on the circumstances, the store may not be liable. In order for that premises liability injury to be attributed to negligence by the store, you need to be able to prove the business or an employee knew about the spill before you slipped and they didn’t act promptly enough to protect their customers from slipping.
In some cases, the law and the facts of the case may simply make it impossible to prove negligence.
Comparative Negligence Laws in Florida
Few things in life are purely black and white, which is why states have comparative and contributory negligence laws. An accident injury victim’s responsibility for their own accident can often be quantified by a judge and jury. For example, if someone made an illegal left turn and hit your vehicle, but you were speeding, it may be deemed that the other driver was 70 percent responsible and you were 30 percent responsible.
Florida is a comparative negligence state, so you would receive 70 percent of the final judgement instead of the full 100 percent. In a contributory negligence state, any negligence on the victim’s part prevents the victim from being able to collect compensation.
In Florida, even if you’re more than 50 percent at fault you may still be able to file a personal injury claim against the other negligent party. However, an attorney needs to take into account their own out-of-pocket costs when trying your case. If you’re only going to receive 30 or 40 percent of the final verdict, an attorney may not be able to recoup the investment they made in representing your case.
Severity of Damages or Injuries
In most circumstances, minor injuries or just auto property damage won’t warrant a large enough settlement to get an attorney involved. The eventual recovery dollar amount will simply be too low for the attorney to even make up the cost they spend investigating your case and representing you in court or at negotiations.
Inconsistencies in Medical Care
If you are injured due to an accident caused by someone else’s actions, it’s vital you seek medical care. A doctor’s professional opinion can play a huge role in proving the severity of your injuries and the source of those injuries. If you don’t seek care, it will be hard to convince a jury that your injuries were all the serious.
Honesty is also important, for both you and the physician. Claiming unrelated medical costs were due to your accident is fraud and can get you and your attorney in trouble if it’s discovered. If you get treated by a doctor with a reputation for insurance or Medicare fraud, it may raise red flags and put into question your reliability and the trustworthiness of your doctor’s professional opinion.
Client Expectations and Reliability
It’s important to listen to your attorney’s expert advice when it comes to giving you realistic expectations about your case’s chance at success and what you might be able to expect in terms of a settlement.
If you’re not happy with what your attorney tells you, seek out second opinions to find out if other personal injury attorneys agree or disagree with their assessment. Simply put, you likely can’t expect a million-dollar settlement for some scrapes and bruises suffered in a minor auto accident.
You may also have trouble finding a willing attorney if there’s anything about your past that could make your testimony suspect for a jury. Some jurors or judges may have prejudices against drug users and some types of felons. If an attorney doesn’t believe you will be a credible enough witness to win over a jury, they may not be able to take your case.
Statutes of Limitations
There is a timer on most personal injuries, with some exceptions. The rule of thumb is to seek medical attention immediately after your injury and then speak with an attorney. Witnesses forget testimony and evidence can get lost or destroyed if not collected and documented as soon as possible. There are also many laws that require injury victims to file a claim within a certain amount of time, depending on the type of injury. To be safe, it’s best to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after your injury.