In the past few months, I have had several potential new clients ask me if their case was too small, for me to help. I have been working on these types of claims for almost 20 years, 5 years as an assistant and 14 years as an attorney, and until recently, I have never had anyone ask me that question, but since I have had it asked SEVERAL times in the last few months, I thought it merited a good discussion.
1. Property Damage
One of the first things that an insurance adjuster will point out, when trying to minimize or decrease the value of a bodily injury claim, is the level or amount of property damage, to the vehicle, from the impact. I have heard, thousands of times, at least, that there is no way a person could have been injured in that wreck, there is no to minimal visible property damage. Liability adjusters also look at the dollar amount of that it cost to repair the property damage. The dollar amount that these adjusters tend to hang their hat on is $1,000.00. MANY adjusters have told me that if the property damage is less than $1,000.00, there is no way the person in the car could have been injured.
Sadly, juries tend to agree with these arguments as well. If a defense attorney is allowed to flash up an enlarged photograph of a wrecked car, showing little to know damage, and ask the jury if the car was not hurt, how could the person inside have been hurt, that could be very harmful for the victim’s case. If the adjuster is able to flash up a property damage estimate for $589.26 and then ask the jury if it only took $589.26 to fix the car, why did it take over $25,000.00 to fix the person, that could also be very harmful for the victim’s case. An experienced, knowledgeable personal injury attorney would argue to keep this evidence away from the eyes of the jury.
I once had a case where a man was in a really old truck, made of extraordinarily strong metal (not the fiberglass we see these days) and there was almost no visible property damage. Upon impact, he had a severe headache. He went to the emergency room and they did not find a skull fracture or anything like that. The headache continued for months and finally, a scan was performed, on his head, where the doctor found that he had swelling and fluid on his brain. Bur holes had to be drilled in his skull, to allow for the fluid to drain and the swelling to go down. I tell this story because every “body” is different and to try to compare a bodily injury to a damaged vehicle is totally illogical, but it happens all of the time.
2. Type of Injury
I recently had a potential new client tell me that she did not have any broken bones, so was it even worth it to move forward with the claim. I never realized that people thought you had to have a broken bone to make a successful personal injury claim. More often than not, what I see, following a car wreck are soft tissue injuries. You might be thinking, Mary, what is a soft tissue injury? Great question! In layman’s terms, a soft tissue injury, following an accident, is an injury to parts of your body, other than your bones! Examples include muscle strains, torn ligaments, bruises, hematomas, etc.
When I was in tenth grade, I injured my ankle, playing basketball. The pain was so bad that when the orthopedist picked my foot up and applied pressure, I had to lay down because I almost passed out and threw up. Turned out, I tore three ligaments in the ankle. Thankfully, surgery was not necessary, but I was in a boot for months and had extensive physical therapy. The orthopedist told my parents, as far as pain and recovery time, it would have been better if I had actually broken my ankle. In this instance, a broken bone would have caused less pain and called for a shorter recovery time, than my “soft tissue” injury.
Even though we all have pretty much the same body parts, there is no guarantee that our bodies will respond the same to (1) traumatic events, like a car wreck, motorcycle wreck, 18 wheeler crash, etc. or that our pain levels and recovery times will be the same, for similar injuries. Even though adjusters may try to generalize and say that “soft tissue injuries” just aren’t as bad as a broken bone, that is just not always the truth.
3. What you don’t know can hurt you!
One last point, in deciding if your personal injury claim is too small to talk to a personal injury attorney, is lack of experience and knowledge. Most people have not handled multiple personal injury claims; most people have not even handled one personal injury claim. Thankfully, the number of people who have not been involved in a wreck FAR exceeds the number of people who have been in a wreck, so there are so many aspects to a personal injury claim that people just do not know exist. A good, experienced personal injury attorney will probably have handled THOUSANDS of personal injury claims, so they should know, what you don’t know. There are so many aspects of a personal injury claim, that the average person is not aware of, that it would be pretty much impossible to list them all, but a few examples of things that you don’t know that could hurt you include (1) things the other driver was doing, at the time of the wreck, that could increase the value of your claim, (2) the poor past choices of the other driver, that could increase the value of your claim, and (3) the types of coverage that may apply to your claim, besides the insurance for the person that caused the wreck.
In conclusion, if you were injured, due to the negligence of another, and your injuries required treatment, where medical records and bills were created, for the treatment, it would not be a bad idea to seek consultation from a personal injury attorney. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, so calling to discuss your case is free to you! One note, some attorneys may feel that you would be better off, handling the case on your own, and that is ok too, but if you feel like you need someone to represent your best interests, following a very scary situation, calling a personal injury attorney, for a free consultation would never hurt!