How to Calculate the Value of a Personal Injury Case
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“How much is my case worth?”
This is typically the first question a client asks a lawyer after giving a rundown of the facts of their case. Unfortunately, because too many attorney advertisements promise enormous—if not unrealistic—recoveries, clients can easily miscalculate the value of their claim. To make matters more uncertain, it is virtually impossible for any attorney to adequately estimate a value at the front end of a case.
Understanding Your Damages
Damages are provided for economic losses and non-economic losses. Economic losses tend to be those losses that have an objective value and can be easily quantified into monetary terms.
For instance, if your car was damaged after a car accident, a mechanic can provide an estimate of how much it would cost to fix it. Because the price of fixing a car can be easily and objectively determined, this and other types of property damage would be an example of economic loss.
On the other hand, non-economic losses tend to be those that have subjective value. For example, a plaintiff may seek damages for pain, but because pain cannot be measured objectively, the pain would be an example of a non-economic loss. Below is a list that may help you better distinguish the difference between economic losses and non-economic losses.
Economic losses include the following:
- past and future medical bills
- past and future lost wages
- damaged property
- past and future loss of earning capacity
Non-economic losses include the following:
- past and future emotional anguish
- loss of enjoyment of activities
Average Personal Injury Settlement Amounts
According to one survey by Martindale Nolo, compensation in personal injury cases ranged from $3,000 to $75,000. However, every case is unique, and a variety of factors may influence the compensation that you are eligible to seek for your injuries. Because of this, it is impossible to give an accurate average value for the settlements.
Factors That Affect Settlement Value
The following are just some of the variables that greatly affect how much compensation a plaintiff may seek for their injuries.
- 1. Liability and Injuries
The severity of the injuries and the cause of the harm are both important factors when considering value. If a jury or insurance company sees a dispute about the responsibility of each party for the injuries, they may assign what is known as comparative negligence, or the percentage of blame for which each party is accountable.
If that happens, even a large verdict may be worth only a portion of the overall damages. Moreover, if a jury places more than 50 percent responsibility on a plaintiff for causing their own injuries, the plaintiff gets nothing. Therefore, the more the defendant can be held responsible, the more valuable the case may be.
- 2. Insurance Coverage
Each state requires motorists to carry automobile insurance, but the minimum coverage limits vary by state. If a minimum limits policy is the only source of recovery for your accident, a multimillion 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 plaintiff may be able to recover more money.
If a plaintiff has such coverages as personal injury protection, medical payments insurance, uninsured motorist coverage, or homeowner’s insurance, they may be able to receive additional money from those sources if the defendant is unable to compensate for all damages. Remember: a verdict is just a number; there must be money to collect in order to recover full damages.
- 3. Venue
The place where a lawsuit is filed can dramatically affect the value of a case. For instance, juries in certain parts of a state may be more generous in awarding damages for pain and suffering and mental anguish.
A major benefit of this fact is that if the opposing lawyer and the other party’s insurance company see a big risk at the courthouse, they may offer more money to resolve the case before trial. However, if they believe the venue offers them a favorable outlook, they will likely be less willing to negotiate a fair settlement.
- 4. Actual Medical Bills and 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 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.
- 5. Pain and Suffering
In general, pain and suffering represent the emotional distress the plaintiff endures after the accident. Below is a list that may help you better understand what counts as pain and suffering.
- physical pain (temporary or permanent)
- depression, anxiety, or other emotional disorders
- loss of consortium (the right of association and companionship with one’s husband or wife)
- other psychological trauma
Adjusting Your Estimate Based on Fault
Texas courts use what is called a modified comparative fault rule when it determines how much compensation a victim may seek. What this rule states is that if an injured victim was 51% or more at fault for an accident, then he or she cannot recover compensation.
However, if the victim is found to be 50% or less at fault for the accident, the compensation that he or she is eligible to seek may be reduced by the percentage of fault. For instance, if the damages were valued at $100,000, but you are found to be 50% at fault, then the actual amount of compensation you may seek will be $50,000.
How a Lawyer May Help
Not every personal injury calls for a lawyer. If your injury is minor, for example, then you probably will not need to call a lawyer. Perhaps you slipped at the grocery store, but you suffered only a minor cut on your finger. You may have a viable claim against the grocery store, but there is no need to go through a costly legal process to obtain a check for such an inconsequential injury. On the other hand, if you received a severe back injury, you may want to consider a lawyer in order to seek maximum compensation.
Even if you are comfortable with the law, you may have trouble dealing with the insurance companies, which are often the ones providing the check. Thus, if your insurance company or the other party’s insurance company is being difficult, you may want to call a lawyer. An experienced lawyer may help you deal with the insurance companies, which are often very reluctant to provide full coverage for victims. An experienced lawyer knows the tactics of insurance companies that try to give less than what is owed and will counter these tactics and seek maximum compensation. Additionally, if you are unsatisfied with an insurance company’s offer, a lawyer may represent you at trial.
Call Zinda Law Group For More Help Evaluating Your Claim
Personal injury cases are very complex, which is why it is in your best interest to have a knowledgeable lawyer on your side. At Zinda Law Group, our team of attorneys has the experience and resources necessary to fully prosecute your case, and we never settle for anything less than the best.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, call us today at 800-863-5312 for a free consultation.
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