I will answer the last question first: Should you get a second opinion? Probably not. If you already have an injury lawyer working on your claim the most important thing you can do is talk to your lawyer. When people contact us looking for second opinions our normal practice is to pick up the phone and call the potential client’s current lawyer, with the client’s permission of course, and to try and repair the relationship. Like most problems in life our experience is that clients want a second opinion because of a communication failure. The issue is usually resolvable. If you did your homework in the first place and picked the right injury lawyer it doesn’t make sense to switch horses mid-race and doing so can be detrimental to your case. See our article about how to pick the right injury lawyer.
At Bergeron Clifford we have an open communication policy with our clients. What this means is that our clients have our personal cell phone numbers and emails and they can get in touch with us whenever they want. We are often in court and on the road so it doesn’t mean we are going to be available for a meeting within an hour’s notice, but you can bet that someone from our office is going to respond right away and let you know what is going on. We know that our job is to put our client’s mind at ease after an injury.
How much is your claim worth? This is one of the most common questions we get asked and one of the most complicated to answer.
While I will answer the question I would encourage you to read our other articles on the subject matter.
What is your claim worth? One of my most important jobs as an injury lawyer is to keep my clients updated on the status of their claim. As the case evolves I provide my legal opinion about the strengths and weakness of their case and the amount of compensation that they might receive at the end of their claim. Most claims are resolved through settlements but some go to a trial. When I give my clients advice on compensation it is going to be a range of possible outcomes, and in two basic scenarios: one range for out of court settlement values, and one range for possible trial outcomes. The ranges are going to be very different.
People always want to know what their claim is worth. As an injury lawyer I have experience assessing what claims are worth but I will be completely frank with you that my opinion is nothing more than an educated guess. The only way to find out what your claim is actually worth is to take it all the way to a trial and have a judge, or a judge and jury, decide. Up to that point it is just my opinion. My opinion does carry weight however because each year insurance companies for at-fault parties listen to my opinion and pay my clients settlement money based upon my opinion. Possible outcomes on the value of your claim will depend primarily upon several aspects: your lawyers ability to prove that someone else is wholly or partially at fault for your injuries and losses, the severity of your injuries, the future prognosis of those injuries and the financial losses that those injuries have caused and/or may cause in the future.
How long will your claim take to resolve? An average timeline is 2-3 years. There are two primary reasons that it takes this long. The first is that the court process is fairly slow. When the general public thinks about an injury claim they think about a trial yet it is the last step in what is known as an action. An action is made up of a variety of steps that the parties to an action/claim must go through before they can get to a trial. Even if a claim is going to resolve through an out of court settlement, most claims go through many if not nearly all of the pre-trial steps in an action before they settle. Getting to these steps takes time and going through them takes time. See our article here about the detailed process of an action.
The second reason that an average claim takes 2-3 years, is that as an injury lawyer it would be irresponsible for me to recommend to my client that they settle their claim before the medical circumstances of my client are relatively stable and the medical professionals involved in the care and assessment of my client are fairly certain as to what the future will hold. It would be irresponsible of me to recommend early settlement to a client before these preconditions are met because a settlement is full and final. There is no way to re-open a claim if a client gets worse after a settlement. If I recommend to my client that they take the $50,000.00, $100,000.00, or even $1 million dollars that is on the table on offer from the defendant, and then 6 months later that client gets immensely worse as a result of their injuries, I will most likely be liable in negligence if the evidence shows that I should have reasonably known that the client’s circumstances were not stable and/or the medical evidence regarding the severity of my client’s injuries was uncertain.
Nobody has a crystal ball and nobody can guarantee what the future looks like. However as an injury lawyer the vast majority of my time is spent reviewing medical records. Just like my clients defer to me for legal advice I defer to the medical professionals for an assessment of my client’s medical circumstances. Once the treating or assessing medical professionals feel that on a balance of probabilities (51% or more likely than not) they can say what the future holds for my client in terms of the progression and healing of their injuries, the impact on their ability to engage in their employment or new employment or not, impact on housekeeping and home maintenance, and the medical care they will need, then I can responsibly give them legal advice. Until this information is known I cannot responsibly do so.
Do you need a second opinion on your injury claim? Probably not. Talk to your lawyer. How long will your claim take? An average timeline is 2-3 years but some are much longer, particularly complicated claims or claims with very high values or potentially very big swings in outcomes. How much is your claim worth? Ask your lawyer. If they are not able to give you an estimate, ask why not. If you did your homework ahead of time on picking the right injury lawyer for your case don’t jump ships mid-stream. Stay the course and have confidence in the legal advice and in the court process.