The Problem With Personal Injury BillboardsPosted on: July 28, 2020
Personal injury billboards are everywhere…but does everyone receive that much money at trial?
As you’ll soon see, those personal injury billboards only tell a portion of the story.
We’ve all passed a personal injury billboard on the side of the road at some point. These advertisements usually feature a smiling client (sometimes holding a comically large check) proudly proclaiming how much money they received during settlement or a personal injury trial.
At face value, these images seem fantastic. After all, who wouldn’t want to be awarded $500,000? It’s enough to make anyone start fantasizing about their dream vacation home.
But the number you see on a personal injury billboard doesn’t tell the whole story.
Like a contract, you must read the fine print. Even the billboard itself will often include a disclaimer that the recovery amount does not include “attorney fees, costs, and medical expenses.”
And no, it doesn’t mean that they were awarded all of those things on top of the $500,000.
So let’s unpack the problem with personal injury billboards so that you can have more realistic expectations for your case.
The Untold Story of Personal Injury Billboards
$500,000 sounds like a lot of money—and it is—but the most important thing to remember when seeing billboards like this is that the happy, smiling client will not get to keep all of that money.
Much of it will have to go towards the items listed if there is a disclaimer: attorney fees, costs, and medical expenses.
Depending on the details of each individual case, attorney fees will usually range from 33%-40% of the final settlement or judgment. So the person who won $500,000 on that I-4 billboard may only have received less than $300,000 once the attorney fees were taken out of the case.
Clients also incur other legal costs associated with a case. At Beers & Gordon, we keep our costs low in pre-suit cases and do not charge for scans, copies, faxes, and the like. But many firms do. When cases go into litigation, the costs can run anywhere from a few thousand dollars (when the case settles shortly after a suit is filed) to tens of thousands of dollars if the case proceeds to trial.
If an individual is injured in a slip and fall, car crash, or other type of accident, they will end up with medical expenses. In fact, mounting medical bills is usually the entire reason that most clients pursue legal action in the first place.
Florida drivers are required to purchase at least $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP), to cover car accident injuries, but it has limits. PIP only pays up to the coverage limit and only at a rate of 80%. This means that the injured party will be responsible for 20% of their bills until their coverage limit is reached (usually $10,000).
If your medical bills exceed your coverage limit, you will be responsible for 100% of those costs. When a client has been in the hospital for several days or had surgery, medical costs may soar over $100,000. So, there goes another $100,000 from that settlement amount.
Another thing personal injury billboards don’t take into consideration is future medical expenses. Severe injuries may require ongoing, even lifelong, treatment. The settlement or judgment amount is meant to be allocated for a future surgery, physical therapy, and other forms of treatment (not vacation homes).
Insurance: The Missing Piece of the Puzzle
At Beers & Gordon, we have settled and received verdicts in excess of a million dollars. But in many of these cases, the client was never able to recover the full amount they were entitled to, because of one simple thing: insurance.
When you are involved in a crash with another individual, it is actually their auto insurance carrier that pays on their behalf…up to that person’s coverage limit.
If the other driver was a commercial trucker backed by millions of insurance coverage, you’re in luck. If they carry only $20,000 in bodily injury liability coverage, that’s the max their insurance company will pay you, even if a jury has determined that your injuries are worth $500,000.
Unfortunately, your final settlement amount is only as good as their insurance.
It’s even worse if they were one of the millions of drivers without any auto insurance whatsoever. (That’s why having Uninsured Motorist coverage is so important!)
In each of these cases, you would have to sue the other driver as an individual to collect the rest of the funds they owe you. But in nearly every instance, they have no recoverable assets (if they did, they probably could have afforded better insurance!). All you would be doing is wasting your time and racking up legal bills and expenses.
The clients on the personal injury billboards may technically have been awarded $500,000 at trial, but there’s no guarantee how much of that will reach their bank account.
Not All Settlements Are “Billboard Worthy”
Another thing to remember is that not all personal injury cases are created equal. For every billboard proclaiming a $500,000 (or more) win, there are dozens more cases where the client won only a few thousand dollars.
So what makes a personal injury case “billboard worthy”?
One major factor that affects your settlement amount is the nature and severity of the injuries suffered.
The clients whose pictures make it onto a personal injury billboard are usually the ones who have suffered devastating injuries that require substantial medical treatment (and expenses). They may even have experienced lost wages, loss of future earnings, and other tragedies as a result of their injuries.
Sure, the person on the billboard is smiling and seems thrilled to be holding a million-dollar check. But their smiling face doesn’t show you the pain, suffering, and treatment they went through before that picture was taken, nor does it show you the pain, suffering, and treatment that lies in their future.
We are always happy when individuals receive compensation that can help them move forward and continue with their life and recovery. But those personal injury billboards only tell part of the story.
If you were injured in an accident and hope to receive financial compensation for your injuries, it is vital that you understand what’s going on “behind the scenes” of every personal injury case. Simply being awarded a settlement or judgment does not mean that you can now build your dream home.
But this doesn’t mean that taking legal action isn’t worth it.
Having an experienced personal injury attorney on your side gives you the best chance of a favorable outcome to your case to cover your past and future medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses.
At Beers & Gordon, we are always happy to discuss any potential case with you to help you understand these issues. We are a small firm that keeps the volume of cases to a level that we can meet with clients and really advise them on their cases. That way, you can understand your own case and know its proper value.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of a wrongful death, a personal injury, or a motor vehicle accident, please contact the law offices of Beers and Gordon P.A. for a free consultation. Our firm serves all of Seminole, Orange, Volusia, Lake, and Brevard counties, including Oviedo, Winter Springs, Altamonte Springs, Sanford, Longwood, Winter Park, Lake Mary, and Greater Orlando. Our attorneys have over 65 years of combined experience ready and willing to go the distance on your case. Call us right away at 407-862-1825.