There is a lot of misinformation about the value of personal injury cases, most of which unfortunately comes from attorneys who make “unchecked claims” on TV and radio. What do I mean by “unchecked claims”? These are claims made by others that are never fact-checked or verified by any government agency or regulatory body.
1. Misinformation by Attorneys
The following are some classic examples of misinformation spread by attorney advertisements:
A. “We have collected over $100,000,000 for our clients.” No one can or will challenge this claim because all of the firm’s financial records, including names of clients, would have to be produced and verified. Unless the firm is sued by the State Bar for unethical practices, there is no government agency or regulatory body that will perform such an investigation.
B. “Our firm was rated the best in the country.” This is a general claim, given without any background information or supporting evidence. Who gave the firm such a rating? What criteria were examined? What was the process? When did the firm get this rating and for what period of time, i.e. over the last year, last 10 years, last month? Finally, the entire country? Really?
C. “My attorney got me $1,000,000!” This leads people to believe they will get a massive windfall regardless of the severity of injuries. As noted, there is nothing mentioned about the kind of injuries sustained by the person making this claim? Also, was there enough insurance to cover a $1,000,000 claim? Finally, did the person actually collect the entire $1,000,000, or just a portion of it after the attorney collected his fees and costs?
2. Misinformation by Non-Attorneys
The problem with misinformation is that it sets unrealistic expectations for clients and potential clients – unrealistic expectations which are not based on truth. Let me give you some examples:
A. A client recently said, “I heard another person sued this company and got $10 million!” I did some research and discovered that the case our client referred to settled for $450,000. So, once the attorney received his/her 40% fees and was reimbursed for costs, that particular person received about $240,000 – not $10 million!
B. In a different case, a client said that a co-claimant was told by her (another) attorney that she is getting $50,000. Thirty minutes before this conversation with my client, I had literally spoken with that particular attorney and discovered that he had, in fact, not only not settled that case, but had not even received a response from the adverse party. So, the co-claimant’s statement that she was getting $50,000 was 100% false.
3. Can An Attorney Tell Me How Much My Case Is Worth Over The Phone?
There are many commercials on TV and radio by attorneys claiming they can tell you how much your car accident case is worth, and even tell you that they will give you a “second opinion” even if you are represented by another attorney.
First, it is against State Bar’s ethical rules to solicit business, and it is against State Bar’s ethical rules to ask to speak with any person who is already represented by an attorney. So, right out of the gate, you know that you are dealing with an “unethical” attorney!
Second, no attorney can tell you how much your case is worth, until and unless he or she has your entire file, including all of your medical records, bills, diagnosis, loss of income and personal information about how the accident affected you (this goes to your pain and suffering). So, any attorney telling you that they can tell you how much your case is worth, over the phone, is also not ethical!
Why do I keep talking about “ethics”? My firm adheres to a Code of Conduct, which includes the following rules:
- Ethics: Ethics are the cornerstone of the legal profession and of a civilized society. We steadfastly adhere to our ethics and never violate them.
- Honesty: We act and communicate with honesty and fairness. We are forthright and transparent. In turn, we ask that our clients be honest and forthright.
For our complete Code of Conduct, please click here.
4. So, Is There A Way To Find Out How Much Your Case Is Worth?
Simplest answer: “It’s worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it, or as much as the jury is willing to give you!” The value of every case depends on a variety of factors. Below is a list of those factors. This list is not all-inclusive:
A. Timing – at what point in the case is this question asked? It is important to note that a case cannot be valued until the client has finished treatment. Until treatment has finished, we do not know the extent of the client’s injuries, total medical bills, diagnosis, prognosis, and need for future treatment.
Asking this question at the beginning is like asking someone to predict the end of a movie they have never seen, or the end of a book they have never read!
B. Type of case – does the case involve a car accident, pedestrian accident, motorcycle accident, truck accident or bus accident? This is important because each is different. For example, getting struck by a car as a pedestrian can cause more substantial injuries than being struck as a passenger in an auto. It also brings in other questions, such as where the accident occurred, what time of day (dark or light), etc.
If the case is not about an accident, does it involve a slip and fall? If so, did it occur at a supermarket, restaurant, public bathroom, parking lot, somewhere else? Liability is always disputed in slip and fall cases, which will impact the value of a case.
C. Mechanism of the incident – if the case involves a car accident, what are the mechanics of the accident? Was it a broadside or T-bone accident? Was it a rear-ended collision? Was it a head-on collision? How bad was the property damage? How was the victim seated when his or her car was struck? These are important because the extent of injuries will differ based on the mechanics of an accident.
D. Type of injury – what injuries were sustained? Was it soft tissue, such as whiplash, strains and sprains? Did the victim suffer a broken bone? Concussion? Visit the ER or Urgent Care? Require surgery or need of future surgery? Does he or she suffer anxiety about driving after the accident?
E. Insurance – if the case involves a car accident, does the adverse party have insurance? If so, what are the policy limits? If not, does the client have uninsured motorist coverage, and if so, how much? If the case involves a slip and fall, is the adverse party self-insured or do they carry liability insurance? Is there any health insurance?
F. Venue – where did the incident occur? Was it in Los Angeles County, Ventura County, Orange County, Kern County, San Bernardino County, or Santa Barbara County? If Los Angeles, in what city did the incident occur in? This is important information because different counties yield different results – for example, in general, Los Angeles County is friendlier to Plaintiffs than Ventura County.
G. Current economic climate – yes, what goes on the world effects you and the value of the case. Insurance companies adjust the way they handle claims based on inflation, status of their open claims, and – yes – whether there is a pandemic affecting the world.
Under the ethical rules, attorneys are obliged to assess every case objectively and give the client the good as well as the bad news. Yet, I have met attorneys who made false claims or promises to entice a potential client to sign up with them.
That is not us! As set forth in our Code of Conduct, “We are forthright and transparent.” Avoid the misinformation out there. If you have any questions or concerns, just call us. We will give you an honest answer.
This article is for information purposes only and is not meant as legal advice. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at (661) 476-5678