This really is the big question, isn’t it? On Avvo, you see it asked a lot by folks who are trying to handle their case without a lawyer. And at the Law Offices of John Day, we get asked this question, or some variation of it, almost every single day by clients who call in for a free initial consultation. And, believe it or not, other lawyers often ask us this question when they are trying to handle an injury or death case even though that is not their normal area of the law. So what is the answer?
I wish I could tell you there was an easy answer or a simple equation like three times your medical bills, but there is not. And beware any lawyer who purports to tell you what your case is worth during an initial consultation. I say beware because nobody is that good. There are simply too many variables for anyone to be able to tell you this without investing a good deal of time into investigating the accident and working your case up properly.
So what are some of the variables that affect the settlement value of your case? First and foremost, is there liability? Did someone else do something wrong that makes them legally responsible for your injuries? For instance, can you establish that the other car pulled out in front of you? Next, the inquiry turns to: can any blame be legally placed on you? Under Tennessee law, this is called comparative fault. An example might be if you were speeding at the time they pulled out in front of you or you did not have on your headlights at night. Sometimes, liability is a slam-dunk and other times it is a three point shot at the buzzer.
Second, what are your damages? How much are your medical bills? Do you have any out-of-pocket expenses? For example, did you hire someone to mow your lawn because you were physically unable to do so? Did you miss time from work with a resulting loss in wages? Did your injuries cause you to lose a chance at a promotion? Do you have scarring or other disfigurement? If you are married, does your spouse have a loss of consortium claim?
Fourth, who is your injury lawyer and what level of experience do they have? My wife is a former defense lawyer and will tell you unequivocally that experienced, prepared lawyers get better settlements than ones with a track record of being unprepared, unorganized and willing to settle everything cheaply. Conversely, who is the lawyer on the other side? Some defense lawyers are overworked or scared of actually trying a case, so this can play a role in the value of your case.
Fifth, is anyone subrogated to your recovery? For example, if your medical bills were paid by your health insurance company, they are often entitled to be paid back from your settlement proceeds. Sixth and seventh, where will the case be filed and who is the judge? Some counties in Tennessee have much more conservative juries than others and this will affect the value of your claim. Ditto for the judge.
Another variable that cannot be overlooked is the likability of the injured person and the likability of the defendant. Fair or not, people tend to give any close calls to folks they can relate to or like so this plays a role in settlement value.
In any given case, there can be many more variables but these are some of the biggies. And hopefully, you now see why a good and credible lawyer cannot and should not tell you the value of your case during the initial consultation or in response to a short description of your case on a legal forum. It would be like a doctor diagnosing you with cancer without a physical exam or biopsy. The chances of getting it wrong are just too high.
So then why should you call our office for a free consultation? Because we can tell you if we think you have a valid legal claim and let you know if we think we can help you. If you hire us, we will undertake a lot of investigation and work (learn more about the steps we take here). Once we have enough facts, we will most assuredly tell you the value of your case. And, more importantly, we will help you get it.
So give one of our award-winning lawyers call today at 615-742-4880 (Nashville) or 615-867-9900 (Murfreesboro) or 866-812-8787 (toll-free) or you can contact us online to schedule a time. We handle all accident cases on a contingency basis so we only get paid if we win, and we advance all case expenses so you are never out-of-pocket any money to pursue your legal rights.