December 6, 2010

Immediate Results: The Fallacy in Personal Injury Cases

By Matthew B. Drexler, Partner
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC

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Civil litigation disputes take numerous forms such as a personal injury suit stemming from an auto accident, slip and fall, or other cause of serious injury to the less dramatic business torts including breach of contract, filing and foreclosing on a mechanic's liens, or commercial products liability. With respect to personal injury cases, prospective clients often seek and may be influenced by promises of "immediate results". Unfortunately, there is nothing "immediate" about civil litigation, especially in the context of a personal injury or accident case.

In the words of a close colleague of mine, "I can settle your case right now, but you won't like the results."

A typical "personal injury" lawsuit may arise from an automobile accident. Boiled down to the most basic, one driver claims another driver is at fault and files suit against the at-fault driver. Depending on the severity of the injuries and the complexity of the actual collision (i.e. whether experts are needed to recreate the accident with the use of computerized models), a typical case can take anywhere from several months to several years. In fact, the time your attorney works on your case is not necessarily related to the time it will take to achieve a resolution. After all, your case can be resolved at an early settlement conference, mediation or ultimately trial.

However, before you can even think about settlement, your attorney and his or her staff needs to learn a great deal of information about your case. The reality is that civil court dockets are clogged and the attorneys' and experts' schedules are jam-packed with depositions, settlement conferences, motions deadlines, and other meetings. In the case of personal injury suits, it is not uncommon that the extent of a client's injury and treatment plan are not even known until months after the injury happens. Moreover, imagine the red tape, bureaucracy and other legal hurdles involved in getting police reports, medical records, and other official documents from third parties … not to mention obtaining documents from the insurance companies and opposing party. The inherent delays in civil litigation should remove any notion that an "immediate result" is on the horizon in a personal injury case.

Here's the good news though … a well prepared case based on reliable information and documents fetches much more than an uneducated, quick-trigger settlement. When you have a serious injury, a quick resolution will often not afford you the costs and impact of a long-term treatment plan. A case from last year highlights the value of a well-prepared attorney who had time to build a case.


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