What is My Case Worth?
In determining whether you have a case, it is more an art than science, but it should be approached objectively. However, there are a number of factors used to evaluate a case. Most of those are:
Liability: Whether anyone is legally liable to you for your claim is liability. The law requires that you prove elements of a case before anyone becomes liable to you. When determining if you have case, you would have to know the theory of liability. For example, negligence has five elements. If each element can be easily proven, then liability is strong. If one or more elements are week, then you have a tougher case. For example, in a car wreck case where one has been rear-ended, liability is usually strong. However, if there’s a dispute over who had a green light, liability may be week. Investigation and discovery on the case may make it strong once one talks to all the witnesses. If there are none, liability may be tough, or impossible.
Damages: what your total losses, both tangible, like medical bills and lost wages, and intangible, like pain and suffering and mental anguish. Any attorney weighing whether to take your case or what is worth will consider your potential damages. If your damages are very small, they might be reluctant to take it. The reason for that is because the lower the damages, the more likely that expenses on a case will exceed your recovery. If your damages are high, you may still have problems making a decent recovery based upon the other factors. If you have no damages, there is no case.
Credibility: both your credibility and the opposing sides will weigh sharply in determining a value of your case. If you get caught lying under oath, your value will greatly drop. If you lie under oath, you will likely be caught, so don’t. If you think the other side is lying, talk to your lawyer about it. If you can prove the defendant is dishonest, it could improve the value of your case.
Provability: Some cases are more difficult to prove than others. Questions should be asked like “how strong is the evidence,” or “how difficult is something to prove?” In general, medical malpractice cases can be hard and very expensive to prove. Thus, it tends that only the ones with the large amounts of damages are brought. Other times, it is part of the damages that are hard to prove. You may have some medical condition that medical science has not defined, or doctors are in a disagreement about. This could mean that a substantial portion of your case cannot be proven. For example, in a mold case against an insurance company that had refused to pay for repair, the court agreed that they had a case for the costs of repairs, but the court disallowed health claims. The court ruled that the evidence in support of the health claims due to mold was not proven. Undeveloped scientific evidence makes for a hard case to prove. Likewise, sometimes witness cannot be found or will not cooperate. If some part of your case becomes difficult to prove, it will hurt your case. It does not mean you are wrong and the other side is right, it just means that part of your case just cannot be proven.
Probability of a Favorable Verdict: Unfortunately, some people are popular and some people are not. Some cases tend to take on the same hard to understand sense of appeal. This is not fair, but many lawyers will assess cases in part on how presentable a person is, but the truth is a jury will, too. Whenever you have to go to a deposition, mediation, or court, dress neatly and be well groomed. Do not wear excessive amounts of jewelry or offensive or revealing clothing. Be respectful and polite, and do not get mad. Doing otherwise could decrease the value of your case.
Venue: Another factor is where your case would be tried, which is called venue. Although not fair, juries from county to county differ greatly. Consider a county which is made of mostly of blue collar workers versus a county where much of management lives. A case where an injured worker is seeking redress, might fare better with the blue collar workers. The rules determine where a case may be filed, but venue can determine the value of your case.
Possibility of Collection or payment: Finally, few cases are worth bringing if you will not recover in the end. If the other party does not have insurance that would pay a judgment against them, then it is likely you may not recover. If the defendant does have the ability to pay you, it still may be a more difficult case.
Weighing all these factors, and maybe some more, helps experienced lawyers come up with a value on your case. Though its more and art than a science, it should be approached objectively, much like a baseball manager might do when assembling a team. He will look at likely outcomes based upon what he knows his players can do by looking at their batting averages or his pitchers averages. He can make assessment and make an educated objective prediction on who would perform best based upon his players past performance. In the end, like the baseball manager, the lawyer can only make his best assessment. Which means he can increase the odds of winning, but once the baseball game starts, there is always a possibility of loss.
Please do not use this article alone to determine whether you have a case under Washington State law. Instead, consult a lawyer, and of course we would be delighted if you called us at 425-296-9025.
Successful Representation in Washington
We represent clients all over Washington State. Although we office in Redmond, we will be glad to come meet you any where in Washington State. We have clients in Vancouver, Tacoma, Seattle, Redmond, Edmonds, Everett, Bellevue, Federal Way, Monroe, Duvalle, the Olympic Pensula, Issaquah, North Bend, and even out of state clients who have cases in Washington. We are willing to work with clients over internet, phone, and email, though we do request an initial meeting in person if at all possible.