A caller to my office made me laugh and cringe at the same time. He had broken his hip this past December and hired a local Chicago workers’ compensation law firm to handle his case. He called me because he has been trying to reach his lawyer to find out a ballpark figure of what his case might be worth. It made me laugh in a sad way because I just don’t get why an attorney wouldn’t call back a client. And it made me cringe because when you sign on a client you should lay out a road map of what’s going to happen in the case.
If the attorney had done that he/she would have told the client that there is no realistic way to tell them what the case might be worth right now. It’s a major injury and there are a bunch of factors that will determine what it’s worth in the end. The two biggest are whether or not they can return to work and what is the medical care that they are going to go through for this injury.
I certainly don’t blame anyone who calls me and wants to know what their case is worth and for most cases we can give a fairly accurate range as to what that might be. But a case like this would have such a wide range that it wouldn’t make sense to even start that sort of analysis. If you have hip surgery there are risks of many different complications. We’ve seen people whose legs end up slightly shorter after total hip replacement surgery. This could create a complication that leads to problems with your back, knees or other body parts.
Sometimes hips can be replaced and dislocate. That would also factor in to what the case is worth.
Bottom line is that giving a ball park figure will make the client feel good (or not good if you don’t give them a big number), but it’s the type of thing that a lazy or dishonest attorney does when it’s this early on in the case.
Of course it’s human nature to want to know these things and I assure you that the lawyers in our network provide this information as soon as we can look you in the eye and honestly tell you that our opinion is true and not just a guess or made up.
The firms who don’t follow this advice seem to often end up with unhappy clients. They’ll tell them before they sign up or right after that the case will be worth $150,000.00 or some other really high number and then two years lawyer (or whenever the case is ready to be settled) the client will get $40,000.00 (or whatever the case is worth) and think that something fishy is going on like the lawyer getting bought off. The only thing fishy is the nonsense in the beginning of the case. It’s a lawyer lie done to make the client feel good and think “no matter how bad my attorney is at returning my calls or answering my questions, I know that one day I’ll get a lot of money because they said so.”
Final thought. You don’t want to settle your case until you are as good as you going to get. Once the case is closed, it’s closed. I recently had a woman tell me that her case should be allowed to be re-opened because she’s really suffering and didn’t know the rights she’d give up if she settled. To paraphrase that TV commercial that I think is actually about insurance, “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.”