Car Accident Attorneys – Personal Injury Law
Many people want to know the value of their auto accident case and, somewhat shockingly, will even choose their attorney based on the estimated value that the attorney gives their case. This is faulty reasoning. It is 100% impossible for any auto accident attorney to predict the value of what either an insurance company (during settlement) or a jury (after a trial) will place on their auto accident case. Jurors and insurance companies can pretty much decide what they want and there are no guidelines for them, other than courts sometimes overturn judgments that are too high (this is relatively rare but can happen).
Five Factors Considered By Insurance Companies During Settlement Negotiations
That being said, during the settlement process, which means before any trial, the insurance company will assess a variety of factors to determine how much to offer you. Among other things, they may consider the following five factors. more info on this website
1. Who Caused The Auto Accident?
First, they consider whether the other driver was clearly at fault. One example might be that the other driver ran a red light and smashed into your car. Lawyers would generally consider that a “clear liability” auto accident case.
2. How Bad Are Your Injuries From The Auto Accident?
Second, the insurance company will consider the extent and permanency of your injuries. If your injuries were minor or did not last for a long time, the value of your case may be lower. We rely on medical records to prove this second issue. So you need medical proof if you have serious injuries, which means you need treatment and cannot rely solely on your own testimony to establish the extent of your ongoing pain or disability.
3. Can You Prove The Above Two Factors During Any Trial?
Third, the insurance company will consider whether you are likely to be able to prove the first two factors during any trial. This involves the consideration of potentially hundreds of minor sub-issues, such as whether any critical evidence might be admissible at trial, or whether a key witness is available, just as a few of many examples.
4. How Do Your Witnesses Measure Up?
Fourth, the insurance company will consider the reliability and demeanor of all witnesses, including you. This means they will consider whether the jury is likely to believe any witness and/or like you.
5. Can They Beat Your Lawyer, Either During Pre-Trial or Trial?
Fifth, the insurance company will consider whether your lawyer has seriously prepared your case and done a good job (or not). They are less likely to give away money if they believe that they can beat your lawyer, either during any motions or appeals that they plan to file, or during the actual trial. Along the same lines, if they refuse to settle before any lawsuit is filed, they may further wait until any “dispositive” motions are filed. Dispositive motions are basically motions that the defendant can file to try to get the judge to throw your case out of court, such as motions to dismiss or motions for summary judgment. If the defendant is successful in these types of motions, then you cannot get to a jury (unless you win on a subsequent appeal, which may or may not make sense to file depending on the legal issue involved). So very often the settlement value will increase if you survive a motion for summary judgment in particular. But your lawyer’s success with other motions may also sway the defense counsel, such as motions allowing you to present very persuasive evidence. (In other news, the evidence laws alone fill books and present the basis for many potential arguments that can help or harm you, before and during the trial.)
What Do Jurors Consider During Trial?
If your case survives the pre-trial process and you get to a jury, which only happens in a small percentage of cases because most cases either settle or get dismissed before trial, then the answer depends on the opinions and attitudes of your particular jury. This actually can involve strategic questions about which county or state in which to file your lawsuit, if you have choices under the rules of procedure (which, like evidence rules, are also exceedingly complex and fill volumes of books), because different geographic areas are notoriously more or less favorable to plaintiffs. This again can involve many potentially critical motions filed and argued by your auto accident lawyer in court. Once you know your case will be heard by any particular jury, the value of your case depends on what they think of any evidence presented. Typically they consider the defendant’s level of fault, your level of contributing fault, and, again the extent and permanency of any injuries. They usually hear from you, the defendant driver, any witnesses to the accident, and any relevant experts. Your auto accident lawyer strategically may choose from a wide array of potentially admissible evidence to decide what might best sway the jury. And the auto accident lawyers often fight (on paper and during subsequent oral hearings) about whether the evidence code will allow various types of evidence.
So, as you hopefully see, your attorney cannot predict the value of your auto accident case. That being said, auto accident cases can range in value from nothing to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in damages, in cases involving severe injuries with clear liability and (important) defendants with large insurance policies.
One Sad Thing
If you were injured by an uninsured driver with no personal assets or cash, and you did not have uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage yourself, then the value of your case is zilch, regardless of any other factors. You cannot recover what does not exist. For this reason, it is a very wise idea for all residents to add uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage to their automobile insurance policies. This coverage often proves crucial when people are seriously injured and need money to survive without the ability to work.
Final Piece of Good News
You can recover a lot of money for serious injuries if you hire a highly skilled auto accident attorney. If you have been injured in an accident, please call my office for a free consultation.