Though the evaluation of every case is unique, three primary elements come into play in almost every single one. In Part I of this series, I discussed the first element: liability. To have a case, the wrongdoer's actions have to be considered unreasonable and unacceptable by society and law. If liability exists, then Part II of the evaluation becomes: does the value of the injuries and damages exceed the time, resources, costs, fees, liens, comparative fault and other factors that come into play in bringing a lawsuit? If the answer to that questions is yes, then question number three of the evaluation concerns the amount of compensation that can actually be collected for the injured party.
Consider the case I discussed in Part II where violent Johnny throws a rock at Jimmy, but this time he hits poor Jimmy in the face, breaks Jimmy's nose and causes a serious concussion. Jimmy requires reconstructive nose surgery and lifelong medical treatment to address his permanent head trauma. Johnny, meanwhile, is unemployed and has no insurance.
In that case, liability is clear and the damages substantial. But what happens if Jimmy sues Johnny for his injuries and gets a solid verdict against Johnny for $300,000? How's he going to collect the money from an unemployed, uninsured deadbeat who is probably in jail for committing assault? The unfortunate truth in this type of situation is that the expenses of litigation likely exceed what Jimmy is able to collect, rendering litigation an often illogical and financially impracticable route to take.
Unfortunately, the majority of individuals who are sued for wrongdoing have more debt than collectible assets. In most cases, it is the existence of insurance and the amount of insurance available that drives whether a case will be worth pursuing.
Even in cases where insurance exists, the amount of insurance available might not be enough to cover the full extent of the victim's injuries. In Arizona, for example, the minimum amount of automobile liability insurance a person is required to carry is $15,000 (per person injured)/ $30,000 (per accident). It's been that way for over thirty years, and does not come close to covering a person who is seriously injured in a car collision. In those situations, we have to investigate whether other insurance might be available to cover the difference, such as under-insured/uninsured motorist policies, umbrella policies and/or commercial policies if the wrongdoer was on the job when causing the injury.
Additionally, all policies exclude certain types of occurrences/injuries/conduct from coverage. Most policies, for example, exclude the kind of intentional and criminal conduct Johnny committed in the example above. Our evaluations not only have to include liability and injury, but a thorough investigation into the money, policies and coverage available to compensate the injured party.
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