Q: I was in a car wreck last January. I was hurt and missed two weeks from work. The insurance company for the person that caused the wreck has offered to pay my medical bills but won’t pay my time off from work and I had to borrow money from my brother to get by. I really don’t want to go to court. Do you think that my case will settle if I have to hire a lawyer?
Muscle Shoals, AL
A: The fact is that part of whether or not your case settles without a trial depends on how your case was prepared for trial. When I first started practicing law I had a very good trial lawyer tell me that the best way to settle a case is to prepare the case for trial. That was true then and it is true now.
The National Institute of Trial Advocacy statistics indicate that the best lawyer can’t win about 20% of the cases and the worst lawyer can’t lose about 20% of the cases. The studies from NITA indicate that 60% of the trials are won or lost by the skill of the lawyer trying the case.
I think part of whether or not your case settles depends on who you hire. Joel and I always want to talk to people about their case when they have been injured in a car accident, injured on the job, or wronged in any way. Joel and I have the jury verdict forms and entries of judgment from jury trials that we would be happy to show you.
Lawyers cannot create facts. Your case will depend on, at least in part, how the accident happened, how you were before the accident, whether you contributed in any way to the accident and how sympathetic the person who caused the accident appears.
In Alabama, you have two years from the date of the accident to file suit or forego your claim in a car accident case.
Whether you hire us or some billboard lawyer or your first cousin, you should be interested in how many cases they have tried to a jury and those results. Sometimes lawyers want to talk about how much money they have received in settlement, but without knowing the facts you don’t really get any information. By that I mean it would be pretty easy to settle a million dollar case for half its value. I think it’s important to hire a lawyer who practices regularly in the area of law that your case falls into. Ask how many car accident jury trials they have tried and won and ask how many they have tried and lost. Both are important. As sad as it is to say I have lost more sleep and learned a great deal more from the cases I’ve tried and lost than from the ones I have won.
You have the right to ask questions about the experience of any lawyer you hire and based on my experience, I don’t know whether your call will settle or not, but statistically most do.
Buckle up and drive safely.
McCutcheon & Hamner, P.C.
2210 Helton Drive
Florence, Alabama 35630