How do I know if I have a case?
By: Sherif Rizk
If you have recently been in an accident, whether it’s a car accident or a slip and fall, you might be wondering whether you have a case that is worth pursuing in the courts. The answer to that question depends on many factors, and you may prioritize one factor over others.
So what kind of factors should you consider to know if you have a case?
Factor #1: Is the other party at fault?
Before determining the value of the case, we have to first assess who is at fault for this accident. Depending on the situation, it could be entirely your fault, or it could be another party’s fault, or it could be some combination between you and another party. Determining the answer to this question is often the first step in determining the value of your case.
It is important to know this answer because it will determine whether you’re entitled to receive any compensation at all. For example, if your injuries entitle you to compensation of $50,000, you may end up getting nothing if it’s determined by a court that you were entirely at fault for this incident for not taking enough precautions, or failing to follow obvious warnings to avoid dangerous behaviours.
In cases where there is some combination between your fault and another party’s fault, you may still be entitled to compensation based on a principle called “contributory negligence”. This is a legal principle that apportions (or in other words, divides) the responsibility for the accident among the parties. For example, if your injuries entitle you to compensation of $50,000, and you were found to be 50% at fault, that means you could see a reduction in your compensation by 50% to $25,000.
Assuming that the question of liability is clear, we can move on to our second stage of analysis.
Factor #2: What are your losses?
Personal injury law is about compensating you for your losses. Evaluating those losses can sometimes be challenging, but it is one of the most important steps in a assessing a personal injury claim.
When assessing your losses after an accident, we first look at damage to property – which is most likely your car. Insurance policies will usually pay out to compensate for damage to the car first, and will make an assessment about whether the car can be repaired at a reasonable rate, or if it would be better to give you a cheque with the fair market value of the car so you can purchase a similar one.
Then, we attempt to assess other losses that happened as a result of the accident. For example, are there injuries that require treatment? Will those injuries lead to you having to take time off work to recover? Will you have to purchase medical equipment (such as a walker or crutches) or expensive medications to deal with your injuries and pain? These sorts of losses can be quantified, but require a careful assessment of not just how much you have spent/lost, but how much you could spend/lose in the future.
In addition to these financial losses, there could be a loss of peace of mind. Having to deal with pain after an accident is a debilitating experience that can weigh on your mind constantly. It could lead to developing psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety, and could cause you to lose sleep and rest. This pain and suffering is sometimes difficult to quantify, but is an important part of the process in assessing whether to pursue a claim against the at-fault party.
Assuming that the losses are clear, compensable and quantified, we move to our third and final stage of the analysis.
Factor #3: Are you prepared for the time investment?
Personal injury claims usually involve a significant investment of time and money. Although you can do a cost-benefit analysis between the financial investment of pursuing a claim and the amount of money you can expect to receive as compensation, many people don’t take into account the investment of time that will be required to get to that point.
There are several reasons why personal injury claims require a significant time investment.
1) Firstly, one needs to take the time to assess and calculate their losses to ensure accuracy and thoroughness. This could require a careful review of all the time that you have missed from work in the past to go to medical appointments or taken sick days.
2) Secondly, one needs to make sure that the legal steps in a lawsuit are followed appropriately and within reason. Although the court rules require certain steps to take place by certain deadlines, these steps can be time-consuming, and ensuring accuracy sometimes requires time extensions.
3) Thirdly, time can be beneficial for your case. If your injuries persist several years after an accident, this could be used as evidence to show that the injuries are serious and permanent. Proving this is very important, especially in cases involving motor vehicle accidents.
The time investment in pursuing a personal injury claim is significant. The process could take as long as 5 to 7 years. For those expecting a quick payout, this is usually not the case. In fact, even the most serious cases require a great deal of time to ensure accuracy of information, and to allow for negotiations on the best possible form of compensation for that individual.
In summary, here are three factors to consider when asking yourself if you have a case:
- Is the question of liability (i.e. who is at fault?) clear?
- Are there clear, compensable and quantified losses that I can ask for?
- Am I prepared to make a significant time investment (up to several years) to pursue my claim?
These are not easy questions to answer; they require not only a knowledge of the facts that underlie a case, but also the law. It is very important for you to consult with a lawyer who has worked in personal injury law to get answers to these questions and give you an assessment on your case.
If you are interested in getting a free assessment for your personal injury claim, contact Rizk Law Office for a FREE consultation! Call 613-800-7571 or email [email protected] to find out more!