By Jonathan Lieberman, Principal
Stein Sperling Bennett De Jong Driscoll PC

Personal injury cases sometimes look too good to be true and many attorneys believe getting medical records and bills and sending them to an insurance carrier to obtain a settlement offer are the only steps involved. However, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to proper handling of a personal injury case.


Key to screening a personal injury case is liability. Maryland, D.C., and Virginia are all known as “1%” jurisdictions where the doctrine of contributory negligence is followed. If a potential client’s own negligence contributes to causing an accident in which they are injured, the client party can’t collect damages from another party who caused the accident. You need to screen for other defenses such as assumption of risk, which prevents your client from winning a personal injury lawsuit or getting a settlement if they knowingly exposed themself to the possibility of an injury. Is the potential client’s version of an accident your only evidence? If you have concerns, speak to witnesses or obtain an accident report before having a client retain you.

Medical Considerations

If your potential client is in pain, it’s natural to attribute that to their accident. However, if a client has pre-existing injuries or medical conditions, you’ll need to review prior medical records and request opinions from your client’s treating doctors. Failure to do so leaves an opening for insurance carriers to argue that your client’s injuries are not causally related or the treatment they received was unnecessary. 

Who Owes Who Money?

Your potential client may feel they are owed all the money available in their case. Make sure to know the law around liens as in a P.I. case there can be several lienholders, including medical providers, health insurance and workers’ compensation carriers.  Some liens are created by contract; others are statutory.  If you miss protecting certain lienholders interests, it can be detrimental to your client, you, and/or your firm could be held personally responsible.

These are just a few areas where the knowledge of personal injury law and the process of your specific state are important when handling P.I. cases. Your client gets one shot to obtain fair compensation, so you want to make it the best.