Ten with Ben: Episode 12 – Common Myths in Personal Injury Cases

Common Myths in Personal Injury Cases

Hi, I’m Personal Injury Attorney Ben Schwartz. In today’s episode of Ten with Ben, we’re going to do a little live video on the topic of common myths that have to do with personal injury lawsuit cases, personal injury claims and personal injury lawyers. I have to tell you I’m a practicing lawyer. I handle mainly personal injury cases, car accident cases, dog bite cases, slip-and-fall cases, medical malpractice cases and there are some very common misconceptions out there in the community. People ask me about these common myths over-and-over and so to me, this is stuff that I talk about all the time. I got to thinking like maybe I should put together a video and maybe put together like 10 of these things that people often ask me, so that’s what we’re going to do.

The number one myth that people ask me about is money. There seems to be some sort of misconception that everyone who has a personal injury claim, or a personal injury case, ends up getting rich.

I have to tell you that is far from the truth. Some personal injury cases do settle for a lot of money. Some personal injury cases go to trial and they bring verdicts that are very large, but what you have to understand is that the vast majority of personal injury cases are not whoppers. In almost all cases, the clients who were actually injured and are trying to make recovery really are doing it because they want to get their medical bills paid. They want to make sure that their lost wages are covered. They are not usually, at least in my experience, they’re not usually looking for some payday. They’re just looking to get back to even and so in the vast majority of personal injury cases, no one’s coming out with tens of millions of dollars.

Myth number two is that the courts are clogged with frivolous lawsuits. I lived through the 90’s and I think there was this big tort reform push in the 1990’s to try and convince the American public that the courts are clogged with people bringing frivolous lawsuits. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve got a wrongful death case, we went to a pre-trial conference in Superior Court in Delaware the other day, just last week we went to the pre-trial conference. The judge was excited to try the case. He told us that he hasn’t had the opportunity to try a civil case in a long time, he has been trying criminal cases. He was excited to try a civil case, because there are not that may of them that go to trial. The vast majority of personal injury cases & wrongful death cases do not go to trial. The vast majority of them settle out of court one way or another, either through arbitration, mediation, or settlement prior to filing a lawsuit, or prior to trail. So, the courts are not clogged, there are simply not that many personal injury cases pending in the courts. The ones that are pending tend not to be frivolous lawsuits. The cases that are pending, the cases that are actually filed indeed tend to be valid claims. Now think about it – lawyers take these cases on a contingent fee basis, meaning that the lawyer has to invest money, often in the thousands, tens of thousands of dollars into a case. The lawyer does all the work without payment until the end when the lawyer gets to take back his costs and take back his attorney fee, his percentage of the settlement that he takes as an attorney’s fee. So if it’s not a valid case, the lawyer is not going to get in from the start. There is no point in taking anything but valid cases.

Another myth, myth number three that’s out there is that, your insurance company is looking out for your best interest. People often times don’t go to a lawyer because they feel that their own insurance company is going to look out for them. If you’re a plaintiff or a claimant making a claim for personal injuries, you can’t rely on your insurance company to do the right thing by you. When you are paying the premium they may be treating you as a great customer, but when you make a claim, chances are your insurance company is looking to minimize the impact. They are looking to minimize what they are paying you, so they are not looking out for your best interest. One of the things that drives clients into our office after a car accident or slip and fall or some other type of personal injury case is that they are having trouble with their insurance company paying their medical bills, or paying their lost wages, or fixing their car for them. These are the things that prompt people to come to us. Their insurance companies don’t look out for them. Their insurance companies are actively trying to minimize what they’ve gotta pay out. That’s what drives people to us, so that notion that your insurance company is going to take care of you after an accident is something that my experience has taught me is probably not going to happen.

Another myth, myth number five is that, if you get a lawyer, the lawyer is going to take your settlement. I think that the thing to remember is that in a personal injury case, the at-fault driver’s insurance company, the at-fault person’s insurance company is going to pay you a settlement, because you have leverage. Because if they don’t pay you a settlement, you will file a lawsuit, go to trial, obtain a verdict and the verdict may be higher than what they could have paid in the form of a settlement to get rid of the case. So you need to have leverage if you want to get a settlement. In other words, without a lawyer you’re probably not going to get much of a settlement at all. The notion that by getting a lawyer you are giving your settlement money away, in the vast majority of cases, just doesn’t hold water. In the vast majority of cases, you never would have gotten a settlement if you didn’t have a lawyer. You are personally not going to file a lawsuit and go through trial and give a rousing closing argument to a jury, because you are probably not a jury trial lawyer, which means you don’t have the leverage to get the settlement on your own.

