Obviously, this can be complicated, and you can believe that in each case the two insurers for the two at-fault drivers will take every opportunity to push blame for the damages onto each other. As a result, it’s entirely possible that in the end the total value of the claims from the two wrecks will be significantly less than it would be if the two happened separately. Of course that is bad news for the client, but we committed to be in the same boat. As our fee is contingent on, and proportional to, the recovery we make for the client, a second wreck can mean we do a lot more work for less reward.
Something must be in the air. In the past month four of our clients, all working with us because of injuries from car wrecks, have been hit again and hurt again. Each of them of course wanted to know what they should do. They were given well-meant advice from their friends, families, and doctors, but some of it was contradictory, some was illogical, and some was unwelcome. They called and wrote us looking for some clarity and reassurance.
Interestingly, the answer I gave each of them was different.
Each of them was concerned that we might drop them as clients because they had been re-injured and the new wreck made their case too complicated. A couple of them had acquaintances who had had that happen to them in the past. As far as that goes, my response to each actually was the same: Yes, a second wreck makes things more complicated, but we’re in the business of helping people, and we don’t walk away from our clients because they suddenly need more help.
What each client needed to do, though, depended on the nuances of that client’s specific situation.
There are four possibilities when somebody is in a second car wreck after being injured in an earlier one, multiplied across all the body parts and varying injuries involved: The second wreck can either create a new injury, aggravate an existing injury, re-injure a healed injury, or have no effect. It is impossible to predict how a second wreck will affect the person’s body, so it is impossible to say in the abstract how the second wreck affects claims arising from the first wreck.
For each of these four clients, our first step has been to reach out to the doctor or doctors treating each client, to make sure they are aware of what has happened and to let them know how they can be most helpful to their patient and to us. What we need in each instance is for the doctor to make the extra effort to disentangle, from the medical perspective, the consequences of each wreck, calculating with as much medical certainty as possible what injury, or what percentage of each injury, is attributable to each incident. We then will take that information and that medical opinion and translate it into the appropriate legal position for the claim or claims involved.
However, that is what we sign up for when we take on a client’s case. Credibility is essential to a good outcome in any case, and we can’t and won’t try to make a case into something that it isn’t. If bad facts arise in the middle of a representation, we take them as they come, collect as much insight from the doctors as we can, and press ahead toward the best outcome we can get under the complicated circumstances.
That said, try not to get hit twice — or even once, if you can avoid it.