Interviewer: What are the top misconceptions people have about having been involved in accidents? What’s going to happen to them?
Roy Comer: In my experience, one of the top misconceptions is that people believe that just because they got involved in an automobile accident, the insurance company is going to automatically believe them if they were hurt and eventually pay them lots of money. If that was ever true, it is not true today. Insurance is a business, and the companies can choose to drag things out, believing that the plaintiff is going to give in and settle their case on the insurance company’s terms. So, the misconception is that the insurance company is going to play “fair” and offer the injured person a reasonable settlement. This happens sometimes, of course. When potential clients call me to discuss their claims, and I learn of all the facts and circumstances, I sometimes suggest they go ahead and settle the claim for the offer because they don’t need to get a lawyer. But, in my experience, this is increasingly rare.
There are Many Factors that are Considered when Evaluating a Personal Injury Claim
Interviewer: What can people expect?Can they expect to at least break even on medical bills or is even that a tough expectation?
Roy Comer: Those are good questions. I can only say that there are many factors that go into evaluating a personal injury claim. An experienced attorney must take the time to perform a professional evaluation to consider all of the factors that go into determining the reasonable value of any claim. These factors include the type and force of the collision, the type of injury suffered by the client (including whether there is any permanent effect due to the injury), the existence of any preexisting conditions, the amount and type of treatment and what medical expenses were incurred. Additional factors include income loss. This is not a “one size fits all” analysis. Each case can be thought of as a multifaceted gem. A good evaluation is done by a professional with experience who looks at all the facets of that gem in order to give an appraisal. If the attorney doesn’t have all of the factors, you’re going to get an unfair or an inadequate appraisal of the value of that claim.
People Often Harbor Unrealistic Expectations of the Value of Settlement in a Personal Injury Claim
Interviewer: Any other misconceptions people have?Do they think that they’ll be able to get a windfall?
Roy Comer: I think that some people have a misconception that, “Oh, I have a certain amount of dollars in medical bills and my case is going to settle for 3 times the medical expenses.”That could be true in that the case actually may settle for a figure close to that sum. However, that is not the way to evaluate a claim. An illustration I sometimes give to prospective clients is this: Suppose a professional violinist lost the little finger on their left hand as a result of a collision. Frankly, it wouldn’t cost very much to sew up the wound. But, that professional violinist would never be able to play violin the same way ever again. The insurance company would love to pay 3 times the medical bills as “fair” compensation for that professional violinist, but everyone would know that the claim is worth far more than that.
It is a Misconception that the Settlement is Three times the Amount of Medical Bills in a Personal Injury Claim
I’ve had situations—both as a plaintiff’s lawyer and as a defense attorney—where there was no issue as to who was at fault for the crash. The unfortunate plaintiff had incurred an excessive amount of medical bills, however, because of an unscrupulous doctor. The plaintiff unrealistically expected to settle the case for “three times the medical expenses.” However, both of those claims really were not worth that amount, and the insurance company knew it. These types of cases are very difficult to settle, and they are examples of why consulting early with an experienced attorney is a wise decision.