How Do I Know If I Qualify for a Settlement?

Personal Injury Lawyer

Let’s say you’re driving down your street on the way to the grocery store when a car pulls out from a stop sign and hits your vehicle broadside, overturning it.

After you crawl out of your sunroof, you see that the car in question was a police car, not with sirens on so that he would have had the right of way, but one who failed completely to look both ways when he pulled out from the stop sign, and hit you simply because he was not paying attention.

He was completely at fault, and he immediately apologizes.

Does that apology – for the record, if you are in an accident, NEVER admit fault, or say “I’m sorry” – give you a case worthy of a settlement? Was the fact that you were only a few car payments away from having a car completely paid off create a case?

After an accident, you’ll likely be inundated with flyers from attorneys hoping to snag your case – and giving you the idea that all car accidents are worthy of a settlement. But is it? In some cases, absolutely, but in others, unfortunately no, your settlement will come from an insurance company, and you have to hope that it is enough to cover the payoff sum of your vehicle.

In the case above, it would seem obvious, given that a police officer was the driver whose negligence was responsible for the accident – and the one given a ticket.

But there are some questions you need to ask first.

Is there an injury?

Injuries can be physical or financial, but are they serious enough for a legal settlement?

After a car accident, even a small accident, it’s important that you go to a doctor to make sure that you haven’t been seriously injured from the impact.

Car accidents cause pain, especially if there is a rollover or something more serious, because the impact jars your body. You can sustain whiplash or other serious neck injuries, pulled or strained muscles or pain in general. You may not notice it immediately due to the adrenaline rush of an accident, but only a doctor can know with certainty that there are no serious injuries.

If there are injuries, they still may not be enough to pursue a case.

In many states, there is a certain threshold that must be met before a lawsuit can be filed.

Under Florida law, for example, cases only quality for compensation aside from a traditional insurance settlement if you suffer:

  •       Significant and permanent loss of a bodily function.
  •       Permanent injury, as determined with a reasonable degree of probability on the part of your physician.
  •       Scarring and/or disfigurement.
  •       Death.

Of course, aside from death, the magnitude of any injury is subjective, and open to the interpretation of the court.

Is there liability?

If you can prove liability – someone failed to place a “wet floor” sign out, and you slipped and fell at an establishment, a driver was under the influence and hit you head-on, causing back injuries that make walking difficult, a doctor failed to note in his or her chart that you were allergic to a medication, and you suffered severe side effects – you likely have a case.

Your injuries must have been the result of another person’s negligence in order to prove liability.

Can your case be proven?

In a car accident case, a police officer’s report usually serves as sufficient evidence, even if there were no other eyewitnesses.

Other types of injury cases are tougher to prove.

Medical malpractice, for example, is notoriously difficult to prove in court, even if it is quite obvious that the injuries you sustained were the result of a doctor’s negligence.

That’s because laws are written to support doctors, not patients, and it usually requires a second opinion to prove your case to a jury. Doctors are quite reticent to testify against another doctor, even if the evidence is pretty clear-cut.

In the right attorney’s hands, however, a medical malpractice case is not impossible, but it’s important to choose one that has the financial means to pay for expert witnesses.

Will the potential recovery outweigh the costs of the lawsuit?

One of the most important things to consider before pursuing a lawsuit is the cost of the case – legal fees are usually around 10 percent, and you will invest more time than you can possibly imagine gathering evidence and preparing, although much will fall on your attorney – versus the potential settlement you can expect.

You’re likely to receive expenses for:

  •       Medical bills
  •       Lost wages
  •       Pain and suffering.

If you are likely to be left with expenses after a trial, it’s not worth the time or the additional emotional stress associated with the legal process.

However, each case is different, and whether or not you should pursue a lawsuit depends on the sound advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer in Delray Beach, FL.

Thanks to Luckman Law for their insight into personal injury claims and qualifying for a settlement.