Question emailed to me:
“Do I have a strong case?”
I parked in the guest registration parking spot to check out of a motel. I dropped my keys on the way in and bent down to pick them up. When I straightened up, I rammed my head into the corner of a square edged “guest registration parking” sign. The pain was intense, I fell and was gushing blood. A motel employee got me a towel for the bleeding. An urgent care facility cleaned the wound and stitched it up.
Now 3 days later, my head is still hurting, a dull ache that goes from the middle of my head to the back of my eyes.
My back is in terrible shape. I had back surgery some years ago, it is weak and sometimes gives me pain Since this incident, my back pain has been so intense my doctor put me off work for thirty days.
No you do not have a strong case, in my opinion.
However, since personal injury cases are really an economic question and not a law school exam, I’ll break it down further. The question really is, “Do I have an economically viable claim for compensation?
If your injury was a nasty gash on your head, a dozen stitches and a terrible headache for a week your claim may or may not make economic sense to pursue depending upon the value of your time. If you are a high wage earner, it isn’t worth your time. If it is worth your time, energy and emotion to spend it in pursuit of something worth less than $10,000 net, hire an attorney skilled in handling small cases or take the matter to small claims court. If you are hot to do something about this and “bring some justice” to the situation, regardless of economics, small claims court is a viable option.
If this incident seriously re-injured or aggravated your back, wait. Give your back time to do what it is going to do. A serious back injury may not really manifest itself for years. Give it time so that you can gauge how much damage your back suffered. You could just have a bad sprain that will go away with some physical therapy in a month or you could need another surgery in a year. Until you reasonably know the extent of your injury and can prove it, you are not in a position to determine the economic viability of your claim.
You can wait until near the end of statute of limitations to decide how to proceed. In California the statute is two years for an adult in your situation. There are some exceptions.
I suggest not talking to anyone on behalf of the motel other than to make a report of the incident, which you probably already have. There is NOTHING that you can say to them that will help. There is PLENTY that you could say that would seriously compromise any claim that you might make.
If I was the attorney for the Motel, I would take the position that the entire incident was your fault. “The sign was in plain sight and the sign is a standard type used by many businesses similarly situated. You made contact with the sign, the sign to not come to you. It was your negligence.” This argument will most likely reduce your ultimate recovery, no matter what.
Evidence is crucially important. Take pictures of your wounds. Hopefully you took pictures of the sign and the area around it. Get all your medical complaints into your medical records. Keep track of your medical records, all associated expenses and losses (income). Evidence is crucial.
If your injury turns out to be very serious or catastrophic and you haven’t hired an attorney, call me for a consultation.
Keep in mind that every attorney you consult with will have a different opinion, a different approach and a different criteria for the causes they pursue. I always suggest a second opinion.