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How much is my case worth?
This is often the first question a client asks after giving an attorney a rundown of the facts and the medical treatment. Thanks to daily media reports and the constant stream of attorney advertisements promising big recoveries, a client’s view of the value of a case is often unrealistic. The problem is that at the front end of a case it is virtually impossible for an attorney, or anyone for that matter, to accurately value a client’s case.
Table of Contents
- Key Elements of a Case
- Understanding Your Damages
- Average Personal Injury Settlement Amounts
- Personal Injury Settlement Calculator
- How to Calculate Pain and Suffering
- Adjusting Your Estimate Based on Fault
- How a Lawyer Can Help
- Our Injury Lawyers are Here to Help You
Key Elements of a Case
The severity of the injuries and the cause of the harm are both important factors when considering value. If a jury (or an insurance company) sees a dispute about the responsibility of each party for the injuries, they may “split the baby” on liability.
In other words, a jury (or an insurance company) may put part of the blame on the person injured. If that happens, even a large verdict may be worth only a portion of the award. Moreover, if a jury puts more than 50% responsibility on a Plaintiff for causing her own injuries, the Plaintiff gets nothing. In short, the more the Defendant can be held responsible, the more valuable the case may be.
2. Insurance Coverage
The minimum coverage limits in Texas are $30,000.00 per person and $60,000.00 per occurrence. In other words, if a minimum limits policy is the only source of recovery, a multi-million dollar case is worth only the amount the insurance company is contractually obligated to pay. If the responsible party has a large insurance policy, the Defendant may be able to recover more money.
Plaintiffs may have additional coverage in the form of Personal Injury Protection, Med Pay, Uninsured Motorist, or Homeowner’s coverage that may be available if the Defendant does not have enough money. Remember, a verdict is just a number. There has to be money to collect in order to recover.
The place where a lawsuit can (or may) be filed will drastically affect the value of a case. Juries in certain parts of the state are more apt to award damages for pain and suffering and mental anguish, for instance. If the opposing lawyer and the other party’s insurance company see a big risk at the courthouse, they will offer more money to resolve the case before trial.
4. Actual Medical Bills/Damage
If a client experiences an awful accident but is not injured, a claim for personal injury does not exist. Conversely, if a client is in a minor accident but suffers a catastrophic injury, the claim will be worth much more.
A client’s actual medical bills and actual out-of-pocket costs can be submitted to a jury for reimbursement. Attorneys use this number, adjusted for insurance payments and other factors, as a general guideline to determine the value RANGE of a case.
Understanding Your Damages
There are many factors, including the ones discussed above, that go into determining the value of a case. Every case is different, but generally, attorneys attempt to assign a value range to each case. This range cannot be determined until the medical treatment, lost wages, and other actual costs are solidified along with any future medical care or treatment a client may need.
Simply put, “damages” is a legal term that attempts to put in financial terms the extent of the harm you have suffered as a result of the actions of the defendant. There are a lot of factors that go into determining a plaintiff’s damages, but they can be grouped generally into two different categories.
Damages that fall into this category are things that can be calculated with a reasonable degree of certainty based on documents, records, or receipts. They can include medical bills, loss of wages (both past and future), and damage to property such as your car or house. Compared to non-economic damages, economic damages are typically easier to prove and are based on less subjective material.
Damages in this category typically refer to the pain and suffering that are caused by the incident from which the lawsuit arises. As you might expect, non-economic damages are a bit more fluid and difficult to prove because they are not usually based on any objective records or documents. In addition, certain jurisdictions will place a cap on non-economic damages for certain types of claims.
Average Personal Injury Settlement Amounts
It is difficult to assess the average of personal injury claims nationwide because many claims that result in settlements are kept confidential. Averages are not particularly helpful in personal injury law, as each case is different and must be analyzed by an expert in order to determine its true probable value.
The amount that you may seek in a settlement is difficult to predict with any degree of certainty at the outset of a case and is dependent on a few different factors. These include:
Type of Case
There is a huge variety in the field of personal injury law. It encompasses car, motorcycle, and truck accidents, dog bites, premises liability, medical malpractice, and wrongful death, just to name a few. Starting with the type of case will give you a better idea of what to expect in a potential settlement.
Severity of Injuries
Naturally, the more severe an injury is, the more you may expect to receive in a potential settlement. If you have been involved in a minor fender-bender and walked away fine, then you’re probably going to be offered less than if your car was totaled.
Percentage of Fault
Accidents resulting in a personal injury are rarely black and white, and oftentimes, fault can be attributed to multiple parties. If you were at least partially at fault for the accident that caused your injury, then any settlement offered to you may be reduced. Different states have different rules on determining percentage fault and recovery based on these percentages.
