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3 Common Myths About Personal Injury Cases

If you were recently injured as a result of someone's negligence, you're probably considering a personal injury claim. Filing a personal injury suit can allow you to recoup costs and damages incurred by an injury, assuming the injury isn't your fault.

Unfortunately, misconceptions abound when it comes to personal injury claims. Today, we're taking a look at some of the most common myths about personal injury cases.

Myth #1: Filing a Successful Claim Is Like Winning the Lottery

In the mid-1990s, an elderly woman by the name of Stella Liebeck ordered coffee from a Mcdonald's drive-thru in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mrs. Liebeck accidentally spilled the coffee on her lap, only to find the coffee was dangerously hot—she received severe third-degree burns across her lap, which required skin grafts to heal.

Mrs. Liebeck filed a personal injury suit against the fast-food giant, arguing that McDonald's negligently served coffee that was too hot for safe consumption. In the lawsuit, Mrs. Liebeck requested $20,000 in compensatory damages—just enough to pay for her medical expenses and lost income. McDonald's never offered her more than $800.

Mrs. Liebeck took McDonald's to court, where the jury heard evidence such as, among other things, that McDonald's had already received over 700 injury cases as a result of boiling coffee, which the chain served at around 180-190 degrees—hot enough to cause third-degree burns in 3-7 seconds. During the trial, McDonald's admitted that it didn't warn customers of how hot the coffee was.

The jury ultimately awarded Mrs. Liebeck $3 million, but she didn't see most of that money—the trial court later reduced the award to $480,000, and to avoid a possible re-trial and appeal, Mrs. Liebeck ultimately settled for even less than that with the fast-food restaurant.

Even huge personal injury cases such as the McDonald's suit are often settled out of court so the claimant can avoid a retrial or appeal on behalf of the perpetrator. Most claimants want to get the injury case over with so they can recoup their damages and move on with their lives—companies, on the other hand, have the resources to fight tooth and nail to avoid paying out damages. Given the option of spending resources and time fighting appeals and retrials to get a larger settlement or just settling for a smaller sum, most claimants take the latter option.

The vast majority of personal injury cases are filed by an individual only looking to recoup damages for lost wages and medical expenses, not someone who wants to win the lottery.

Myth #2: You Can Always Rely on Insurance Companies

If insurance companies paid out every claim, there would be little need for personal injury lawyers.

Most insurance companies operate on a business model that relies on the assumption the company won't have to pay out most claims. During the COVID-19 pandemic, insurance industry experts worry that many insurers could go under. The reason? Insurance companies can't handle the strain of an excess of claims—even if the claimants are within their rights.

If you're injured, you shouldn't assume that the insurance company will pay out your claim. A personal injury attorney can help you take the case to trial if the insurance company refuses to pay you.

Myth #3: Good Attorneys Only Take on High-Profile Cases

Think back to the McDonald's lawsuit we referenced earlier. High-profile cases often take a significant amount of time and resources for both the claimant and the attorney. They may require the hiring of expert witnesses, or the ability to consistently pursue the case despite appeals and retrials.

For the vast majority of personal injury lawyers, 'small' claims are just as valuable as a claim filed against a huge corporation like McDonald's in terms of resources expended and results achieved.

At Singleton Smith Law Offices, we pride ourselves on providing every client with high-quality legal assistance, no matter the size of their case.

To learn more about how we can help you with your personal injury case, contact us online or via phone at (951) 779-1610.