When a group of lawyers sit around talking shop, you’re bound to hear some weird language.  A bunch of us were at a town court waiting for the criminal calendar to start. The topic of the moment was personal injury cases. Someone commented they had just settled a case for a sizable amount.  Another attorney commented there must have been a “good injury”.  I thought how strange this conversation would sound to non-lawyers.  No one was trying to be cynical or cold, but this was certainly one of our stranger phrases. To console myself, I guessed lawyers’ inside phrases and jokes weren’t as bad as morticians’.

Of course, as normal people know, there is no such thing as a “good injury”.  Injuries debilitate and disable.  They force people to change their life styles, sometimes permanently.  Chronic pain, the loss of ability to enjoy a favorite sport or activity, disfigurement….the list goes on.  The worse a person is injured because of the negligence of another, the more the case is worth.  If the case is worth a lot, the phrase “a good injury” is bound to get used.

In New York State, for a personal injury case to be worth money there must be both harm and at least partial fault on the part of another.  Negligence without injury is the same as “no harm, no foul”. An injury without negligence is also worthless.  Simply being hurt is not enough, popular misconceptions aside.  And since insurance companies like to hold onto their money like mothers hold babies, the size of settlements correlates to the severity of the injuries. No one gets rich because of a simple broken bone that heals normally.  A crippling event is another tale altogether.

As an aside, the vast majority of injury cases are settled, not tried in front of juries.   The wisdom of Calvin and Hobbes is noteworthy: “A good compromise leaves everyone mad”.  A successful injury case is when the insurance companies walk away from the table angrier than the Plaintiff.  My job as plaintiff’s lawyer is to have my client leave that table as happy as one could expect after being injured.

Here is the main point:  You don’t want to get rich due to an injury caused by another, because that would mean your injury is what my colleague called a “good injury”, which means it really would be a terrible one.  But if you are injured thru the fault of another, you want a lawyer who can negotiate the best settlement or get the largest jury award.  Money won’t fix your body, erase your scar or end the pain, but it is what our civil justice system allows as compensation and you’ll want to get the most you can for your pain and injury.  Getting the best amount for you is my job.

Leave a reply