Accident victims often want to seek punitive damages. As a personal injury lawyer, what can you do to set reasonable expectations while still winning new business?
Suffering severe injuries in an accident can be a highly traumatic experience. Accident victims are often angry at those who are to blame; and, when hiring a lawyer, they expect to pursue all available legal remedies.
In many cases, this includes seeking punitive damages. Recovering punitive damages just sounds good, and the idea of punishing the person who was at fault offers hope of a “win” for many people.
Of course, as a personal injury lawyer, you know that punitive damages are rarely available—if they are even available at all in your state. But, for prospective clients who want to hold all at-fault parties accountable by all means available, this is not the answer they want. So, how do you provide a reality check and begin setting reasonable expectations while still landing prospects who might be willing to shop around for a lawyer who will say what they want to hear?
Focusing On What Is Available
When consulting with prospective clients who need help, rather than going into depth explaining why they probably cannot recover punitive damages, focus instead on what you can do to help them. For example, outline the challenges involved in dealing with the insurance companies and provide details about the types of compensation that you can help them recover.
The average person does not have a clear understanding of what it means to experience pain and suffering, and most people generally have no idea that they are entitled to compensation for loss of companionship, consortium, and services. By providing a clear picture of the compensation that is (or may be) available, it will often be possible to get prospective clients to stop fixating on punitive damages.
Emphasizing the Need for an Investigation
For prospective clients who are hung up on the idea of seeking punitive damages, it can also be helpful to emphasize the need for an investigation. Is it possible that grounds exist to pursue a claim? Unless you practice in a state that does not allow for punitive damages by law, you will need to have all of the facts in hand to make a determination. While you do not want to give prospective clients false hope, it is perfectly reasonable to state that neither you nor any other attorney can provide a full assessment unless and until you know exactly what happened.
Explaining the Importance of Seeking Full Compensatory Damages
While recovering punitive damages can provide a windfall (which is what many prospective clients want), securing full compensatory damages is what really matters. As a result, your prospective clients’ priority should be to get back on solid ground, and they should be focusing their efforts on doing what they can to recover just compensation. Once an accident victim has a clear understanding of his or her total losses, this can put the claim for compensatory damages into perspective, and it can underscore the importance of recovering these damages—which are both more imperative and more attainable.
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