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Alkalay & Smillie, PLLC

in Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire

Office: (603) 447-8994
Fax: (603) 297-2866

Articles of Interest

Attorney Edward Alkalay writes a regular column for the Conway Daily Sun newspaper entitled "The Legal Corner." His articles address a wide variety of timely legal issues. Click on the titles below to review his past articles.

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The Legal Corner: The Legal Corner: How much is my case worth?

April 23, 2012

I hear this question often. Usually the question comes up in automobile accident cases, but it comes up in other civil cases as well. A client will come to meet with me and be concerned that, because of an accident, he (I\'ll refer to the client as a male for purposes of this article) is paying medical bills, losing time from work and unable to pay monthly bills. Oftentimes the client will speak with friends or family who advise him to sue, but tell him wildly contradictory figures as to what they think the case is worth. To top it all off, an insurance adjustor is calling and offering to pay several thousand dollars (that he sure could use) and just wants the client to sign a \"simple release.\"
Any attorney who tells a client what a case is worth is being speculative at best. Ultimately, what a case is worth to a client depends on what that the client believes it is worth. Of course, an insurance company may not agree. When that happens, the client can elect to have a jury decide. An experienced attorney can help a client sort out the process, give insight into the client’s case, and vigorously advocate for the client.
When I meet with a client, I always question in detail the particulars of the client\'s case: (1) was the accident entirely the other driver\'s fault; (2) what is the extent of the injuries; (3) are there any permanent injuries; (4) how has the accident affected daily activities (i.e. driving, sleeping, eating, working, etc.); (5) how much are the medicals bills; (6) is future treatment is required; (7) has there been a loss of time from work; and (8) are there any particular laws that apply to the case?
With the answers to these questions, I am usually able to provide a client with what I believe the case is worth based on past similar cases. However, I always emphasize that it is the client\'s decision as to what to accept. If an insurance company offers what I believe to be a fair figure, I will tell the client. However, just because I believe the figure is fair, does not mean the client has to. The client can simply reject the offer and request that we continue on to a trial where a jury will decide the value of the case. Likewise, I may indicate that I believe that the insurance company is not being fair or that I believe the case is worth much more than what was offered and recommend going to trial. A client could simply tell me that despite my thoughts, he wants to settle at the figure offered. Bottom line - the decision whether or not to settle is always a client\'s decision.
If a client decides to go forward to a jury trial, what the case is worth will be left up to the jury. The jury will make its decision based upon the testimony of the client and other witnesses, and the other evidence presented. When a case goes to a jury, what the case is worth becomes much more uncertain. A jury\'s award can range from incredibly high to absurdly low, or the jury may decide that the defendant was not at fault at all. Yes, it is riskier to go to a jury trial, but the potential reward is also higher.
In conclusion, what a case is worth is a difficult question. It is worth one thing to a plaintiff. Another thing to an insurance company. And an entirely different thing to a jury. A good attorney can help you build your case, offer advice as to a case is worth based on past experience, and effectively guide you through the insurance and court process. However, whether to resolve a case through a settlement or to take a case to trial is entirely the client\'s decision.

Edward D. Alkalay is a partner at Alkalay & Smillie PLLC and can be reached at (603)447-8994 or ed@northconwaylawyers.com. (This article conveys general information and should not be relied on for legal advice without further research and/or consultation with an attorney.)

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By: Edward D. Alkalay