If you are planning to file a personal injury lawsuit or make an injury claim, you are likely wondering how much your case is worth. The truth is every injury case is unique and there is no way to assign a precise value to your case, although an experienced injury attorney can give you an idea of how much you can expect to receive. It’s also important to understand that insurance companies use a formula to at least partially determine the value of your claim. Still, many factors affect the value of any claim.
Understanding Personal Injury Damages
Depending on the details of your case, you may be entitled to several types of compensation in an injury claim. These types of damages are referred to as general (non-economic) and special (economic) damages. Special damages are easy to quantify and may include compensation for current and future medical bills, property damage, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, or loss of future income. The special damages in your case will be easier to predict.
General damages are far harder to quantify, and this is where the estimated value of a claim gets complicated. General damages are any losses or harm you sustain as a result of your injury that are not financial. Examples include pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of companionship, and loss of enjoyment of life.
If you were injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, there is a good chance you will receive at least some compensation for special damages. As a general rule, the more painful, serious, or long-lasting your injuries, the higher your settlement amount for general damages.
The Injury Damages Formula
When it is time to negotiate with the insurance company, the insurance adjuster will likely begin by determining your medical expenses, sometimes called the medical special damages. To decide how you should be compensated for pain and suffering, disability, and emotional damages (or any other general damages), the adjuster will multiply the medical special damages by a factor of 1.5 to 3 for fairly minor injuries and a factor of up to 5 if you have very serious, very painful, or long-lasting injuries. The next step is to factor in lost income.
While the damages formula is merely a starting place, it can help to understand which factors make your injury claim more valuable. The damages formula used by the insurance company usually increases depending on the following factors:
- How long-lasting and invasive your condition is.
- The amount of pain caused by your injuries.
- The length of your recovery process.
- How serious and visible any permanent effects or disfigurement are.
- How obvious the medical evidence is of the injury. Hard injuries (such as fractures) usually have a higher damages formula applied than soft tissue injuries that cannot show up on diagnostic tests and X-rays.
Your personal injury attorney will represent you during negotiation to reach a fair settlement. The vast majority of cases settle before they go to trial or before a lawsuit even needs to be filed, but it may be necessary to go to court. Your attorney will advise you on the best course of action and advise against taking a settlement that does not fairly compensate you for your injuries.
There is No Formula to Determine Value
The damages formula used by insurance companies and your special (economic) damages can be a good starting point to determine how much your case is worth, but there is no means for automatically assigning value to injury claims. The type and severity of your injuries will always have a direct impact on your claim’s value, but dozens of other factors can affect your claim. The greater the evidence of diagnosis and treatment, the higher your settlement is likely to be, especially when you suffer soft tissue injuries that are hard to show through medical records. Cases in which liability is obvious and seeking immediate medical care can also increase the value of the case compared to cases in which liability is unclear or shared or in which you delayed seeking treatment. If you are found to be even partially at fault for the accident, your settlement award will be reduced through comparative negligence.
Reaching a fair settlement through negotiation with the insurance adjuster is one of the most difficult aspects of an injury claim. Your attorney will represent your best interests to seek a fair settlement that considers your medical expenses, lost wages, disability, pain and suffering, and other damages.