Myth number six. If you’re not the type of person to sue, then you shouldn’t get a lawyer. People always come to me & the first thing out of their mouth is, “I’m not the type of person to sue, but this is what happened. I was in an accident, things are not going well and we need a lawyer to sort these things out.” It is fine if you are not the type of person to sue. You don’t need to be the type of person to sue to go to a lawyer. You need to be the type of person who needs help getting their medical expenses covered, who needs help getting their lost wages covered, who needs help getting their vehicle fixed, who needs help navigating the process. Without a personal injury lawyer, I can’t imagine how people could navigate the process, because in every state that I’m aware of, it’s incredibly complicated.

Myth number seven is, that the at-fault driver’s insurance company should pay my medical bills after my car accident. People say this to me all the time. I have insurance, the at-fault driver ran a red light, they were drinking and driving, they smashed into me and they injured me. Why should my insurance company pay for my medical expenses? Shouldn’t it be the at-fault driver’s insurance company? No. In every state that I’m aware of in the United States, that simply is not how it works. The way I’m aware that it works is that my insurance company pays my medical expenses under my no-fault insurance. Now, I reside in the state of Delaware, in the United States of America and we have a personal injury protection law (PIP for short), which says my insurance company pays for my medical treatment. The at-fault driver’s insurance company does not pay for my medical treatment as I am incurring these bills. As I’m getting the treatment, my auto insurance pays for it. Then my auto insurance can go to the at-fault driver’s auto insurer and they can subrogate, that means they can get paid back. If I’m in a car accident caused by a drunk driver who smashes into me and injures me, I’m not going to submit my medical expenses to the at-fault driver’s insurance company for payment.

Myth number eight is that you can get an accurate case value from an online settlement calculator. I’ve seen these online settlement calculators on other personal injury lawyer websites. You put in the type of accident, you put in who was at-fault, you put in what the total amount of your medical expenses are, the total amount of your property damages to your car, what have you, and then it spits out a number and it tells you this is what your case is worth. I have never seen one that is accurate. It is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. I would never use an online case settlement calculator to try and figure out what my personal injury case is worth, because the variables are subjective. It is not just about the hard numbers of what the medical bills were, what the lost wages were. It has to do with what are the personal injuries? How do you explain the pain and suffering? Is your lawyer going to be a quality attorney who carries through? Who does the jury trial for you? Who’s going to fight for you all the way, or are they going to try and settle the case for less than it’s worth? Are you going to appear likable? Is the jury going to like you? Is the jury going to dislike you? Is there something in your background, a criminal conviction that the jury will hear about if you go to trial on your personal injury case and they hold it against you? There is so many subjective variables that it would be impossible for an online settlement calculator to take some little tidbits of information and spit out an accurate number.

Myth number nine is that a personal injury case should settle for three times the medical specials? I heard this in law school, I’ve heard it in practice, I have had clients ask me about it. Should my personal injury case settle for three times medical specials? No, maybe it should settle for one times the medical specials. Maybe it should settle at ten times the medical specials. It depends on what the injuries are and what impact the injuries are on the plaintiff’s life and on the plaintiff’s ability to function.

Number ten, the last one is, I don’t need a lawyer if I’m not going to sue. I have to tell you that people come to me all the time and they say, “I don’t think I need a lawyer, but I’m here anyways.” My thoughts on this are, you need to get a lawyer if you’ve been injured in an accident because a lawyer does so many things more than file a lawsuit. A lawyer can counsel you on how to get the most money for your damaged vehicle that is declared a total loss. A lawyer can counsel you on making a claim with your insurance company for your medical bills and lost wages. They can make sure that you understand what documentation you have to have in order to facilitate the insurance company payment of medical bills and lost wages. The attorney can help you know which doctors to go to to get quality medical care, and which doctors are not going to give you quality medical care because the lawyers office receives ten phone calls a month for malpractice cases against the doctor who you are thinking about going to. There is so much a lawyer can do, in your jurisdiction, if they are handling personal injury cases. If they do a lot of personal litigation, there is so much a lawyer can do for you. I have to say this is a big myth that you should only go to a lawyer if you’re going to sue.

I’m Ben Schwartz, thanks for watching this video. These are ten common myths about personal injury cases, personal injury lawyers and ligation. I hope you enjoyed the video and you have found it informative and interesting. If you have questions for me that you would like me to answer in video format like this, send me an email.

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