There is no area of our practice that is more rewarding, and on the same hand more frustrating, than personal injury practice.
Unlike our many other clients, the personal injury claimant has done nothing to warrant his involvement with lawyers or the legal process. The personal injury claimant is truly a victim of another person’s negligence, and has had his or her physical and economic well-being, family life, employment, and almost all other aspects of their lives radically affected by the momentary negligence of another person, who is usually a complete stranger.
Our personal injury practice focuses exclusively on people like you who have been injured as the result of another’s negligence. We do not represent insurance companies trying to cheat otherwise legitimate claimants out of their lawful entitlement, nor do we represent negligent parties in attempting to minimize the consequences of their disruptive actions. Our focus, consistent with the philosophy of our firm, has been on attempting to protect and maximize the position of persons injured through no fault of their own.
Throughout my career, I have enjoyed doing injury work, since I get to meet and help people who would otherwise have no contact with lawyers or the legal system. My injury clients would universally prefer that I be able to turn back the clock and simply undo their injury, but I must tell them that I am neither a magician nor a miracle worker and I cannot do so, wish as we both might.
All the legal system can do for an injured claimant is to compensate them for both their lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering through the payment of money.
As a threshold matter, recovery in any personal injury situation is predicated upon the establishment of liability (also known as legal “fault”) arising from the negligence of another person or entity, resulting in injury to a claimant. In some instances, liability is clear and undisputed. For example, liability is often clear and undisputed in a rear end automobile collision situation, and is likewise easily demonstrable in a situation involving an intentional act on the part of the negligent party (as in the case of a physical assault perpetrated upon an innocent victim).
In other situations, a negligent party and his insurance carrier hotly contest liability. Liability is often contested in some automobile injury cases, in which fault for the underlying accident cannot be readily ascertained, due to the resultant placement or subsequent movement of involved motor vehicles. Another situation in liability is contested is in a “slip and fall” situation, where a party is injured as a result of falling in a parking lot, grocery store, or other public or private setting. In those cases, the purportedly negligent party attempts to claim, at least initially, that it took reasonable steps and precautions to insure the safety of persons lawfully on their premises, (i.e., that they took reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable injury), and were, therefore not negligent, and any injury which resulted was due to circumstances which were not foreseeable and preventable in the exercise of reasonable diligence, or due to the contributory negligence of the injured party.
It should be apparent that the establishment of liability is a critical threshold matter in any personal injury case. Without the establishment (or, in some cases, the concession) of liability, recovery is prohibited, regardless of the damage suffered by an injured claimant.
Once the liability hurdle has been addressed, insurance companies then focus their energies and attention on the damages that resulted from the legal fault of their insured, the negligent party. Carriers often attempt to second guess the medical care providers as to what type and extent of treatment is reasonably required for a given injury, in an effort to narrow the settlement/recovery range of an injured plaintiff.
One is entitled to recover only those damages that are directly and proximately related to the underlying liability. In other words, one cannot recover for a pre-existing injury which was unrelated and unaffected by the negligence at issue. Likewise, one is not entitled to have such an injury treated by medical care providers, simply because he has been injured in some unrelated fashion by a negligent party.
In addition to the amount and type of medical/ rehabilitative treatment necessary to restore a claimant to their pre-accident condition (if possible), another measure of damages used to establish the value of an injury claim is the amount (or non existence) of wages lost as a result of the underlying injury and treatment.
Insurance companies are well versed at “playing the game”, and seize upon any issue presented in a case in an effort to minimize the amount of recovery to which an innocent victim would otherwise be entitled. For example, the fact that an injured claimant was not required to miss any time from work is often seized upon by an insurance company as an indication that the injuries suffered were not that severe, and that the resultant recovery should be not be that great. If an injured party missed work, the insurer will question the necessity and length of time missed.
In evaluating an appropriate settlement figure for any pending personal injury matter, both plaintiffs’ attorneys, such as our firm, and insurance carriers are all aware of a rough formulation utilized in determining appropriate settlement amounts as compensation to an injured party for the subjective and rather amorphous concept of pain and suffering. Given that all persons have varying thresholds for tolerance of pain, compensation for injuries suffered as the result of another’s negligence must be established according to some objective standard. The most verifiable way to measure the extent of someone’s injuries, within the context of an injury claim, is to scrutinize the type, amount, duration (and necessity) of medical treatment and procedures which were necessary to return a claimant (to the extent medically possible) to the physical condition they enjoyed prior to the accident.
Insurance companies, in their ongoing efforts to minimize their financial exposure on otherwise legitimate claims, will often balk at inclusion of purely “diagnostic” expenses (for MRI testing, CAT Scans, and other expensive technological testing procedures) which do not reveal any abnormality, within one’s claimed damages, since such tests are not part of any treatment to help one recover from injuries suffered in an accident.
Insurance companies in today’s economy are quite aware of the economic pressures occasioned by a loss claimant, and are taking an increasingly hard line against offering fair amounts as compensation for injured persons. They are also well aware of the fact that New Hampshire juries are traditionally quite conservative, and you should not become confused with injury awards from other, more “liberal” states, which you may hear about in the media. Finally, insurance companies, as a result of a carefully orchestrated advertising blitz directed at “tort reform”, have been quite successful in convincing many members of the public (and the juries upon which such persons sit) of the “crisis” in injury claims, and the need to restrict such recovery by either changes in existing law or by individual jury awards in amounts less than what was formerly awarded.
It should be obvious to you that due to the complexities of both the legal and medical issues presented in an injury case, almost no client is in a position to deal fairly and effectively with a trained insurance adjuster, whose only job is to minimize or eliminate your otherwise valid claim.
Injury cases are customarily handled on what is known as a contingent fee basis, which is particularly beneficial and useful to an injured claimant/client, who can ill-afford to pay an attorney a substantial retainer and an hourly fee to defend his interests in an injury matter. In a contingent fee case, the client is required to put no money up front, and the lawyer receives a percentage (customarily one third) of all sums he recovers for the benefit of his client after the case is concluded. Our firm will advance various costs and expenses necessary to analyze your case, and wait until settlement to recover those costs, again saving the out of work injury claimant precious funds at a time when he can least afford to pay them.
Unlike the larger more “specialized” firms (you have seen them in the yellow pages, screaming “injury injury injury”, and on television with the same approach) and consistent with our practice philosophy, we prefer to selectively accept injury cases, and we are not a factory attempting to process every single case that comes through the door as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Your case will be given individualized attention by myself and, and you will not simply be a file or claim number when we handle your claim. Avoid making the mistake that many other clients have made, by giving into the pressure of unscrupulous insurance adjusters and signing a release for a paltry sum of money. However desperate your financial situation is, you should understand that such actions on the part of the insurance companies, while legal, are also underhanded and deceptive, and can serve to fully deprive you of your right to a legitimate recovery.
It is your future that is at stake and that of your family and you should not under any circumstances play games with your future by trying to work directly with insurance companies. The involvement of an attorney will generally serve to increase the value of your claim by more than his one third contingent fee, so you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by calling our team today and letting us successfully handle your injury case, as we have done for many other satisfied clients through the years.