Do I Have a Legal Case After My Accident?

Legal Case

The first question a potential client asks a lawyer – but you might not have your answer right away

There are countless scenarios for which a person could sue.

Do I Have a Legal Case?

Do I Have a Legal Case?

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There are so many laws and regulations in existence because at some point in history, that particular situation occurred – and people fought over it. So you know that when you're remortgaging your property and there are four thousand papers attesting to the fact that you're not stealing someone's identity, those papers are in there for a very good reason.

However, after an accident, you could be sitting there in the wreckage of your car, or on the ground after having been knocked off your bike by a blind old lady driving with a suspended license, or in the water after a sailboat hit your dingy, and you might be wondering: Do I have a legal case?

There are only a few steps for the initial analysis, though it can branch off in many directions; an attorney can take it from there.

How do I know if I have a case?

Let's use the boat situation. It's a bright, brisk day, and you have a small boat you like to use for solo sailing trips and fishing. After adjusting your hat and gathering supplies, you set off from the shore and head toward the horizon, letting the wind take you where it will. Once you're far enough out, you begin fishing, feeling all tension wash away.

Then you hear a boat's horn blaring from behind you. With almost no warning, an enormous sailboat is bearing down on you, and there's nowhere to go and no time to move – you have little choice but to leap into the water, hitting who knows what on the way in. The cold shocks your body and pain flares in your back and legs. When you surface, you see that your prized dingy is destroyed, the pieces floating in the water.

Here is how to determine whether you have a case for negligence:

  • Am I injured in any way? In this case, yes – your dingy was destroyed and you have pain in your legs and back.

  • Did another person act in a negligent way or in violation of law? Yes – the other party drove his boat straight through yours.

  • Did that wrongful act result in damages? Yes – your boat was destroyed, and though the fact pattern did not disclose it, you will likely end up needing medical attention for your injuries.

What about other types of cases?

As mentioned above, there are innumerable types of ways to wrong someone. An attorney will sit down with you and go over the facts. That way, he or she can determine A) what type of case it is, B) what type of attorney you need and C) whether you can collect damages.

For instance, a breach of contract case is different than negligence. Assume you and Joe Schmoe had a contract for 10,000 Chia Pets™ – he was going to sell them to you for $100,000. However, Joe kept them in a storage container for a few months and delivered them in substandard condition. You sued for breach of contract.

What are the elements of breach of contract?

  • You have to prove there was existence of a valid contract.

  • You must illustrate that Joe breached the contract by failing to meet his contractual burden.

  • Finally, you have to show that you actually suffered an economic loss. Did you have to buy replacement Chia Pets™ elsewhere at a higher price, for instance?

You can get caught up in the type of case and the burden of proof in each one. There are so many different case elements, and each has many sub-elements that need to be established in order to win damages. Before getting caught up in that, here is the best way to determine if you have a case (if you answer questions 1, 2 and 3 as "yes," then you likely have a legal case):

  • Are you injured?
    • Have you suffered some sort of harm? This can be economic in nature as well. Did you lose money? Was a contract breached?
    • Did you slip and fall on something that should've been cleaned by someone else?
    • Were you injured at your workplace?
    • Were you attacked by someone's animal?
    • Did someone intentionally assault you?
    • Was any property damaged?
    • Was anything stolen?
    • Were you hurt by a defective product?
    • Did a doctor provide inadequate medical care?
    • Were you hurt by another person because of his or her negligence?
  • Was another person or entity responsible for this injury?

  • Did this injury result in damages (medical bills, damage to real property such as a house or car, etc.)?

If so, sit down with a lawyer.

An attorney will be able to dissect exactly what you need to file and when. Different types of torts have various statutes of limitations (the time within which you need to file a case), so you will want to act as quickly as possible after the initial injury. The first meeting with an attorney should be free (though it might not always be), and any personal injury attorney should be willing to speak with you. If they don't handle your type of case, they will be able to refer you to someone more qualified.

Why Might a Personal Injury Lawyer Decline My Case?

Why Might a Personal Injury Lawyer Decline My Case?

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Don't be put off if you aren't told you have a case in the first meeting. A lawyer has to determine whether you are an appropriate and credible witness, whether there is enough evidence to proceed, and whether there will be enough damages to make the case worthwhile – both for him and for you. Furthermore, it doesn't make sense to proceed if there is nobody against whom you can claim damages.

For instance, what if the boat driver who hit you was bankrupt and indebted to six ex-wives? How will you collect any money from him? You might be able to get something from his insurance company to cover your injuries, but you won't be able to get anything from him personally unless you attach his paychecks and get $50 a week for the rest of his natural life. Your attorney has to examine all of these angles, and this will take more than one meeting to determine.

If you're not sure where to start, check out the Enjuris law firm directory for help!

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