Determining how much your personal injury case is worth depends on many factors. However, I will focus on some of the basics that are often applied to decide how much money should be paid to fairly compensate for a personal injury. This is not an exact science. Many insurance companies and attorneys, often depending on their jurisdiction, use different metrics.
One way to value an injury claim is to look at the number of months of active treatment. If the claimant has a soft tissue injury and received treatment for six months before being released, then often the insurance company will pay a dollar amount per month of treatment. For example, for the six-month soft tissue injury one could argue to be paid approximately $5,000 per month of active treatment, which would total $30,000. This is the amount paid for the pain, suffering, and inconvenience of the injury based on the length of time you suffered from the injury. The insurance company should also pay for property damages and the medical expenses, including any payments out of pocket. Keep in mind, there are many other factors that can increase or decrease the total settlement amount and the $5,000 per month metric could be much higher or lower.
For more serious personal injuries, the values depend on the jurisdiction and the amounts that have been awarded by judges or juries for similar personal injuries. For example, if you were injured in a car wreck and you sustained a back or neck injury that caused a bulging or a ruptured disc, then the settlement value of the claim may depend on answering many questions:
- Will the injury require surgery or other expensive and painful medical treatment?
- Does the injury cause permanent disability?
- Does the injury cause chronic pain?
- Does the injury impair or prevent you from working?
- What are the expected future medical expenses and lost wages?
- How much money has been awarded for similar injuries where the lawsuit is filed?
The above are some examples of the questions that need to be answered to fairly value the claim for settlement. There may also be practical constraints to settlement like insolvency of the defendant driver and limits to insurance coverage. It is also possible the value could be severely discounted if there is a question about who is at fault for the car wreck or whether there are prior injuries or medical issues that call into question whether the accident was the cause of the injury. If there is no question that the other driver is at fault for the crash and that the injuries were caused by the wreck, then there should be no discount for a liability question, and you should receive maximum value for your injury claim.
Considering the settlement valuation factors discussed above, sometimes an early settlement is not in the best interest of my clients. In my experience insurance companies and other defendants pay the most money to settle injury claims if they know trial is imminent and they are likely to lose. If they know the attorney representing the injured party is a superior trial lawyer who will take them to trial and likely win, then they will pay more for the injury claim. Good lawyers know that trial dates help to increase the risk of loss for insurance companies and benefit their clients by maximizing the value for injury claims. Therefore, before you sign away your legal rights in exchange for a check from an insurance company, I strongly recommend you consult an experienced trial lawyer.