Arizona Auto Accidents: Injured Victims Shouldn't Sign Away Their Rights

Once a victim presents a claim and signs on the dotted line with an insurance company or defendant personally, the case is over. That's what Dave Wattel, an Arizona attorney who has been handling plaintiffs' cases exclusively for over 20 years, told us in a recent interview – and it's something he says happens too frequently.

Are you fully recovered?

Wattel says that over the years he's seen physicians discharge patients when they are only 70 percent treated and thinks that the case should be settled at that point. However, he doesn't believe that's the way a case should be resolved. He explained:

The case gets settled, and lo and behold, this client is not yet well, seeks out other care or doesn’t and has lingering problems down the line. I, and this firm, make sure that a client gets all their medical needs addressed before we try to submit a demand. We don’t want to be that attorney who the client has a bad taste in his or her mouth over because he settled his case for $10,000. That might be OK under circumstances where someone had their health and received a quick discharge, but not for the client who has lingering problems, didn’t get the medical care they deserve and now is dissatisfied. Why? Because the amount of money he received is not commensurate with the true value of his case.

Determining damages for pain & suffering

Damages for pain and suffering are determined based upon all of the factors involved in the claim, according to Wattel. He provided the following example:

You have a concert pianist who’s been training for this one recital for his entire career, is involved in an accident, hurts his right hand and cannot perform. He’s devastated.

The same individual is involved in an accident and sustains the same injury, but in this scenario, he’s not a concert pianist. This person is a couch potato. So, as a result of the injury, all he’s got to do is use his left hand for the remote control as opposed to the right.

So, who suffered more following the accident? Certainly the first guy. So what we have to do is determine what kind of injury you sustained, how long that injury lasted, whether you were able to overcome it, the kind of medical care you received, the amount of your medical expenses, the amount of your out of pocket expenses, the amount of your lost wages and the overall impact this has had on your life.

Every auto accident case is different

Every auto accident case is different, according to Wattel, and there is no magic multiplier. He says that the old adage of getting three times your medical bills is certainly not the case these days – and actually, it really wasn't before either. He explained:

It came about because clients wanted to get their share, the attorney knew he had to pay the doctor and the attorney also had to get his share. In order for all that to work out for the client, it had to be three times the amount of the medical bills. So one third, one third, one third. That’s how it came about. It was a goal as opposed to a reality.

I have settled cases with bad scarring for hundreds of times the medical expenses. I’ve also settled cases where clients involved in an accident got air lifted to the hospital, everything seemed to be okay, they had one follow-up visit to the doctor, $30,000 in medical bills and they were well within a couple of weeks after the accident. That case doesn’t warrant a significant amount of money for pain and suffering because there wasn’t a significant amount of pain and suffering. That case is going to settle for less than two times the medical bills.

Every case is different. They’re all fact-specific. Wattel says that the most important thing in an Arizona car accident case is that he, as counsel, will help understand what the client went through so that he can do a proper evaluation and then go after getting those damages.