Is a Clear Liability Case Worth More Than Disputed Liability Case?
Multiple chapters in these guides have addressed the various rules and doctrines that determine if you can recover for your personal injuries, and from whom. Implicit in these discussions is the notion that the more likely there will be a recovery, the more the case is worth –at least in terms of settlement value. I (Attorney Eric T. Kirk) would suggest that the objective value of a case, and settlement value of a personal injury case are related, but fundamentally different concepts. A seasoned Baltimore personal injury and accident lawyer that tries his or her cases knows that a “clear” liability case is going to have more settlement value than a case of questionable or disputed liability. Why?
Well, the insurance company, of course, can take the case to trial. If liability is not clear, they have a chance of paying nothing on the case, if a jury returns a verdict in their favor. This directly impacts the settlement value of a case.
Imagine a car or automobile accident with clear damages, i.e. someone was badly hurt, no pre-existing conditions, and has medical bills and lost wages. Imagine that in that scenario, liability is clear.
The Defendant was in the wrong, and there really is no plausible scenario where the defendant is not at fault. The insurance company is more likely -although there are never guarantees in this business- to settle the case at something approaching reasonable value. Imagine that same scenario, but with one change. Both drivers have an equally plausible version of how the event happened, and there are no witnesses. In that circumstance, a personal injury and accident lawyer needs to consider the notion that they have perhaps a 50% chance of winning that case on liability.
An insurance company is going to be unwilling to pay full value for a case where they have a 50% chance of paying nothing at all if they win at trial.
Now, when a personal injury and accident lawyer wins the case at trial, presumably, the jury will award full value, but there is risk, i.e. the notion that the jury might side with the other driver. So it least in terms of settlement potential, and value, I believe the clear liability case is always going to have more intrinsic wort during negotiations.