The Value of Your Personal Injury Case
Victims who are injured in accidents often want to know the value of their potential lawsuit before determining whether they have a case worth pursuing. But determining how much a claim is worth is tricky business. Each case is unique. While comparing your situation to similar cases can be helpful in giving you a ballpark figure, it is often comparing apples to oranges. It is advisable to ask a personal injury attorney to help you properly evaluate your potential award or settlement. Personal injury lawyers have the training and experience with the courts and insurance companies and understand how they value cases. It’s beneficial for you to have an understanding of the factors that go into determining how much compensation you might receive for your personal injury.
Actual Monetary Damages
Actual damages include real monetary losses you have suffered due to your accident. These are the easiest part to determine; just add up the figures and be sure to include future medical costs. These damages may include:
- Medical expenses, present and future, including doctor bills, physical therapy, etc.
- Property damage, such as to your vehicle if you were in a car accident
- Lost wages at work
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is inevitable in any serious accident. You may suffer physical pain, mental anguish, extreme stress and loss of lifestyle. This is much harder to put a price tag on. Pain and suffering can’t be measured in monetary terms. However, since the only way to compensate the victim for their suffering is with money, insurance companies have developed formulas to help them determine the amount each case is worth. Many companies use a computer system called Colossus, or a similar program, to estimate the case’s potential value. These programs analyze all aspects of the case, including the monetary losses, severity of the injury, and the jurisdiction where the potential trial might take place to determine the range of what the award or settlement might be.
A common way to estimate pain and suffering is by using a multiplier. The company might take the actual monetary damages and multiply it by somewhere between 1.5 and 5, depending on the severity of the accident, to come up with a pain and suffering figure. In extreme cases, or if an insurance company gets nervous as a trial looms, this figure could be multiplied by 10. These numbers are all negotiable on a case-by-case basis. Again, your personal injury attorney is your best resource as to what the final figure might be.
The Strength of Your Case
If you have a seemingly open-and-shut case, with strong evidence and personal credibility, you can expect a higher award or settlement that someone with a weaker case. Your personal injury lawyer should be honest with you about the strength of your case; if you have an “iffy” case, you could end up with little or nothing in court and you might be more likely to settle for less out of court.
Percentage of Fault
Another factor that helps determine the final monetary outcome of the case is whether you share in any of the blame for the accident. Even if an accident is partially your fault, that does not mean you are not entitled to be compensated for the percentage of fault of the other party. Courts assign a percentage of blame to each member of the suit and will reduce the final award by the percentage of fault the plaintiff shares for the accident. Be sure to consult your attorney about this important factor, as it could affect whether you decide to settle or go to trial.
If a loved one lost his or her life in an accident, you could be entitled to payment for their medical bills, funeral costs, lost future wages, and the loss of their companionship. These cases can have higher awards and settlements, since the losses are so tragic.
Punitive damages are a form of punishment for gross negligence. They are awarded only on rare occasions of serious recklessness or disregard. These damages, while meant as punishment for the defendant, are awarded to the plaintiff, so they can greatly increase the value of a case. Your attorney will help you determine if they are appropriate to consider in your case.
Caps and Collectibility
State laws differ. Some have caps on the amount of money one can collect in certain cases. There are also caps on the maximum amount of liability an insurance company has. If your case is worth more and the defendant has no means to pay, any amount in excess of the insurance company’s maximum liability may be very difficult or impossible to collect.
Use this guide to discuss these factors with your personal injury attorney. Working together as a team to determine the value of your case will help you negotiate the maximum amount of compensation you deserve for your personal injury.