Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is my case worth?
A: There can be many different factors that can impact the value of your personal injury claim. In many cases, having an attorney who understands the law and all of the rights afforded to an injury victim can have the greatest impact on the amount of compensation that is sought on your behalf.
In most cases, however, the most important of factors are:
- The nature and extent of your injuries, for example: whether they are temporary or permanent; the amount and kind of medical treatment you received; whether your injuries have disabled you from work, etc.
- The amount of fault the other party played in causing your injury. In product liability cases, the important factor is the dangerous nature of the product.
- The amount of fault on your part, if any
- The amount of your expenses and losses
There are many other less prominent factors that play a significant part in the ultimate question of case value, including:
- The type and kind of witness that each party would make before a jury. In Missouri, a jury is not informed of the presence or absence of liability insurance. In fact, it is improper for anyone to mention it. Sometimes in cases involving individual defendants, as opposed to corporations, juries are led to believe that a defendant’s personal property or home will be taken away in the event of an adverse judgment.
- The place where a jury case is tried. The place of filing suit depends upon where the accident happened, where the parties live, and where the defendant can be found.
- The amount of insurance coverage of the defendant
- The availability or unavailability of the various witnesses
- The ability of expert witnesses to convince a jury
- The availability of testimony of your physicians to substantiate the extent of your past and future problems, and their relation to your accident
Q: How much money would a lawsuit seek?
A: Under our rules in Missouri, an injury victim may not ask for a specific dollar amount. The suit can only be for “fair and reasonable” damages. The initial documents filed with your lawsuit contain allegations setting out the reasons you are seeking damages against the negligent party and end with what is termed a “prayer” for damages — but not a specific dollar amount. Our opportunity to request a specific dollar amount comes during our closing argument to the jury.
In Missouri, as in some other states, a jury award must be fair and reasonable. It is also expected to be somewhat uniform and in line with other verdicts for similar injuries. The standards of fairness and reasonableness are based upon all of the facts presented in the case. If the judge believes that the amount the jury has awarded is more than is supported by the evidence, the judge may cut the size of the award. If the verdict is still too high in the opinion of the insurance company’s counsel, the reduced verdict may be appealed for further review and a possible further reduction. Therefore, under our system of legal and appellate review, it is virtually impossible for anyone to recover too much.
Q: Would I sue the insurance company?
A: If suit is filed on your behalf, it will be filed against an individual, company or corporation, but not against the insurance company that stands behind the defendant. Insurance is a contract of indemnity and the insurance company stays in the background until the case is over and an award has been made. The jury is not supposed to be advised of the presence or absence of liability insurance. In fact, to mention the name of an insurance carrier that may be involved in a given case usually results in a mistrial and starting over. There are a few cases which do involve suing an insurance company directly, including uninsured motorists’ cases and suits against life insurance companies. For the most part, lawsuits brought on behalf of injured people in Missouri and Illinois do not permit the naming of the insurance company as an additional defendant in the case. In most cases, however, the insurance company hires defense lawyers to represent the negligent party.
Q: Will my case go to court?
A: It has been our experience that most cases are settled without trial. Some cases can be settled without even filing suit. However, if the insurance company makes no offer, or makes an offer that is unacceptable to you, a lawsuit can be filed.
Q: Should I keep a list of my days off from work or my expenses?
A: Yes; complete lists of all dates that you are unable to work, as well as complete lists of every expense that can be attributed to your accident, must be kept and will greatly aid us in the handling of your case and in recovering your losses. In addition, the defense will request complete substantiation under oath of all of these items, often before your case even goes to court.
Q: Will the other party’s insurance company pay me for my automobile damage?
A: Most insurance companies will not pay piece-meal for certain portions of your total claim, such as property damage, medical bills and wage loss. The property damage claim will be handled along with the rest of the claim. If your claim is successful, though, the insurance company would reimburse you for any property damage you incurred as a result of the accident.
Q: Should I have my car repaired now under my deductible collision policy, in which event my insurance company pays for the loss over your deductible, or should I let my lawyer collect it as part of the lawsuit?
A: If you are protected with collision insurance, by all means make your claim against your own company now for the loss. Your own company will in turn be reimbursed eventually for the amount that you were paid by them. The $100 or $200 that you lose may be included as an item of damage in your claim. If you do not wish to claim under your own policy for collision damage, the amount of your property loss will be included by us in your lawsuit. Be sure to inform us as soon as possible whether you will be filing the claim with your own insurance company or not.
Q: If I elect to have my automobile repaired, should I obtain pictures of it before it is repaired?
A: Yes; film or digital pictures are very helpful.
Q: What amount of contact is the right amount of contact with my attorney?
A: The relationship between you and your lawyer is a confidential and professional one. Many clients feel that a call on the telephone might be interpreted by their lawyers as “bothersome.” Our St. Louis attorneys are delighted to hear from you and expect to hear from you at regular intervals. However, since most of our time is spent either in actual trial, or preparation for trial, it may not always be easy for you to reach us on the telephone. When something concrete or specific happens in your case, we will advise you. Otherwise, you can be assured that your case is following the normal course of preparation. If you are unable to reach us personally on the telephone, leave your message with our secretary or write us a short note. Quite often, we will return your calls in the evening, or on weekends, if you are unavailable during the day.