A client is similar to a screenwriter. They have fantastical ideas, which turn into grandeur images in their head. Most of those ideas involve unrealistic expectations as to what the true value of their case is. For some reason they believe that an accident claim is a ticket to retirement. Most often, it is not.
Managing client expectations is not only important for the client, it is important for the attorney. For one, an attorney should never create a false impression. Controlling the narrative of what to expect will help an attorney remain disciplined in how he or she communicates with clients. Two, relationships are the foundation of a good law practice. One relies on referrals to survive. A happy client, which means a client who is not surprised with a result of a case, will refer family and friends in the future.
Communicating to the client about the value of his or her case can be difficult. Case value is subjective. That is why claims are fought over in litigation. As one may guess, the defense will value the case less than the plaintiff, and vice versa.
But evaluating a case can also hinge on objective factors. Any case has value when there are damages that can be proven. Damages can be shown via medical bills, lost earnings, etc. A bigger case may involve more medical bills because the accident required significant treatment. For example, if a plaintiff broke both legs, he or she will have higher medical bills than a person who only suffered whiplash (although many whiplash clients experience horrible nerve pain, which affects them for a lifetime). Indeed, the plaintiff with broken legs may not be able to work, while the whiplash plaintiff may continue on with work the very next day after the accident. Under the law, a plaintiff is compensated for those medical bills incurred and the earnings lost because of injury.
Other factors go into determining the value of a case. The reliability of the client will go a long way. Remember that the point of litigation is that both parties are satisfied with the case going to trial by jury. Each side is preparing for a jury trial, meaning that they are organizing when witnesses will testify, and what they will testify to. A client who comes across well-liked, truthful, sympathetic, and aggrieved will increase the value of a case. An attorney does not want a client who will testify poorly in front of a jury.
Putting all of the pieces together and telling a client what a case should settle for remains a risk. The judgment, or arbitration award, or agreed mediation proposal, could be lower than what was communicated. That is why an attorney should give a range, beginning with the worst case scenario (we could lose!) to the best case scenario (the best case scenario should be lower than what you actually think the best case scenario is). More importantly, the attorney should clearly communicate that it is an experienced guess but not a guaranteed opinion. Nothing in personal injury law is guaranteed. If someone tells you different, I would speak with someone else.
Always consult with an experienced injury attorney after an accident. An attorney should not only manage expectations, they should give you, or a loved one, peace of mind.