Personal Injury Settlement Calculator
As discussed before, it is difficult to put an accurate number on what you can expect to seek in a settlement at the outset of a case. However, you can get a rough estimate by plugging your own numbers into the following categories and adding them up to find the end result.
Emergency medical attention does not come cheap, and if your injury required it, then you may be saddled with significant medical expenses. This category includes the bills for such emergency attention, as well as any other medical expenses that you may have incurred as a result of your injury.
Future Medical Expenses
The more severe an injury, the more likely it will require ongoing attention to address. This includes things like physical therapy, medication, or surgeries that you will require moving forward resulting from your injury.
Depending on your injury and the type of work that you are involved in, you may have been unable to work and as a result, unable to collect any wages. These lost wages can be compensated for in a personal injury lawsuit.
Future Lost Income
Just like medical expenses, lost income can be valued looking forward into the future. If your injury is serious and will prevent you from working for an extended period of time, you may seek compensation for the money you will lose.
If you had to pay for repairs to your home, car, or other property involved in an accident, then you may be eligible to seek compensation for these expenditures.
Pain and Suffering
This is the trickiest category to estimate with any degree of certainty. However, even though it may be somewhat of a gray area, pain and suffering may become part of your compensation in a lawsuit. This includes both mental and physical suffering, as well as loss of consortium, or the loss of enjoyment of a loved one after their death.
How to Calculate Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering encompasses a broad spectrum of different types of anguish, and can include:
Injuries sustained in more serious accidents like a high-speed automobile collision can lead to debilitating pain that may become a permanent fixture in your life.
Mental or Emotional Disorders
Serious injuries can also sometimes be accompanied by medical and emotional disorders such as insomnia, anxiety, or memory loss.
Aside from the physical pain that may result from your injuries, you may also be limited in doing what you love to do. For example, you may no longer be able to lift your children up or run around outside with them.
Loss of Consortium
This is the legal term for the loss of the supportive relationship with a family member. This is most often referenced in wrongful death cases, but it can be argued in cases short of that if a victim is sufficiently incapacitated in some respect.
There are a few different ways in which to estimate pain and suffering damages, one of which is the multiplier. In this framework, the economic damages in a lawsuit are multiplied by the pain and suffering multiplier, which is typically a number between 1.5 and 5, with 5 being the worst pain and suffering and 1.5 being the lightest. For example, if a case resulted in $100,000 worth of economic damages and the pain and suffering multiplier was determined to be 2, a fair estimate of the value of the case would be $200,000 (2 * 100,000).
Adjusting Your Estimate Based on Fault
The majority of this article has assumed that the defendant in a given lawsuit is not responsible for the accident causing injury, and that the plaintiff has been 100% responsible. However, it is possible for parties to share fault, and this is certainly not uncommon. For example, imagine a collision occurring at an intersection late at night. One of the drivers is driving while under the influence of alcohol, but the other driver rolled a stop sign into the intersection. The accident occurred as a result of the negligence of both parties, and they likely will both share in the fault. Different states will handle this issue of comparative fault differently, and they generally fall into one of three categories:
Pure Comparative Negligence
In states that follow the theory of pure comparative negligence, the damages that you receive would be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you. There are no restrictions based on what percentage of the fault you share.
Modified Comparative Negligence
This theory, followed by the majority of states in the US, is essentially pure comparative negligence with a major restriction—if your share of the fault is determined to be equal or greater to 50%, then you will not be able to collect any damages in court.
This is the harshest theory of shared fault, and it is followed by only a few states. In contributory negligence regimes, if you share any percentage of the fault in the underlying accident, you cannot collect any sort of damages in court.
How a Lawyer Can Help
In a personal injury situation, it is important to understand that you are the only one who will advocate for your interests. The insurance companies and other parties involved will want to pay out as little as possible to cover your injuries. Given this, an experienced attorney can help you out in a few different ways:
A personal injury lawyer will know what facts and data to look for when analyzing the available information, including any photos or video footage, interviews, and police reports. It is difficult to know what may become important, but an experienced attorney will know where to start.
Communications with Insurance Companies
Statements made to insurance companies can be extremely damaging to a personal injury case. Your attorney will understand how to handle these communications in a way that does not harm your potential recovery.
Put simply, a good attorney will stand by your side and fight for you at every step of the way. The attorneys at the Zinda Law Group will advocate on your behalf and help you pursue the maximum compensation available under the law.
OUR INJURY LAWYERS ARE HERE TO HELP YOU
At Zinda Law Group, our accident attorneys have plenty of experience handling personal injury cases. Our lawyers have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you build the strongest claim, and we will work tirelessly to assist you in seeking fair compensation for medical bills, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Our firm also believes that an injury victim should never have to worry about being able to afford legal representation. That is why we offer 100% free consultations and why you will pay nothing unless we win your case. That's our No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are by appointment only.