Can A Lawyer Guarantee I Will Win My Personal Injury Case?
I'm sometimes asked by my clients – “ Am I going to win my personal injury case at trial?” Of course that is an impossible question to answer for a lawyer. An attorney doesn't make the decisions on the case -juries do. Rather, a lawyer presents the evidence, argues the law, argues the facts, and tries to persuade the finder of fact that the evidence supports the client's version of the facts, and that the application of applicable law to those facts results in a finding that that his or her client wins the case. A lawyer is not the finder of fact in a case in any circumstance. In a bench trial, the finder of fact is a judge. In any case tried to a jury, obviously the jurors, collectively, are the finders of fact.
Any personal injury attorney that predicts the outcome of a case, or guarantees a particular outcome in case is frankly, being foolish, and doing a disservice to the client.
Now I say things all the time like: “I like our chances in this case”, “I am confident, I know we will be able to put on a good case”, “I believe I can convince the jury that you are entitled to substantial damage.” This is not guesswork, nor is it any type of guarantee. A lawyer’s honest assessment of the facts, and honest opinion about the application of the law to those facts, and a lawyer's conclusions about the likely outcome of the case are what the client seeks when hiring that lawyer. This is not surmise and conjecture. Opinions about the likely outcome of a case are the product of seasoning, toil in the trenches, litigating cases, trying cases, negotiating cases. An opinion about the most likely decision reached in a case is to be contrasted with a prediction of or a guarantee as to the outcome of the case.
Any honest, forthright lawyer would never guarantee to his or her client the outcome of the case, even if it means losing the client.
It is simply out of their hands. When my clients ask me: “am I going to win”, I candidly and in unhesitating and forthright manner assess for them the strength of their case. What are the strong points? If we're strong on liability, then I highlight those points. If the damages sustained are significant, then I highlight them. But I also take the other side of the fence. I always advise my clients of the potential pitfalls, of areas where the case may go south. In my opinion this candid unbiased straightforward assessment of a case serves my clients far better than a glib guarantee of success at trial.
-This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 7/20/20.