This personal injury question is probably one of the most frequently asked questions we get after conducting our initial client interview. Some people have the idea in their head that, if they get into a minor car accident, they should be entitled to massive amounts of money (a fallacy propagated by insurance companies to make you think that juries consistently churn out six and seven figure verdicts, which is ridiculous).
Believe me when I tell you: you do not want to be one of our clients who are awarded multiple-millions of dollars; as those clients tend to be involved in near-death injuries, disfigured, severely brain damaged, etc…
The real answer to the question: What is my case worth? is…. IT DEPENDS. The money a jury awards are broadly categorized as (i) Economic Damages and (ii) Non-Economic Damages.
- past and future medical expenses (hospital and ER expenses, physical therapy, chiropractor visits, prescriptions),
- past and future lost income (income you lost as a result of the injury is compensable. If, as a result of the injury, you are no longer able to work or unable to make as much money because of new restrictions, such loss is compensable as well)
- property damage
- pain and suffering / mental anguish (will depend on the nature of the injury and, as the name suggests, how much suffering the plaintiff had, and will continue to, endure – this a very subjective standard),
- loss of consortium (sex), companionship, comfort, affection of injured spouse (also a fairly subjective standard).
Apportionment of liability can also drastically affect the value of a case. The defense, in any personal injury case, will always attempt to place some (if not all) of the blame on the injured party by arguing that the plaintiff was not acting reasonably under the circumstances. So if a defense attorney can convince a jury that the injured party was 50% responsible for the accident, the injured party will only be awarded ½ of the damages awarded by the jury. In other words, if a jury believes that the injured party is entitled to $100,000 in both economic and non-economic damages, but also finds that the injured party was 50% at fault in the accident, the injured party will only receive $50,000.
Bottom line: many factors go into determining what a personal injury case is worth. Some of those factors cannot be fully calculated at the time when the potential client comes to our office. For example, until our client has completed treatment with their medical professionals (or has a clear understanding of how much treatment will be needed in the foreseeable future), there is no way for a personal injury attorney to clearly place a dollar value on the medical expenses that a client will require. But having a good personal injury attorney in your corner to monitor your progress, keep files of all recoverable expenses, and keep tabs on insurance companies who are always looking to minimize what they pay those who are injured, is an important factor in maximizing the amount of money an injured party is entitled to receive.