For personal injury attorneys, one of the most frequent questions is whether or not a client has a case. For example, a client will call or be in one of our free consultations and will say, “I recently got in an accident, these are the details, do I have a case?” This inquiry should include a personal injury attorney. Determining whether or not you have a case is largely dependent on some of the unique factors in the case. Thus, this article is not meant to take the place of a consultation with an attorney, but in general, there are three things that will help you know:
1. WAS IT YOUR FAULT? Essentially, did someone wrong you? Were you the victim of the accident because someone was reckless? In legal cases, the term lawyers use to determine fault is called “negligence.” When someone is negligent, it means they are not reasonably prudent. For example, blowing through a red light, driving at excessive speeds, or running onto the sidewalk are all examples of negligence. In these situations, someone is careless. Negligence is the first thing you will want to look for if you have been in an accident. It is an important distinction to determine if you have a case. If you are negligent, you are legally liable for the ensuing harm and damage that you may cause another person.
2. YOU HAVE TO BE INJURED. If someone almost hit you, that is not an injury, and you don’t have a case. You have to suffer some damage whether it a physical injury to your person or property damage to your vehicle. When calculating damages in a personal injury case, one has to consider the losses suffered by the injured person. When injured, this leads to medical expenses, property damage, as well as things like lost wages, caused from missing work due to the injury.
3. THE ACCIDENT HAS TO CAUSE THE INJURY. Unfortunately, this is usually the most complicated part of a case. At the Advocates Law, this is where we fight a lot of our battles. For example, if someone has an issue with his/her neck that is slowly improving, but he/she is involved in a car accident, and the neck problem gets worse, how much of this was pre-existing and how much is the result of the accident? One must be able to prove that it was the accident that caused the injury. Frequently, we battle over whether the accident was sufficient to cause such injuries. At the Advocates, we have seen accident victims with little bumps that cause acute pain. An illustration was a woman who was bumped; you could hardly see her injury. It turned out that she had fractured her neck and had to have emergency surgery the next day. Such injuries can be deceptive.
There are likely hundreds of online formulas to determine if you have a case. For us at the Advocates Law, this is probably the most basic and useful three steps for discovering if you have a case. Unfortunately, sometimes these formulas do not account for key fine points in your case. Each case is different; therefore, the best advice is to meet with a personal injury attorney in a consultation. At the Advocates, for example, our attorneys have handled hundreds of cases and will know pretty well if you have a case or not. Many personal injury firms, like ours, offer free consultations, so there is no risk for you. In your meeting, your attorney will be able to assess your case and help determine what you should do next.