Common Misconceptions About Personal Injury Cases [VIDEO]
Today I will highlight a few misconceptions I’ve heard from people over the years.
One of the most common misconceptions is that when a case settles “out of court,” there hasn’t been a court process. Most times that is not true. Cases do not move well without the pressure created by filing in court and prosecuting the case.
Insurance companies are the most likely to pay compensation in injury cases. Since it is in the best interest of the shareholders of the insurance company to hold onto their money as long as possible, they will delay every chance they get. As your attorney, our job is to keep applying pressure from the court process by setting deadlines for the case to advance and to zealously advocate for keeping to the court-enforced time frame. Many times, cases do not settle until “a jury is in the box.” Factually speaking, any time an action has been started, you are “In Court” and any settlement that occurs, happened because of the availability of the court process. Otherwise, insurance companies would delay your case indefinitely.
Next is when someone starts a lawsuit over a personal injury matter, they think that they’re suing an insurance company. People especially get that impression if a relative or a friend has to be made part of the case. They’ll hear from friends, hair stylists, bartenders, or anyone that wants to give their opinion that insurance companies are always the defendants, and they’re not actually suing their friend, relative, or neighbor. That’s not the case.
Insurance companies are not typically defendants unless there is a contract dispute over policy provisions or something like that. When an injured person sues over an accident, they’re typically suing an individual or entity (like a corporation) that owns a piece of property; an employer; a vehicle owner; or someone who was driving a car.
However, insurance companies often do stand behind the covered individual, and there is insurance available. To the extent that there is insurance, an injured person may collect money via settlement or award if they are entitled. Ultimately, we are usually collecting compensation from an insurance company and not an individual, but the names in the litigation papers are the people being sued and not the insurance company itself.
Another misconception is that injuries override liability. What do I mean by that? Some people think that because they have very serious injuries, those injuries override the fact that the other party was not at fault for how the accident happened. In any personal injury case, an injured person has to prove that the actions of a negligent person caused an accident and that that person is responsible before any compensation for injuries is considered. Put simply, if you trip over your own feet, it’s no one else’s fault. You must accept the fact that you have a broken nose as a result, and no one has to pay you. The fact that your accident occurred on someone else’s property is of no consequence.
The corollary to that misconception is another misconception: that liability overcomes not having injuries. The opposite is really the truth. If there’s an accident and the driver of the other car was drunk, but yet you walked away with little or no injuries, it’s very difficult to bring a lawsuit. You need to have injuries to bring a personal injury case. Conversely, the most someone can be liable is 100%. If you are struck in the rear while stopped at a red light by a drunk driver, the drunk is 100% at fault. If you have injuries, you should be compensated. You don’t, however, get bonus points because the other driver was drunk. There may be criminal penalties for that person but they can never be more than 100% at fault. You need both liability and damages.
Lastly, a lot of people feel that personal injury matters take much more time than they should. People often complain that their lawyer is not moving fast enough. What’s really happening during that time is the execution of two different processes simultaneously.
One is the claims process, where your attorney provides information to an insurance carrier or a risk manager who is evaluating whether to settle or go to trial, arbitration or settle “out of court”. At the same time, your attorney is prosecuting a court action, which can drag on whether we, as parties in the court system, like it or not. That’s just the way it is, and nobody’s happy about that. The courts are overloaded and couldn’t possibly try all the cases that they have. A side effect of the long delays and other factors is that 90% of cases are settled at some point before trial.
I hope I’ve dispelled some of the misconceptions you may have had about personal injury cases. I’m happy to discuss any personal injury case with you, whether it’s medical malpractice, car accidents, trip-and-fall accidents, or any type of injury case you have.
James F. Leonick
Leonick Law, P.L.L.C.
TEL: (631) 486-9500