“Risks Of A Personal Injury Case”
According to the Department of Insurance Statistics, the most “risky” area of practice is Plaintiff Personal Injury work. In 2018, 26.5% of paid claims involved this area of practice. Statistics also tell us that 26.5% of all closed 2018 claims resulted out of the “commencement of action” phase of the practice.
Missed filing dates have consistently been the largest category of error that result in a malpractice claim for attorneys in Missouri. How do these errors keep happening and what can we learn from these errors to help avoid the risk of an error in the future?
A claim arising out of a missed filing deadline can develop out of a number of different factual settings:
1. An administrative error where the date is incorrectly input into a docket system. This is one of the reasons why malpractice insurance carriers advocate a dual docket system.
2. Incorrect information from the client or in a police report. Clients can be nervous or in pain when they first meet an attorney after an accident. Their memory of a particular date of an accident may be clouded. Dates should be double checked with medical records and police report dates.
3. Incorrect knowledge of the law regarding the statute of limitations for the client’s claim.
- The accident/injury occurred in another state with a shorter statute of limitations. Many states have shorter statute of limitations for personal injury claims. Some states have a statute of limitations as short as one year.
- The accident/injury occurred on a cruise ship which restricted the statute of limitations.
- The claim was against a local or municipal government, which may have specific notice requirements, such as a slip and fall claim against certain municipalities in Missouri, or a shorter statute of limitations for claims against local governments, such as in Illinois.
- The accident/injury recovery arises under the Federal Tort Claim Act.
- The client was in the military.
- The claim is against healthcare providers or other professionals with a shorter statute of limitations.
The practice of law is complicated. Knowing the risks and what you can do to address these risks is vital for a successful resolution for your client, as well as your own success.