People are often curious what their injury case is worth. It’s human nature, but many feel guilty for wondering – worrying that it makes them look greedy or that it will give the impression they’re lying about the pain to get more cash. Unfortunately, once people get over the hump of discomfort and ask the question, I never have a very satisfying answer for them (at least early on in the case).
Montana’s law regarding damages in personal injury and wrongful death cases involves considering a number of different factors and elements which need to be assessed at different times as the case progresses. Assuming the client hasn’t waited too long to come see me, at the time of our first meeting it is very unlikely that all those factors will be determined or knowable. And without all that information, any value on a case would just be a guess.
Imagine this scenario: a client has severely damaged his knee and is scheduled to have surgery to repair it soon. There’s no way to evaluate a claim on the knee until after the surgery and rehabilitation (and often for a while after that). For one, we have no idea what the cost of the surgery will be until after it’s completed, and that will be a part of any damages claim. Also, there’s no way to know what the surgery will discover about the knee or whether complications will arise during the surgery. Assuming there’s lost wages, presumably the client will continue to miss more work so we don’t know the total for that either. And, we have no idea what the knee will be like in the future, and whether there will be ongoing problems with it and how bad those will be.
For those reasons, and easily a dozen more, it’s usually not possible to accurately evaluate the value of a case at an initial meeting. Of course, there’s always the exception that proves the rule and occasionally someone will come in with a fully ready case where they’ve reached full recovery and the liability facts are already established. In those very rare instances, I can answer the question. But the rest of the time, we’re left with the client feeling somewhat awkward but not having learned much for the question.
But the truth is that the wait is worth it, because getting the correct answer is a lot better than some pie in the sky number I pick off the top of my head based on some other case only marginally like yours. Personal Injury cases in Montana, and across the country, are all unique and different. That makes my job interesting, but it also makes it very difficult to give concrete answers early in the case.