It is usually during the first meeting with a client that this conversation comes up. And many times, it starts with a client saying they had a friend who got so much money for their injuries. The conversation with their friend probably went something like this:
Fred: I understand you were in a car wreck
George: I was. I ended up breaking my leg and hurting my shoulder and am still having trouble with my shoulder since the accident.
Fred: Sorry to hear that. I had a friend who was in a car accident three years ago, he didn’t break any bones, and he got a $70,000.00 settlement. What do you think your case is worth?
George: Hmmm. I don’t know but I figure my case is worth at least that much, but the insurance company has only offered me $30,000.00.
Fred: Well, I would hold out until you got at least $70,000.00.
What is wrong in the example above? Is George’s case worth at least as much money as Fred’s friend? You can’t say. Why? There are not enough facts to value the case.
Despite some insurance companies’ belief, there is no computer program that you can input all your information and have it spit out an answer to the question of what your case is worth? There is only one hard fast rule—no two cases are exactly alike and as such, no two cases are worth exactly the same amount of money.
There is no precise formula, calculation, or other mathematical equation to determine what your case is worth. Each case has a different set of facts, a different set of injuries, and a different set of issues which all impact the value of the case. If some attorney, after listening to a summary of your case for 30 minutes, tells you your case is worth X dollars, you should be concerned. The reason is that there are a number of factors that impact the value of your case and usually these are not known without a full investigation of the facts. The following are some of those factors that will impact the value of your case.
Who is at fault?
This is a question of whether liability (fault) on the part of the other party is clear or whether there is evidence that you somehow contributed to your injuries. Let’s take the example above. If the person driving the car that hit Fred’s friend was a drunk driver, then that would increase the value of the case as there is a possibility of punitive damages, liability will be easier to prove, and the facts are egregious. However, what if George was hit by a preacher on the way to church who had never been involved in an accident before and was truly apologetic about the accident. Does that impact the value? You bet. Why? Because the ultimate decision-maker of what your case is worth is a jury. And each of those scenarios will impact the decision of a jury in awarding damages to the injured party. It’s human nature. In the example above, the preacher is a credible witness and comes off very humble. Juries are forgiving.
Are you partially responsible for the accident?
Texas accidents are governed by comparative negligence law, meaning that if the other party is mostly responsible but the accident victim is found to be partly responsible, he or she can't make a full recovery. For example, if the other party is 80% liable, and the accident victim is 20% liable, he or she can only recover 80% of the value of the case.
What are the extent of your injuries?
The basis for determining a case value in most personal injury accident cases is the extent of the injuries. How severe were the injuries? Are the injuries healed, or will you continue to experience ongoing medical issues? What treatment was necessary to treat the injuries, a doctor's visit, or surgery and extensive medical care?
How long before you got medical attention?
If an injured party waits days or even weeks to go see a doctor, they will have a more difficult time proving that the injuries are related to the accident and establishing the severity of the injuries.
Did you follow medical advice?
When patients don't follow doctors' instructions, defendants often use this to argue that the injury wasn't severe or that patients contributed to the injury by not following medical advice. It's important to keep doctors' appointments, undergo treatment and avoid activities that could contribute to the severity of the injury.
What are the medical bills?
While many things influence the value of a personal injury case, one of the biggest determinants in the actual numbers is the medical treatment total. For this reason, it may be impossible to truly value a case until medical treatment is complete, or at least until an accident victim has recovered to the full extent that he or she is capable.
Are there future medical expenses?
If an accident victim suffered a severe injury that entails future medical treatment, those expenses are calculated and figured into the value of the case. It's important to get a good medical opinion that can anticipate any surgeries or other large medical expenses for ongoing injuries when determining the case value.
Are there lost wages?
Lost wages are another important factor in valuing a case. If an accident victim missed work as a result of an accident, he or she may be eligible to claim lost wages as part of the case. If the injury is so severe that the personal injury accident victim is unable to return to work or you must seek other employment that pays less, he or she may be able to claim lost wages until retirement age as part of the case value.
How painful were the injuries, did it impact your ability to perform daily activities, and are the injuries permanent?
In addition to medical bills and lost wages, the law allows an accident victim to recover for their pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment and any physical disfigurement. These types of injuries are more difficult to value, but an experienced personal injury attorney who has lots of trial experience can advise you the range of value for such injuries.
Have you been previously injured?
If the injury is simply an aggravation of a pre-existing condition, the defendant will argue that the case is worth less than a new injury. Many pre-existing conditions make it easy to re-injure oneself, so defendants argue that a re-injury is worth less and may be inevitable. However, an experienced personal injury attorney is able to gather evidence to show that an aggravation of a pre-existing condition does not reduce the value of the case.
Is there sufficient documentation?
Everything in a personal injury accident case must be documented in order to clearly demonstrate injuries, medical treatment costs and lost wages. If the accident victim alleges expenses that he or she cannot back with documentation, the defendant will not want to pay for it.
In the next blog post, we will talk about other factors that can impact the value of a personal injury case.
In the meantime, if you have questions about a personal injury case, you can call us at 817-500-0990 or contact us online.