In your first meeting with a personal injury attorney the focus of the meeting is usually on whether or not you have a personal injury case. The discussion will cover two main topics: how were you injured, and was there negligence which caused that injury. Most likely the attorney you speak with will also check for weaknesses in your case, seeing if there are ways the insurance company will try to get out of paying what’s fair.
How were you injured?
It may seem counter-intuitive, but finding out how you were injured is a huge part of figuring out if you have a personal injury case. The details are important, and what happened right before and right after are important too. It’s not enough for you to simply have been injured, your injury must meet certain legal standards to give you “standing” to pursue legal action. Here are some things that your personal injury attorney will ask you about:
Were you injured on the job?
If you were hurt on the job, it’s likely that your injury case is suited for workers’ compensation. Sometimes you need to file both a workers’ compensation case as well as a personal injury case. For example, a road worker who is hit by a drunk driver while he directs traffic is likely qualified to file both a workers’ compensation claim (because he was hurt on the job) as well as a personal injury lawsuit against the driver.
Were you acting reasonably?
It’s important that your behavior at the time of the accident be reasonable. The opposition will try to make it look like you were behaving in such a way that you caused the injury yourself. Even if you were partially at fault for an accidental injury, you still have legal rights.
Is there evidence of your injury?
Sometimes people experience injury, but it’s not substantial enough to warrant a case. For example, perhaps you slipped on a spill at a business somewhere and got hurt. However you decided that it wasn’t serious enough to visit a doctor about. That kind of injury is very difficult to prove. Without a doctor who can testify that your injuries were real and substantial, it’s impossible to prove your case. Your attorney will ask you about your behavior after your injury. Did you see a doctor? Did you miss work? Was your mood affected? Were relationships damaged? Etc. All of these things can help us understand the extent of your injuries and help us to know how to prove your case.
Was there negligence?
A driver allows himself to become distracted. An office fails to repair dangerous stairs. A drug manufacturer fails to warn its clients about side effects. These are all examples of negligence. In these cases, somebody owes you a “duty” to prevent injuries to you. Drivers must drive responsibly. Businesses must make their property safe for customers. Manufacturers must protect their clients from injury. When they fail to meet these standards, there has been a “breach of duty.”
Your personal injury attorney will ask you questions about the person or company who caused the injury. Here are some of the things your attorney will ask you about:
Was there any warning of risk?
For example, was there a warning label on the drug container which caused the problem? Was there a safety feature? Did the salesperson warn about known risks or did he present it as safe? Keep in mind that even if a product or service has a warning label, it doesn’t mean they don’t also have a responsibility to make their product or service as safe as possible. For example, a warning of hot liquid on a coffee cup isn’t good enough if they’re also heating the coffee to a temperature that would cause severe burns. As another example: a warning of wet floors isn’t good enough if they don’t also clean up the spill.
Could they have prevented this injury?
This question is central to your case. Your attorney’s job is to prove that by behaving the way they did, the other party caused the injury. For example, if a drunk driver had taken a cab, you would have been safe. If the business had cleaned up the spill, you wouldn’t have slipped. If the other driver had waited to text, you wouldn’t have been hit. If the doctor had paid attention to your allergies, he wouldn’t have prescribed the wrong medication. These types of mistakes are an important component of your case and prove that there was a “breach of duty.”
Did their negligence cause your injury?
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s vital. Sometimes it’s hard to prove that what somebody did caused your injuries. For example, in medical cases, perhaps your doctor made a mistake. But can we prove that his mistake is the real cause of your worsened condition, or is it possible that you would have gotten worse anyway? Sometimes this kind of connection is straightforward, such as when one driver hits another, but many times it takes a lot of work to prove the connection in court. This is why it’s so important to get an experienced attorney who will know if this is going to be a problem or not.
Do I have a case?
Every person’s situation is different. In general, if there was negligence and real injury which followed because of that negligence, there may be a personal injury case there. However, sometimes there are complications which mean that even though you were injured due to the negligence of another it would simply be impossible to prove, or the cost of going to court is more than the cost of your injuries. There’s simply no hard-and-fast rule about how to tell if you have a personal injury case. The best idea is always to consult with a lawyer.
Most personal injury attorneys work on contingency, which means they won’t charge you for their time unless they take your case and then not until after a settlement or verdict is reached. This is a huge benefit to you since it gives you access to experts, resources, and experience that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
When you talk with your lawyer, be up front about all your concerns. Don’t hold back. Your personal injury attorney can become your greatest champion and most trusted advisor.
To find out if you have a personal injury case, contact us and schedule your free consultation today. We’re here to help.