Often people ask me: “What is my injury case worth?” or “How much are we going to be asking for?” Evaluating personal injury cases is a complicated process with many factors. The most obvious factors, of course, are the seriousness of the injury, the seriousness of the accident, and the facts of the accident. Here are some of the things to keep in mind when thinking about how a personal injury case may be valued:
1. The Injury
The most obvious thing to consider when looking at personal injury cases is the seriousness of the injury. Of course, the more serious the injury, the higher the medical bills. Thus, the more value the case has.
For instance, a person who has broken bones and surgery is more likely to get a higher settlement than a person who has whiplash. That’s not to say that whiplash doesn’t hurt. It just not something you can see to appreciate. “Shock value” goes a long way in negotiating a higher settlement value. This is why taking pictures of any visible injuries in critical in proving your injury.
Additionally, injuries that tend to result in future impairment or scarring tend to have a greater value than injuries that are successfully treated with simple therapy.
2. The Accident
The next thing to consider is the seriousness of the accident. Of course, the more serious the accident, the greater chance of a serious injury. Likewise, the less serious the accident, the less likely it will produce a serious injury.
How serious the accident is depends not only of the cost of repairs to the vehicle, but also how the vehicle looks. For instance, both the vehicles below resulted in an injury to my client. Can you guess which vehicle produced the greater injury?
It’s a trick question. Both occupants were seriously injured. In fact, the person in the car on the left had shoulder surgery. Even though there is barely any visible damage to the car, it cost over $8,000 to repair.
But the damage to the SUV on the right has greater “shock value.” An adjuster, judge or jury is more likely to believe that the person in the SUV has more serious injuries than the car on the left. Even though both people were seriously injured, the person injured in the SUV on the right will probably get a higher settlement value for their injury case than the person on the left.
3. The Facts
The next thing to consider are the facts surrounding the accident. If the accident was your fault, then it doesn’t matter how seriously injured you are. Your case will have no value. Likewise, a personal injury attorney has to look at all the circumstances surrounding the accident and determine if the other person is at fault.
Sometimes an accident can be the fault of both people. In those circumstances, the concepts of contributory negligence and comparative responsibility may come into play. This will also effect how much your case is potentially worth.
Aggravating facts may also help increase the value of a case, such as drinking and driving, texting or using a cell phone, speeding, etc.
Other Things to Consider
Less obvious, but very important, factors also effect the value of the case. For instance, the jurisdiction where the case is pending is an important factor. An injury case in Dallas, Texas, may not have the same value as if the same case occurred in East Texas or South Texas. Why? Because the potential jurors in Dallas tend to be more conservative in their verdicts than potential jurors in other less conservative regions.
Another less obvious, but very important factor, is the quality of the client. The fact remains that jurors tend to side with the party that appears more credible. After all, the injured Plaintiff is the primary witness when it comes to testifying about the injuries. If the Plaintiff is not credible, then the jury will be less likely to rule in their favor. Additionally, the insurance adjuster and defense attorney will be less sympathetic toward the Plaintiff when it comes time to consider settlement of the case.
Other factors include the medical history of the client, the quality of the medical treatment, and the policy limits applicable to your claim.
There is No Formula?
Another misconception is that a case normally settles for three times the amount of the medical expenses. The theory is that 1/3 goes toward the medical expenses, 1/3 goes to the attorney, and 1/3 goes into the client’s pocket. Those days are long gone! And if there is a jurisdiction that follows this formula, please let me know because I will move there.
The vast majority of cases settle for far less than three times the medical expenses. This is especially true when the injuries are less serious.
Then again, there are cases that settle for even more than three times the medical expenses, especially when the injury is very serious. There are just too many factors to consider in evaluating an injury case. This goes to show that the value of every case is determined on its own merits. Don’t expect your case to follow some impersonal formula.
Ultimately, if a settlement opportunity presents itself in your injury case, just ask yourself this question: “If I go to trial and get less than the amount being offered, will I regret not taking the settlement offer?”
If the answer is “Yes,” then you should seriously consider settling. However, these decisions are best made after a thorough consultation with your lawyer.
