The most common question that gets asked when someone calls a law firm is “Do I have a case?” To answer that question, the attorney you speak with will ask you a series of questions about the facts of your case. They don’t want or need every detail, but want you to give them a general idea of what the case is about. In doing so they will have you paint them a picture so they can determine if it’s a case they want to investigate. Unfortunately, many attorneys aren’t direct in giving potential clients an answer.
Some lawyers will lie and say something like, “You have a great case, but I’m too busy to take it.” They do this because they are either cowards or wishy washy and worried about getting sued for giving bad advice.
Others will tell you that it’s not a case they handle. Sometimes that’s true and other times they are afraid to say you don’t have a case.
Fortunately many attorneys will offer their opinion even if it means explaining why your case isn’t a winner. This is why you came to us, for answers. That doesn’t mean will give you the answer you want, but it means we will tell you what we think. We aren’t the only lawyers out there. We’re not the Judge. All we can do is offer a opinion based on our experience and what we hear from you.
The reality is that while we get it right 99% of the time, no attorney is right all the time. Sometimes the law changes. Sometimes we don’t know what we are talking about. And sometimes someone else looks at a case differently and achieves something incredible.
This happened this year on a medical malpractice lawsuit in Chicago. In the case, a 98 year old woman who lived independently was prescribed Warafin at allegedly triple the appropriate dosage and without proper instructions. This led to a severe uncontrolled bleeding event that resulted in acute hypoxic respiratory failure and other complications. She required significant medical treatment and home healthcare. She ended up dying two years later.
Now that sounds like a sad case, but the reality is that even though she went from mostly independent to needing daily assistance, the life expectancy of a 98 year old is usually weeks and anyone that age could go from independence to needing assistance at a moment’s notice. In 25 years I’ve never gotten involved with a case for someone this old. Every medical malpractice lawyer I know would have turned this case down. It’s not to excuse the negligence, but the reality is that it appears based on the initial hearing of the facts that you’d likely spend more money than you can recover. That’s based on her age limiting what the case is worth.
The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers I recommend are the best in the business. They are the ones that get most of the leading case results every year. They would have turned this case and is it turns out it would have been a mistake. The case went to trial and a jury awarded her family $1.3 million in damages. This was a record setting verdict for someone over 90 years old.
The lawyers who handled it were very smart. They didn’t file a wrongful death suit saying her life was cut short because she had already way outlived her life expectancy and survived another two years. Instead they focused on how her quality of life had diminished.
I asked one of the prestigious attorneys I work with on cases if he would have taken. This is a guy who regularly sets records on these types of cases. He’s a lawyer insurance companies fear. He said he would have turned it down too. But he also made a great point. A lot of lawyers are settlement lawyers and not trial lawyers. A trial attorney knows that once you get in to a trial, it’s a daily grind. If the facts are shocking and every witness is against the defendant and the plaintiff is crushing them, it can lead to a great verdict.
I don’t think we’ll all of the sudden see a rush of similar cases, but it does create a data point for other attorneys to use if they get similar facts. I tip my hat to the very good firm that got this result. For you as a potential plaintiff it’s a valuable lesson to remember that if one attorney doesn’t want your case, there might be another one who does. We do get it right most of the time, but nobody gets it right every time.