2 Important Questions
There are two questions that almost every single client asks me during our first meeting. They are questions that I think every person who has suffered a personal injury should ask their lawyer before they decide to hire them.
The two questions are:
1. How long will this take?
2. How much will I get?
The honest answer to both of these questions (at least during the initial interview) is: “I don’t know”.
How Long Will This Take?
The golden rule of any personal injury claim is that you should never settle your claim until your injuries have completely resolved or until you know the full extent of any future residual disability that you may be left with as a result of your injuries. In other words, don’t settle your claim until you know how your injuries are going to affect you in the future.
It is often very difficult to tell, shortly after an accident, how long a person’s injury will last. It is usually impossible to tell what kind of long term residual problems they will have as a result of their injuries.
That means it is difficult if not impossible to determine how long it will take you to recover, how long it will take your doctors to provide a medical-legal opinion as to what your future limitations will be, what affect it will have on your future employment, what, if any, future rehabilitative or medical treatment you will require.
It is also impossible to say, in the early stages of a lawsuit how long it will take to complete document disclosure, complete discoveries of the parties, and get a trial date from the court.
While most experienced personal lawyers will be able to tell how long it takes to resolve a typical injury claim, your claim may not be “typical”. Every personal injury claim is unique and the best course of action depends on the particular facts of each individual case.
If a lawyer tells you in your first meeting exactly how long it is going to take before your claim is settled or how long it will be before you get to trial, ask them to put it in writing. Then you may want to consider talking to another lawyer.
How Much Will I Get?
The amount of compensation you will be entitled to receive for non-pecuniary damages (what is typically referred to as compensation for “pain and suffering”) depends a great deal on how long it takes you to recover from your injuries.
As I have explained above, it often takes months, sometimes years, for doctors to determine what the full extent of a patient’s injuries are and what the long term affects will be. That means it will take time to determine the full extent of the compensation you are entitled to receive for your non-pecuniary damages.
You are also entitled to recover compensation for things like loss of housekeeping capacity, loss of income, medical expenses and any other out of pocket expense you may have suffered as a result of your injuries.
In short, it will usually take a great deal of time and investigation to determine the full value of your claim.
If a lawyer tells you in your first meeting: "your claim is worth millions", ask him or her to put it in writing. When they won't, you may want to consider talking to an experienced personal injury lawyer.
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