I will occasionally get questions from friends, acquaintances, at a dial a lawyer day, or online at www.avvo.com, who want to know what they should settle for in a small to medium car wreck or personal injury. These casual, cocktail party questions are difficult. Sometimes these folks have already retained an attorney and are looking for a second opinion and sometimes they just want me to give them a number that they are entitled to. My problem is, it is often impossible to even give an educated estimate without knowing details of the case. Non-lawyers, who hopefully will only have one or two of these claims in their life, don’t understand the details that can greatly change the value of a case. Sometimes I don’t think they understand that it’s not that I’m unwilling to give an opinion, I honestly can’t give one based on the broad outline of a case. If they have an attorney, I know there is no way I have more knowledge to make an informed decision than they do.
That is the reason I, as well and numerous other attorneys, offer free initial consultations. From those, I can ask the right questions to get the details I need to at least give an initial impression of the strengths and weaknesses of the case. I’ve represented blue-collar, white-collar, tradespersons and professionals, and as smart or educated as they are, they don’t know what details are important for a case. It’s the job of the lawyer to get that information.
Also remember that even where the fault of the other party is clear, the amount is an estimate of what a jury would do. Every lawyer has been surprised by jury verdicts, and no lawyer should tell you any amount is certain. Every trial is a risk, and every trial costs money and time to reach a resolution. My advice therefore is talk to an attorney and get the best information you can on the risks and benefits of going to trial or settling the case for a certain amount. If you don’t get a good vibe from that attorney, find one you feel you can trust.
-Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC who practices in Personal Injury, Car Accidents, Medical Malpractice, Contract and Real Estate disputes, and all forms of Civil Litigation. Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.