Posted on: 7 November 2016
Lawsuits commonly hit the press when they have unusual circumstances or millions of dollars in settlement amounts. However, most personal injury cases are never featured in the news, and these can be unremarkable in situation and ruling. Strange cases are great for public interest, but they can also skew some people's expectations for their own personal injury cases. Sometimes, the expectation will be different from the reality.
Expectation: I can get millions from just a small accident.
Many times, people hear stories about people who got millions from major companies over seemingly tiny accidents. The most famous example is the woman who sued McDonald's because her coffee was too hot. It sounds like a frivolous cause of action, but many people don't realize that the woman suffered severe burns from the coffee and even needed skin grafts because she spilled the coffee on herself. Even if she was clumsy enough to spill the coffee, it was still irresponsible of the restaurant to sell a product for consumption that could cause such damage. Her claims were justified and her injuries were actually quite serious.
Reality: Small accidents can still be cause for a lawsuit, but your compensation will generally match the severity of your injuries.
Expectation: My lawsuit can make me rich.
Some people do gain significant financial resources from personal injury lawsuits, but it is harmful to pursue a lawsuit with the sole purpose of getting rich. It increases the stigma surrounding personal injury law and does a disservice to those who actually need legal recourse for compensation of costly injury.
Reality: Most successful personal injury claims provide financial security for those who need it. You might regain your lost wages, have your medical bills paid for, and receive compensation for intangible injury, like the emotional trauma that comes from a change in appearance or the loss of a spouse over the injury. Rarely do people make a fortune off a personal injury lawsuit, and your chances of becoming a millionaire are slim. Judges can even limit the amount of compensation you have access to, and money is not given when it is not deserved.
Expectation: I can get all my compensation from insurance funds.
Insurance companies do play a big part of providing compensation in personal injury cases. However, they often only have a certain amount of money to pay out. If you, for example, sue a neighbor for an accident sustained while you were on their property, their homeowner's insurance will cover the damages.
Reality: Most policies have caps, and unlike corporate insurance for large companies and hospitals with extensive liabilities, small auto and home insurance policies will only pay out until the cap has been reached. You could deserve more, but you might not be able to get it.
Expectation: Pain, suffering, and emotional distress will give the biggest payout.
Some cases have significant payouts for non-economic damages, but not all cases fall into this category. Some cases are strictly for economic damages only, and some cases will only allow for certain amount of non-economic evidence. In fact, some states have caps on these types of damages to prevent people from using the legal system as a means to make extra money.
Reality: Pain and suffering can be proven, but you may not get as much as you might think, especially if your state places caps on damage payouts.
The above realities should not discourage you from seeking compensation when it is deserved. Personal injury is common and devastating to those people who have rich family lives, satisfying employment, and healthy bodies. Losing those things is always challenging, and the legal system is in place to protect your rights. Contact a personal injury attorney for more details about your specific cases.Share