One of the most common questions that victims of motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice incidents and other injury cases have is how much their case is worth and what determines the value of their potential or existing injury case. Naturally, there can be no precise answer to this question, because there are so many factors that come into play that determine the potential value of the case. No one and no attorney should guarantee you a specific settlement or judgment in your injury case, because the outcome of every claim is inherently uncertain and it depends on factors other than the nature and the gravity of injury. And if any attorneys guarantees you a specific outcome or assures you that you will win a specific amount of money, this should be a red flag for you. This is why the rules require that an attorney-client fee agreement in personal injury cases should include a clause that states that your lawyer does not guarantee any results and the lawyer’s statements about your case are expressions of his opinion only and will not determine the actual outcome of your injury claim.
Some of these factors that determine the value of the case include:
* Policy Limits and the Value of Your Injury Case
If the driver at fault or the defendant has a smaller insurance policy, such as $15,000/$30,000, that will be the limit you can recover from the other side’s insurance carrier regardless of how severe your injuries are, unless you go for the defendant’s personal assets, such as bank accounts, property, etc.
* Your Medical Expenses in Connection with the Treatment for the Injuries Suffered
The amount of medical expenses, the nature of medical expenses (diagnostic v treatment) will affect the settlement value of the case, as well as any medical service that would suggest that you suffered a serious injury, such as ambulance services, emergency room treatment, MRI / CT scan.
* Are There Any Permanent or Long Term Injuries as a Result of the Accident
Did your injury or pain fully resolve or completely resolve, or are you still in pain a year or longer after the injury incident. Are you expected to have long term pain for years or for the rest of your life? Will you likely need a surgery? The answers to these questions may significantly affect the value of your injury case.
* Wage Loss Due to Being Unable To Work after Suffering an Injury
Did you lose wages due to being unable to work because of the injuries suffered? Generally, your past and potential future wage loss and loss of earning capacity is part of the settlement/judgment in an injury case.
* Pain and suffering
Has your injury prevented you from doing the things that you enjoyed doing frequently before, such as working out, hiking, dancing, and engaging in other hobbies? How did the injury affect the overall quality of your life? Do you have any scarring from the injuries? Did you gain a lot of weight because of the injury. Did you miss on any planned traveling because of the injury.
* Your Expectations and the Insurance Company’s Position On Your Injury Claim
Are you flexible and do you keep an open mind about the strength and weaknesses of your case appreciate the risk of litigation? Or, are you set on a certain unrealistic number below which you will not agree to accept, regardless of an attorney’s recommendations? Most attorneys try to avoid representing the second type of the client who doesn’t listen to the attorney’s advice and whose stubbornness prevents him/her from making the best and the most prudent decision during the settlement discussions.
The same applies to insurance companies and their attorneys. How hard will they be fighting your case? Will they offer a fair settlement early on or will they be skeptical about your injuries and treatment and will fight your claim as hard as they can, extending the process for many months or longer?
The above is a non-exhaustive list of factors that will determine how much you will be able to settle your case for before trial. Of course, if your case goes to trial, other intangible factors will come into play, such as the kind of jury that decides your case, the jurisdiction in which you are on, your personality and how likable you are to a jury, witnesses and expert witnesses, etc.