Question, if some rich intoxicated person gets into a traffic accident with me which causes me to break my arm and muck up my car, how much money could I get? Would I be necessarily rich? Or would I have to have more serious injuries or have someone dead in the car?
If Bill Gates ran me over with his car and he was drunk, coked up with his pants down singing show tunes and I was in the hospital for a month, have I hit the jackpot?
Being rich, they can afford better lawyers than you can, and they can hire every worthwhile lawyer just to make sure you get stuck with a mall lawyer who only advertises on TV after 1 AM. And they will use every trick in the book. You can only hope that you don’t wind up owing *them *money.
The thing is most lawsuits are settled out of court. If you went to court, the rich guy would almost surely be able to afford better lawyers, and if that didn’t work, he could keep appealing and stalling and make it really tough for you to continue.
That said, they lawyer you, the poor person, would get, would probably be working for a percentage of the win. This is why you’d settle out of court.
Your lawyer would hope the rich person would want to “make the problem go away” and just pay you off to be shed of the whole incident.
The rich bastard would probably want you to sign a confidentially agreement too, so as much information is kept out of the public eye as possible, and they could come back and sue you if you spoke to the press about it.
The courts aren’t intended to give people massive paydays, they are there to “make whole” the injured parties. You’d have to prove how much you are out as a result of the accident - if all that happened is you broke your arm then you’d be right in asking for your medical bills and your repair bills; nothing more. Anything beyond that depends on circumstances - for example if you are permanently injured in some way you could make a case that the accident affected your ability to work for the rest of your life, and you may be able to win a greater amount.
an example, one of my customers was a self employed handyman, he was hit and seriously injured by an impaired driver. He was unable to work for 4 months. So he is not just out wages, he is out gross reciepts to cover ongoing fixed business expenses like office leases, advertising, phones, professional insurance, etc. For my business that is roughly $4800/month. If someone did that to me they are crippling my ability to do business, and since many of my customers are businesses that use us for ongoing support if something put me out for a couple months it could kill the business from the combination of loss of revenues and loss of customers due to our inability to help them promptly. Being able to demonstrate that my $12K a month business lost 50% of its revenues for the time I was gone is gonna add up quick.
Well, I knew a guy who was a world class runner until one day when someone blew through a stop sign and took him out. Ended up with a lot of surgery and one leg that was about 2" shorter than the other (on a guy about 5’4"). Being young, resilient and dedicated, he was back up and running months before they figured he’d even be walking.
He ended up with something between 1 and 2 million, plus medical bills. The issue then was collecting it all.
But all in all, he’d have rather NOT been hit.
For a mere broken arm? I don’t think you’ll get much, and your attorney isn’t going to recommend that you stick it out for months and years if the other guy fights it. Which I sure as hell would if I were rich.
And the rich guy probably has an umbrella liability policy, perhaps in the amount of $10 million. That might sound like a lot, but the premium probably isn’t that bad. I knew a middle-class guy who had an umbrella policy of $1-2 million, because he had small children, a house, cars, a boat and a motorcycle. The umbrella policy covers all of them.
Hell, my cheapass $15/month renters insurance policy includes $100,000 in personal liability coverage. If I check my policy… that liability coverage costs me $3.30/month. If you’ve got a lot of money to protect, it’s probably a no-brainer to get a $10 million policy.
I don’t see it as being an asshole. The point is not just to make restitution, but to be a deterrent. Due to being rich, these people have a lot of power. The last thing we want is for them to think its okay to run around town haphazardly crashing into cars. By nature of being rich and being able to hire the most expensive lawyers, their criminal punishment is going to be lesser. If you can get them to settle out of court for enough money, I see no reason not to.
IANAJD, but I’m pretty sure the question has been answered. The rich person would file a claim with their insurance company to cover your medical bills and repairs, just like any other person. If you insist on bringing your claim to court in order to cash in on some sort of “payday”, you would still be required to justify your damages claims and prove your case.
Lawsuits are a matter of civil law, not criminal.
And if Lindsy Lohan is any example, sometimes the criminal punishment might actually be greater because of their prominant status.
The asshole is the one driving a car with no license or no insurance under the general notion that social contracts and laws that create well-regulated society don’t apply to him.
A wealthy individual is not immune to torts, particularly the sort proposed in the OP. The wealthy individuals’s lawyer does not have some sort of magical superpower to circumvent the tort system, and if there is real injury there are plenty of equally high-powered tort attorneys eager to pick up the case for an injured indigent.
Bingo. This whole “rich people can get out of liability because they can pay magical lawyers to do anything” thing is a fairytale. My team does work for defendants that have available to them a truly monumental legal budget which supports armies of lawyers. They have a depth of experience in defending tort claims that is unsurpassed. They have a depth of interest in defending claims far greater than any individual megarich individual because they defend such a large numbers of claims that they have a real stake in precedent. They’re called “insurance companies”. Yet they pay out as a matter of course, to the tune of hundreds of claims per week.