How do I know if I have a case?
If I have been injured, whether in a car, on the sidewalk, or at the shopping mall, how do I know that I have a case? What if I get ripped off by a fraudster or someone breaks their contract with me?
It’s not enough, alone, that you have lost money or that you have been hurt – what kind of factors do personal injury attorneys consider when they are deciding whether to accept a case? Are there situations where a person has been hurt or taken advantage of and yet the courts offer no help?
Below, I’ll discuss some of the things that your attorney will consider when deciding whether you have a case. However, if you believe you might have a case, call your Myrtle Beach personal injury attorney at Coastal Law immediately for a free consultation and case review.
How Do I Know if I Have a Case? The “Three-Legged Stool”
How do I know if I have a case? Many attorneys use the analogy of a three-legged stool – 1) fault, 2) damages, and 3) a source of recovery.
If you have all three, you most likely have a viable case that we can file on your behalf. If just one of the three is missing or shaky, however, the stool will collapse, and you will be left with no recovery…
In most cases, the person we file suit against must be at fault for the injury, although the type and degree of the person or company’s fault may be different depending on the facts of the case and what the law says. For example:
Negligence: Most personal injuries cases require a basic showing of negligence and proximate cause. The person or company owed a duty to you (a duty of good faith and fair dealing in a contract dispute, or a duty to follow the traffic laws and not to harm other motorists), they breached that duty, and their conduct was the proximate cause of your injuries (there was no other intervening factor that caused the injury).
Gross negligence: When the defendant’s conduct went beyond ordinary negligence and recklessly placed others (you) at risk. When there is gross negligence, punitive damages are a possibility.
Intentional conduct: If negligent conduct gives rise to liability, intentional conduct surely gives rise to liability also. In many cases, intentional conduct on the part of the defendant will open the door to punitive damages and raise or remove SC’s caps on punitive damage awards…
Strict Liability: In some cases, it is not necessary to prove negligence or intentional conduct because the law says a person is presumed to be liable when they take certain actions.
For example, if I have a tiger in a cage in my home that escapes and attacks a neighbor, it doesn’t matter if I was negligent in securing the tiger’s cage or if I took every possible precaution – I am responsible for any damage caused when the tiger escapes.
Other, more common, examples include strict liability for dog attacks or for defective products in SC.
How bad were your injuries, property damage, or monetary losses?
As a matter of law, there must be somedamages for you to have a case. If you were hit by another motorist at an intersection, it was their fault, and you received minor scrapes and bruises, you may have a case as a matter of law. But will an attorney be able to help you?
As a practical matter, you must have enough damages to justify the expense of filing a lawsuit. If your expected recovery is $500, it will not cover your attorney’s time, the cost of depositions, filing fees, investigator fees, or expert witnesses that may be needed to litigate your case.
As part of your initial case review, your attorney will estimate your potential recovery (even if your attorney doesn’t share that estimate with you – understand that no attorney wants to create what could be unreasonable expectations at their first meeting with a client), the potential expenses of filing suit and taking a case to trial, and whether it justifies taking on the case.
Source of Recovery
A final consideration is whether there is a source of recovery at the end of your lawsuit. Unless there are insurance policies that will cover your damages or a company or individual with means to pay, you do not have a viable case.
For example, if your neighbor, a person of modest means, slanders you and causes harm to your reputation and business, you may “technically” have a lawsuit against them, but it is not likely that an attorney would file it.
You may have a cause of action, but your attorney can’t file the lawsuit, pay the expenses of litigation, and devote time and money to your case unless there is a way to pay for the expense and time of litigating your case.
A Wrong Without a Remedy
In far too many cases, there is a wrong without a remedy. Consider the example of the slanderous neighbor – they are committing a wrong. It is hurting you. But, despite the availability of a cause of action for defamation, there is no remedy in the civil courts because the neighbor is unable to pay a judgment.
Why Do I Need to Consult with an Attorney?
You may believe that you have a case only to find that a non-obvious quirk of the law prevents you from recovering. Your attorney should be able to spot bad facts or bad law before filing your lawsuit.
On the other hand, you may not know that you have a case until you check with an attorney, or you may not realize the full value of your case. As soon as you are able following an auto accident or other injury, or as soon as you realize that you may have a cause of action for a breach of contract or fraud, contact your Myrtle Beach personal injury attorney and set up a free consultation.
SC Personal Injury Lawyers in Myrtle Beach
The Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyers at Coastal Law will help you to determine whether you have a case, identify all possible sources of recovery, and recover maximum compensation for your injuries whenever possible.
If you believe you have a case against someone who has caused you harm in SC, call now at (843) 488-5000 or contact us through our site to set up a free consultation and case review with a SC personal injury attorney today.