What Is My Case Worth?
Every case is different, and good attorneys will never promise you a specific result (although they should help you understand the range of possibility, and the specific facts and law that will affect the final outcome). So, what are some of the factors that will affect the recovery in your case? Consider how an attorney might review your case.
First, the attorney might consider how you've been affected by the injury or wrongful act (your "damages"). Your damages might include the cost of medical care required from a car accident, or the monetary value of the loss of mobility you suffered from a surgical error resulting in the loss of use of your legs. It would include the time and income you lost if you were unable to go to work due to the injury. It can even include the suffering an injury inflicted on your spouse or family, especially in the case of a wrongful death. But an attorney looking at your case doesn't just add it all up and say, "This is what you'll get." That's because there's a lot more to a lawsuit.
Practice Area Spotlight
The Tort & Tortfeasor
Second, the attorney will consider which of these potential damages were caused by the wrongful act of the potential defendant. (This is also referred to as a "tort" committed by a "tortfeasor," which are just fancy ways of saying "bad act" done by the "bad actor." You would be the "plaintiff.") This can get very difficult when people consider how preexisting issues, for example, problems with their health, might reduce their recovery. We often have to explain that, while we know the doctor made a careless mistake that caused injury-sometimes even death-the doctor will point out that even if she had done an adequate job, the plaintiff's outcome wouldn't have been any different. Thus, the claim is reduced to just the harm the mistake caused. Callous? It seems so when you're the one injured, or a doctor failed to diagnose your family member's cancer. But you can only hold the tortfeasor responsible for the harm they caused, and the defendant will have an attorney (often and insurance company attorney) doing everything they can to reduce their liability.
Third, the attorney will consider whether the defendant's act, that caused the injury, was actually a wrongful act. For example, a doctor might accidentally perforate your bowel during surgery, but in some cases, that's considered a normal risk of a particular surgery. People are only "liable," that is, responsible for damages, when their behavior is "negligent," or unreasonable. (In the medical field, this is called the "standard of care," or what a doctor must do in order to be reasonable.) Medical malpractice attorneys, working with medical professionals, will be able to help you figure out whether the doctor violated the standard of care. If not, responsible attorneys will tell you not to file suit.
Fourth, attorneys must consider, and share with you, whether there is evidence to prove all of the above. Often what we believe in our hearts is very different than what we can prove to a stranger sitting on a jury.
Finally, the attorney will consider all of the expenses, such as paying for an expert witness to prove causation, and the court reporter to transcribe deposition testimony to prepare the case for trial involved in the case, and compare them against the potential recovery. Responsible attorneys will tell you when they believe, after all is said and done, that you won't actually see a recovery worth the time and trouble of a lawsuit.
Should you file a lawsuit? You won't know until you talk to an experienced attorney. You can contact us, or another attorney. Remember, if you have a claim, there is most likely a statute of limitations clock running, after which you won't have the right to file a lawsuit.