You should NOT feel guilty for having a “good” personal injury claim.
The better human being you are, the worse you will feel about bringing any claim — at all, ever. But it is only a “good” claim if someone has hurt you by doing something awful that would make anyone mad.
Listen to this podcast to hear my wife, Maria, and I discuss fault and damages in a personal injury case.
Midwesterners Feel Real Guilt About Their Claims
When I first graduated law school, I practiced law in New York City, which is a very different environment than, say, Gurnee, Illinois, where I now have an office.
One of the big differences between the East Coast and the Midwest is this: In the sophisticated Big Apple, everyone knew their rights (intimately) and would insist on them (loudly), whether or not they had a case. The more rugged Midwesterner, though, is hesitant to ever assert his rights.
I’m not sure whether the Midwesterner just suffers from any — or all — of the following:
• inner toughness (it didn’t hurt that much; it was just a cracked vertebrae),
• humility (not sure if little ol’ me even has any rights), or
• a kind of religiosity (this accident must have been God’s will)?
What I do know is this: When someone who has been injured comes to see me, he or she will often say things like, “I never thought I would be doing something like this [that is, seeing an attorney — or worse, bringing a lawsuit] in my life!”
Part of my initial job is to comfort and salve their conscience and explain to them that they have nothing to feel guilty about.
A Lawsuit Is Not a Lottery Ticket
This is because, despite what you may have heard, a lawsuit is not a lottery ticket.
Believe me: You don’t want a great lawsuit. You don’t want a claim that is worth millions of dollars. You don’t even want a claim that is worth a hundred thousand dollars. Or fifty, twenty-five, or ten! There is no such thing as something for nothing.
A great lawsuit (in your lawyer’s eyes) is a terrible, terrible tragedy for you and your family.
For starters, to have a claim at all, someone must have done something wrong and hurt you. There must be someone at fault. And it’s got to be something that makes people angry to hear about. You don’t have a claim if it is “just an accident.”
I can hear you say, “Now, wait a minute! What does that even mean? What’s the difference between someone doing something wrong (fault) and something that’s ‘just an accident’ – especially if I’m hurt either way? If I’m hurt, you’d better believe I’m angry about it.”
There is an answer. And it’s not complicated. My favorite example is from the kind of law called premises liability, or “trip and falls,” as the saying goes.
Accident Versus Wrong-Doing – The Dark and Unlit Staircase
Let’s say you enter a stairwell in an apartment building and fall down the stairs because there is no lighting. The bulb has burnt out.
Here, the question of fault depends upon exactly when the light went out. If it had gone out, for example, just seconds before you entered, then the landlord is not at fault. He couldn’t have prevented the accident, because he did not have enough time to know about the light. You have no case, because there is no fault.
Nobody would be angry at the landlord under these circumstances — not even New Yorkers!
However, if the bulb had been burnt out for weeks, and enough time had passed that the landlord should have known about it by inspecting, or perhaps actual tenants had complained about it, verbally and in writing, and the landlord still did nothing. Then, he has not done his job in maintaining the premises.
You had better believe Midwesterners would be angry at a landlord who was so derelict in his duties to his tenants, that they would find him at fault.
Conclusion: You Don’t Want a “Good” Personal Injury Claim
So to have a good claim, you have to have been treated in a way that would make you mad, and more importantly, make anyone who heard about it mad. That is just one reason that you don’t ever want to have a personal injury claim. Who wants to be treated that way?
Also, you have to have been injured to have a “good” personal injury claim. And who wants that to happen to them?
Please let me know your thoughts by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I look forward to hearing from you anytime.
Robert Monahan, Esq. is a lawyer in Gurnee, IL with his own practice in personal injury. He has a radio show on Thursday nights at 7 pm, called “Everyday Law,” on WRLR 98.3 FM, where he tries to demystify the law for the ordinary person. “Everyday Law” can be downloaded as a podcast from iTunes or other various podcatchers. His two websites are www.monahanfirm.com and www.gurneepersonalinjuryattorney.com. He also has two Facebook pages – “Robert A. Monahan, Esq.” and “Everyday Law.”