Personal injuries can happen to you in a number of possible situations. For example, you might slip on the ice on the sidewalk in front of someone’s house, or be hurt when an unsteady product falls from a high shelf in the grocery store, or face injury after getting involved in an auto collision.
After being injured in almost any way that’s someone else’s fault, you have the option of pursuing a personal injury case with a lawyer who specializes in personal injury. But many people dismiss the option or fail to properly assess it, considering it a waste of time or money.
So how can you know whether pursuing a personal injury case is worth it?
Understanding the Procedure
Before moving forward, you’ll want to develop a better understanding of what a personal injury case is, how it works, and how you can expect it to unfold. Typically, the victim of a personal injury should seek medical care immediately, regardless of whether they decide to take the matter to court or not. Throughout that process, you’ll want to take the time to document everything you can, including what the injury looks like, how it develops, how many visits to the doctor’s office or hospital you’re making, and how much you’re paying.
At some point, you’ll talk to a lawyer about the potential for your case. They’ll help you determine whether there’s a precedent to take legal action, and how much you might stand to gain from those efforts. If you decide to move forward, you’ll usually enter a negotiation phase, where the offending party may make you a direct offer in order to keep the case from going to court. Settling in negotiation is faster, but typically comes with a lower payout. Most cases end in the negotiation phase, but some do ultimately go to court, where a judge (and sometimes a jury) will decide who’s at fault and how much you’re entitled to from the offending party.
What Are You Entitled to Receive?
You might feel a sense of satisfaction from having the offending party admit their wrongdoing or seeing them be found guilty in court, but the biggest benefits to pursuing a personal injury case are monetary.
Payouts vary dramatically based on the nature of the case, the offending party, and the severity of the injury, but you should know the average compensation in a personal injury case is $52,900, with anywhere from $3,000 to $75,000 of compensation in a typical case. On top of that, less than a third of personal injury victims who pursued legal action ended up walking away with nothing.
That said, these numbers are statistical averages, and they depend on too many variables for you to count on them reliably. It’s a good idea to speak with a legal team before you make an assumption about how much money you could get from the case.
It’s tempting to look at the bottom line and use that as a motivation to move forward, but you should also consider the costs and downsides to pursuing legal action.
For starters, you may bear some monetary risk. In most cases, if the offending party is found guilty, they’ll be responsible for paying legal fees (including yours). But if the offending party is found not guilty, you may be responsible for paying your lawyer, which can add to your already mounting debt from the incident. Many lawyers will only accept a case if they feel it has a good chance of winning, but this is still a risk to keep in mind.
You’ll also need to consider the length of time it may take to resolve a personal injury case. Depending on the case, the process from negotiation to final court proceedings could last months. You’ll be required to be a part of most of this process, which can keep you from handling your other life responsibilities, and add more stress to an already stressful situation.
Of course, you may also be forced to consider your relationship to the offending party. If you slip and fall inside a friend’s house, for example, you may want to avoid taking the matter to court to protect your friendship.
Don’t Make the Decision Alone
The most important takeaway from this article should be that the only person who can accurately assess your chances of victory and your potential payout is a legal professional. Since most lawyers are willing to hold a free consultation with you as a discovery session about your case, it’s almost always worth taking that first step. If you’ve suffered a personal injury, start documenting everything you can, and reach out to a personal injury attorney to learn more about your chances.