What Are Some Misconceptions About the Personal Injury Recovery Process?
The Mc Donald’s Coffee Case
The biggest misconception is that people tend to compare a successful personal injury case to winning the lottery. People often talk about the McDonald’s hot coffee case. This case comes up in jury selection any time I have to try a case. People have a lot of preconceived notions about that case and they think that the McDonald’s hot coffee case is a good example of what is wrong with our country and with lawyers.
The McDonald’s hot coffee case was greatly misreported to the public at large. In reality, it was an example of all the things that are right with our civil justice system. Although the lady burned by the coffee did receive a very large jury verdict from the jury that heard her case, after the trial the judge substantially reduced the award to account for the lady’s own percentage of fault in having the coffee between her legs.
There are a lot of other misconceptions about the case. The lady who was burned by the coffee was not the driver, which was what a lot of people believed. She was an older lady and her adult daughter was driving the car. This lady was in the passenger seat and she took the lid off the coffee because it was so hot that she could not even hold it.
When she took the lid off the coffee, it spilled onto her inner thighs and caused third degree burns. The evidence came out in that trial that McDonald’s brewed their coffee at an extremely hot temperature (even though they had received multiple complaints about severe burns) because it was more profitable to use cheap beans and brew the coffee at a very temperature than it was to use more expensive beans and reconfigure the brewing machines in all of their stores. The evidence showed that McDonald’s had basically decided it was cheaper to burn people than it was to brew coffee at a reasonably hot temperature.
The jury got really angry at McDonald’s in the case and gave a big verdict. However, as mentioned, the judge ended up reforming the judgment so that the injured lady did not receive nearly as much money as people thought.
Another misconception is that people expect a lawyer will be able to work magic and get a large sum of money when either they were not seriously injured, or maybe they were hurt but through their own fault. We sometimes have to get people past that perception.
Can A Personal Injury Case Be Handled Without an Attorney?
Yes, and this actually happens a lot. People can sometimes resolve on their own if, for example, the accident was clearly the other party’s fault. Also they would need clearly documented injuries that they received treatment that was considered reasonable by the insurance company including things like an ambulance ride, an emergency room visit, follow-up with a doctor and some physical therapy.
In those cases, people can sometimes get their case settled for a reasonable amount. I have counseled potential clients and told them the offer they received was quite reasonable and that they ought to accept it. Often though, people get to a point in the process where they feel like they have not received a fair offer, or sometimes the personal injury victim is just tired of dealing with the insurance company.
This probably happens because the person is so wrapped up in trying to recover physically from the injury, the added stress of having to deal with an insurance company in response to their request for documents and information is just more than they can handle.
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