Get the Right Representation
Many clients ask me how much their case is worth. I always give them all the same response: “No lawyer can predict the value of a case. If he tries, then you should RUN (don’t walk) out of his office!” A smart client should also question the true intentions of any attorney who attempts to make such an evaluation in the beginning.
Only an experienced personal injury attorney knows how to avoid all the pitfalls of a complex legal process and bring your case to it’s greatest potential.
If you have a good case, then a good attorney will make sure your case develops that way.
6 thoughts on “What is the settlement value my injury case?”
Shouldn’t you be able to answer the question, ‘how much are we asking for?’ Isn’t that information going to be in the demand letter and based on some of sum of medical bills and other factors?
You have to have some type of way to figure out what you’re asking for in your demand letter.
The value of a personal injury case depends on many factors. Of course things like medical bills and lost wages are easy to calculate, but that is not the end of the story. Pain and suffering, mental anguish and other “non-economic” damage are often speculative in nature because there is no set formula on how these damages are calculated. That is because those damages are strictly based upon the sole discretion of a judge or jury. They depend on things like the seriousness of the injury, the length of medical treatment, any resulting physical impairment and disabilities, as well as any physical disfigurement and scarring. But there are also other latent factors that might be relevant such as the age of the person (children and elderly tend to get higher pain and suffering awards). One other major factor is the venue of the case. For instance, a case in Dallas, Plano, or Fort Worth may not be worth as much as if the case were in San Antonio or South Texas. Why? Because potential jurors tend to be more generous in their verdicts than other Texas counties.
When it comes down to it, the settlement value of a case is based upon one thing: What is the client willing to accept and what is the defendant (or their insurance company) willing to pay. If no agreement can be reached, then each party takes their chances on what a jury might decide.
As far as requesting a specific amount in a demand letter, every attorney does things differently depending on the case and the style of their practice. I normally do not make a specific demand unless the case is worth the policy limits. Otherwise, I send the claim documents in and have the adjuster review them. I have never seen an adjuster agree to pay the amount initially demanded (other than a policy limits case). So, why bother. I like to see how the adjuster first evaluates the case and I determine from there whether there is a reasonable chance that further negotiations will work. If not, I make plans to file a lawsuit.
Sorry if this is duplicate, you directed me here after I posted a question under the other driver will not cooperate with the insurance company. I am trying to see if I should go ahead and file suit, possibly on my own, or accept the current offer of $10,986 from the adjuster? I feel it is too low and doesnt address all of my pain and suffering inconvenience, future back/spine complications, loss wages, medical bills. They total as the following.
1415.11 Physical Therapy
$180 Doctor’s visit
$180 Doctor’s visit
$4584 1 month loss wages
$4584 1 month loss wages
Thank you for your time
Also, this is the response from the adjuster via email in evaluating my claim settlement amount.
I’m sorry to hear about your hardships.
Please know that for your bodily injury claim we considered all of your medical treatment/expenses. Your treatment consisted of 2 visits with Dr. Major, 1 X-ray, and 4 PT visits with ATI Physical Therapy.
For the lost wage portion, we considered the initial days you indicated you missed: 2/9, 2/12-16 = 6 total days. We are also considering 2 weeks of additional lost wages from 3/21-4/13 as being reasonable. The reason for this is because the second round of missed work started about 1.5 months after the accident took place, and started just days before your last visit at ATI, which was 3/26.On that last visit your medical record indicates “Patient reports feeling better.” Also, there is no note from the doctor that the time off work was to last this long or longer.
With all the documentation/information we have I believe we’ve made a fair offer. Certainly, if there is any additional information or documentation you’d like to provide I would be happy to review it.
Is there a specific amount for settlement that you are looking for?
Just as I thought. They are taking the position and your claim for lost wages is not reasonable may be excessive. You should have got an attorney to represent you at the very beginning before the case got to this point. You will not be able to go to small claims court because your economic images exceed $10,000.
If you would like, you are more than welcome to call me and we can talk this through In greater detail.
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