I agree with Steve Lombardi, there is no such thing as a "good" or "bad" case, it all depends on what the client expects and what they lawyer can prove in the end. I’m not going to re-hash what Steve talked about, I can only suggest you read his post and be enlightened. Instead, I’d like to discuss the different aspects of a few typical injury scenarios and how each one has it’s strengths and weaknesses, in terms of liability, damages, and whether it’s a case the attorney would take.
Let’s start off with a typical slip and fall accident where you fall on some ice in Michigan during the winter. First and foremost, you should be aware that slip and fall injuries are not a blank check waiting to be cashed by someone who is injured. When looking at a slip and fall case, the biggest roadblock is proving liability against the property owner. In Michigan, like most other states, we have some crazy rules put in through by conservative courts over the past decade or so, most notably the open and obvious danger doctrine. What the open and obvious danger doctrine says is basically if a dangerous condition could have been discovered upon reasonable or casual inspection, then a business or property owner has no duty to warn or otherwise advise you of a dangerous condition because, it being open and obvious, it would act as it’s very own warning. That seems like common sense, but it’s actually quite a sinister rule. The worst thing about it is that the law puts the responsibility for falling on the person who is injured on someone else’s property, but more than that, it requires the injured person to be aware of every single dangerous condition that may or does exist on someone else’s property before they become injured. The twist to the rule is that the property owner, who should know what’s dangerous more than the stranger who gets injured, has to be actually told about the danger in order to be held responsible. When we are talking about slip and falls on ice, the person who falls and is injured should have known better to be walking around during the winter, don’t you know there’s snow and ice everywhere? But what about the property owner, don’t they know it’s slippery as well? Shouldn’t they have a responsibilty to keep their property in decent condition during the winter? If the person who falls is supposed to know the ground is dangerous, shouldn’t the person who owns the property know this as well?
So slip and fall cases are difficult from this perspective. There are ways to work around this seemingly impossible hurdle, but they are very fact specific and turn on your memory of what happened. If it’s dark outside, that is one variable that can improve you claim. If you slip and fall on black ice, that is another way to avoid the open and obvious rule. If you are unable to avoid the slippery condition, that’s another factor that improves you claim. The more you can recall about how your fall happened, the better the attorney will be able to properly evaluate the claim. Furthermore, make sure to get pictures of the place where you fell as close to the time when you fell to help demonstrate what caused you to fall. Taking pictures is good advice for most claims, but for slip and falls during the winter, each day is different and having evidence of the actual circumstances which caused your fall is invaluable evidence.
Let’s move on to dog bite cases. In Michigan, like most other states, if you are bitten by a dog and you did not provoke the animal, the dog’s owner is liable for your injuries. What can make your case better or worse really depends on how injured you are and whether the person who owns the dog has home owners insurance. With regard to the nature of your injuries, if you have one or two small puncture wounds, it is unlikely you will see much of a settlement or verdict. That is not to say you do not deserve compensation, just that small puncture wounds often do not result in significant awards of damages. If, however, you have torn muscles, damages nerves, deep puncture wounds requiring stitches or antibiotics, or permanent scarring on a visible area of your body, that would increase the potential award of damages. It makes sense if you think about it, the guy who has two bites on his calf is likely to get less damages compared to the little girl whose face was mauled.
The issue of insurance affects all types of claims, but for dog bites it’s particularly involved. Many dog owner are renters who do not have insurance, meaning they could admit liability but good luck collecting from them in the end. Without insurance coverage on the dog, there is very little chance you will end up seeing any money after a trial, since you would have to collect any money from the person individually. Insurance is a guarantee money will be paid following a settlement or verdict. Think about it like this, if you didn’t have insurance and someone obtained a 1 million dollar verdict against you, what would tell them when they came to collect? My guess is you would tell them good luck, because you cannot get blood from a stone, and you cannot get money from someone who does not have it.
Sometimes the things that make your case better or worse have nothing to do with anything you can control, it can sometimes rest with the person who is responsible for your injuries. If the dog owner does not have insurance, they can harm you twice because their dog bit you and then they can’t compensate you for what happened.
Those attorneys writing in this series about client questions include:
Besides Mike Bryant the writers include Devon Glass from Church Wyble, P.C., Steve Lombardi from The Lombardi Law Firm, Wayne Parsons of Wayne Parsons Law Offices, Rick Shapiro from Shapiro, Cooper Lewis & Appleton, P.C., and Pierce Egerton from Egerton & Associates.
Series about Common Questions Clients Ask
I was in an automobile accident. What should I do? Ten Tips For Hawaii Drivers, Wayne Parsons on September 14, 2009 – 3:59 AM EST.
Steve Lombardi , September 15, 2009 11:00 AM
Steve Lombardi , September 15, 2009 8:48 AM
Car Accident Injury Client: What Makes the Case Good or Bad? (The Collision & Medical Care) , Rick Shapiro September 16, 2009 9:38 AM
Being a Client: More Tips To Help Improve Your Case If You’ve Been In An Car Accident , Devon Glass , September 17, 2009 8:39 AM
Presumed Guilty: How to Avoid Having Insult Added to Injury When You’ve Been Hurt in a Car Crash, Pierce Egerton , September 18, 2009 4:28 PM
What To Do After An Accident When The Adjuster Is There First, Mike Bryant| September 19, 2009 6:26 PM
What Questions Is The Lawyer Going To Ask Me At The Initial Interview For My Injury Or Death Case?, Wayne Parsons | 20 September 2009 12:01
What makes a case good or bad?, Steve Lombardi, 21 September 2009 12:57 PM