In the latest episode of our firm’s video web series, which can be viewed and read in transcript form below, firm owner John P. Fishwick, Jr., associate attorney Daniel J. Martin, and firm investigator Isaac Van Patten discuss an issue that is frequently on our clients’ minds: how much money is my personal injury case worth? While the “damages” awarded to plaintiffs can never truly make them whole for their injuries, a plaintiff who suffers personal injuries is entitled to money to compensate various things, including physical pain, mental anguish, loss of quality of life, embarrassment, etc.
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ZAC: Hello everybody and welcome again to another edition of our weekly webisode with Fishwick and Associates. This week we have some interesting things to talk about and with that I’m just going to go ahead and turn it over to our boss and founder, Mr. John Fishwick – John.
JOHN: Zac, our host with the most, our firm investigator, good to see you. I see Daniel, “Judge” Daniel out there today. Today we’re going to talk about value in personal injury cases, how do you decide roughly you know generally how much money a case is worth and what will happen for our clients in their personal injury cases personal injury cases or the automobile wrecks? They could be cases where you’re you know you fall down at a store or something like that they can also be medical malpractice cases where you’re injured at the hands of a health care provider or any other case but it’s personal injury cases, it’s a significant part of our practice and clients often say to us well how much is it my case worth? You know every case is unique and they depend on a lot of different factors but oftentimes a big thing on valuing a case that I have found that’s important with the jury is how has the case affected your life your day-to-day life, what are the things that you can’t do as well now that you could do before the accident and Zac we often call on you to interview, you know, relatives of the folks we represent or co-workers and tell us a little bit about that where we’re looking for ways to show how you know if they’ve had a back injury or broken leg or whatever the injury is how that’s affected their lives because oftentimes these are very real effects on the folks that we represent.
ZAC: Absolutely, um, just one example and I mean probably the most example, uh, easiest example is just quality of life, just how something and an accident can affect the overall quality of life of somebody specifically, just getting dressed. I know we had a client, she hurt her hand did exceptional damage to her hand, and she wasn’t able to bathe herself, she wasn’t able to dress herself, because of you know the massive amounts of pain, and therefore it took her husband and that affected his life and his schedule. So just one thing, you know, literally dominoes into everything else for all those involved in that household. So I speak with them and I cooperate, you know, what their statements and what the injury is, and also I take pictures and we look at those and they, you know, that makes a whole case for us. I’m just basically, like you said, I’m sorry to keep saying basically, but yeah, it has affected their life in ways that you wouldn’t think. I mean, putting on your socks, putting on your underwear, and bathing.
JOHN: That’s a good point Zac and I think, you know, judges and jurors juries especially relate to that, I mean, and so we try to put the juries into the shoes of our client—what changes has it made in their life, how has it affected things. So, Daniel, “Judge” Daniel, we get to a trial there’s a thing called jury instructions and that sounds like a snoozer probably to most of the folks listen to our webisode, but that’s how you started your legal career, working for a circuit judge, a state judge, so you were probably asked from time to time to bring in jury instructions, but those are important because those are what the law is for a jury to consider when they’re looking at our case for the folks we represent and deciding how much compensation, how much value, to place on the injuries that they have suffered. Tell them, tell our listeners a little bit about that “Judge” Daniel.
DANIEL: Right, so, you know, being a juror is a tough job and that’s why we have jury instructions. They’re used to guide the jury on the process and the standard for awarding money in personal injury cases, uh, we call that in the legal world damages, but most people, you know, they think of it as money, that’s what it typically is, and so, for example, in a personal injury case the jury will receive an instruction saying that these are the things that you could consider when determining how much money to award the plaintiff. And it’ll be for bodily injuries, the effect on the person’s health, physical pain and mental anguish, disfigurement and deformity, and any associated humiliation or embarrassment, any inconvenience, costs, medical expenses, lost earnings, and lost earning capacity, and any property damage. That that’ll be something that the jury takes a look at and they’ll go through the list of things they can they can consider now, what can we award the plaintiff money, for what do we think how much money this plaintiff is owed in the personal injury case. And there will sometimes be more specific instructions, too, for example, Virginia has what’s called the collateral source rule, and that just means that the jury can’t consider any insurance benefits that plaintiff received with determining the money that the plaintiff’s owed in the personal injury case, so that that’s an important rule because the jury might think if they didn’t have that instruction, they might think well this plaintiff has got “x” amount of dollars from insurance, we don’t need to give them that amount of money, but that’s not the law of Virginia, so the jury instruction is there to tell the jury what the law is, that they could provide the appropriate uh damages to the plaintiff.
ZAC: One thing I also want to say if I can, John, and I’ll just piggyback in on what you said, Daniel, and now that I’m, you know, got my tongue untied from earlier, one of the things we do at the firm that’s really nice as opposed to first responders, law enforcement, or medical personnel, when there is a personal injury case with a client is we listen. We, I mean, I’m not saying that law enforcement and medical professionals don’t listen, but they listen and they’re very focused on certain aspects, we listen to everything and by that we listen to how it affects the kids, how it affects the husband, how it affects, you know, that the home life of the family all together and it’s in that state when the client is relaxed that they tell us certain things that really have a major impact on the case, uh, something they might have omitted, you know, just under, you know, duress to law enforcement or medical professionals because they were in pain at the time, and it’s things like that that can turn around and really up the value you know for our Virginia clients.
DANIEL: And that’s why we tell our clients to tell us everything, because it might be something that our clients haven’t considered, but that we know from our own experience is important in a personal injury case.
JOHN: Yeah, these are all great points. You know, people often come into our office and they’ve suffered an injury at the hands of somebody else and they’ll say, well, you know, what is my case worth, and we always say to them, you know, we need to know more about the situation, we want you first to get well, we want you know the most important thing is to focus on your health talk to your medical providers, get healthy, get well, and then after we’ve, we’ve done that, and after we’ve interviewed the witnesses and figured out what happened in the case and what the long-term impact for them, then we start to talk to our clients about the value—value or damages, as Daniel said, is really money, you know, what is going to be the compensation. The money’s never going to, you know, put you back where you were for those injuries, you know, those injuries—unfortunately for a number of our clients—are going to be with them for a long time, they’re going to have impairments and those sorts of things, uh, on their body for the, you know, maybe the rest of their lives. But these are important things that we look at. We ultimately do, uh, either negotiations with an insurance company or by asking a jury to award our client so much in the way of damages. We do try to maximize recovery for all of our clients in the personal injury setting, these are important cases to them, we know that they’re important cases to our firm and so we have a strong team here in our firm that that works on these cases to maximize value for folks in personal injury cases. So, Zac, I’ll turn it back over to you to close us out, but thank both of you for being back here today on, uh, this week’s webisode.
ZAC: Absolutely! And we again, as always, we encourage any of you, if you have any questions or comments, please reach out to us. Many of you do reach out to us and glad to help you answer your questions, so please keep them coming and we will see you guys again soon. Thank you very much!
JOHN: Thank you!