The overwhelming majority of personal injury lawsuits are billed on a “contingent fee” basis — meaning the Plaintiff (injured party) is not charged a fee unless they recover (receive payment) for their loss. In other words, a personal injury attorney is absorbing the costs (involved with attorney time, obtaining records, discovery, investigation and experts) for the Plaintiff, which will only be reimbursed through a percentage of the Plaintiff’s overall recovery, if any. As such, taking on a case requires an investment on the part of the attorney. If the potential settlement isn’t large enough to justify the investment, an attorney must turn down the case.
Top Considerations For an Attorney in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
In order to estimate a potential recovery in a personal injury lawsuit, the attorney must evaluate both the legal and financial aspects of the case. This is not an exact science. Even if a case is not likely one that will require a trial, the attorney must be prepared as if it will go to trial in the event that a reasonable settlement cannot be reached with the defendant(s). The top considerations for the attorneys at Sieben & Cotter in evaluating your personal injury case are (1) Liability; (2) injuries and losses; and (3) financial considerations or “collectability.”
In practical terms, liability is determining who is responsible (at fault) for causing the injuries and/or property damage. In auto accident cases, this is the person who caused the underlying accident. In other types of cases, it could be the property owner whose slippery floor or icy entrance posed a hazard, or a manufacturer whose defective product harmed a consumer. More than one party can be to blame for injuries and damages to another, including the injured party. In this regard, Minnesota is a “comparative fault” state. That means that even if the injured party is partially at fault they can still recover, so long as their fault is not greater than the defendant’s (50% or less). Determined through a percentage. However, the injured party’s total awarded recovery is reduced by their percentage of fault. So if your total awarded recovery was $100,000, but you were 10% at fault, your total recovery would be reduced to $90,000. As you can see, the ability to prove fault is a significant consideration for an attorney when deciding whether or not to take a personal injury case.
Injuries and Losses
The next important consideration in a personal injury case is the ability to define and quantify the actual losses resulting from the injuries. The losses must be significant enough to warrant the time and effort involved in pursuing a personal injury case. This is because losses are the primary factor in determining the potential amount of recovery or settlement. In the majority of personal injury cases there are two types losses or “damages.” Those are “special damages” and “general damages.”
Special damages are aimed at making the injured party whole by reimbursing them for expenses incurred due to the injury. These vary significantly from one party to the next because they are specific to the individual and the injuries suffered. Common types of special damages include:
- loss of earnings
- loss of future earnings
- medical bills
- cost of future medical care
- household expenses, and
- costs associated with cancelled trips or altered plans
General damages compensate an injured party for non-monetary damages incurred from the injury. They are called general damages because they address harm that is typically or “generally” sustained in an injury. The most common types of general damages are:
- pain and suffering
- mental anguish, and
- loss of consortium or companionship
Practically speaking, what we are talking about here is the likelihood that we will see an actual payment. Money is the primary means by which an injured person is “made whole.” The best cases for attorneys are those where the defendant carries an insurance policy applicable to the plaintiff’s injuries, since there is an almost guarantee that any settlement or judgment obtained will be followed by an actual check. The riskier cases are those where the injured person is seeking to hold a private party responsible when there is no insurance policy. In those cases, while it may feel good to know that justice was served (i.e. someone is held responsible for your injuries), you may never see any of the money for your injuries.
Contact us for a free personal injury consultation.
At Sieben & Cotter, we will provide your case with our full personal attention. Most of our personal injury cases come as referrals from other lawyers or from recommendations of former clients. They know from experience that we investigate every case thoroughly and prepare for trial. For more information, check out our Personal Injury page.
Call Sieben & Cotter at 651-455-1555 to arrange your free and comprehensive consultation, or send a request for more information.