Every personal injury client that come in the door has one concern: How much is his/her claim worth? Like most things in the law, it is almost impossible to guess the value of a claim. Am I able to provide some ROUGH estimates, sure. But, there is no way to guarantee any specific value. What follows is a brief explanation of what goes into evaluating a claim.
What Factors Determine the Value of a Personal Injury Claim?
The factors that an insurance company or defendant looks at to evaluate your claim are numerous and different for each case. The easiest factors to use are those that come with a clear dollar value. These include lost wages, medical bills, and lost property.
How Does One Determine Lost Wages?
Lost wages must be definitive in nature. In other words, they cannot be speculative wages that you may or may not have earned. So, assume you work a full time job at 40 hours a week and are paid $15 dollars per hour. That is a definitive amount of money. If you missed three days of work, we know much you lost. If you missed two months of work, we know how much you lost. However, assume you are only paid sporadically for jobs that only arise every couple of months, like an independent contractor. We do not know how much you would have made if you were not injured because we can never tell what jobs come your way and when. So, those are speculative damages and harder to recover.
How Does One Determine Medical Bills?
Medical bills are simple. If you went to the ER, they issued you a bill. If you had surgery, they issued you a bill. After all of your medical treatment is complete, add up the medical bills, and you have your value. If you paid for the medical bills out of pocket, you may ask for that money back. If your insurance company paid those bills, you can still ask for them in certain circumstances.
How Does One Determine Property Damage?
Again, these damages are rather easy to determine. If your personal injury case arose because of an auto accident, you may ask for the amount needed to fix your vehicle.
What About Pain and Suffering?
Pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment of life, and lost earning potential all are examples of damages that make valuing a personal injury claim difficult. Some of these are what we call punitive damages. They are damages caused by the accident that you cannot place a definitive value upon. There is not way to definitely value the amount of pain you suffered. There is no way to definitively value what your future earning potential would be.
What attorneys attempt to do is accumulate estimates from experience that help to value some of these more speculative damages. These estimates may come from past cases, expert evaluations, or based on your individual circumstances.
In the end, it will be your decision whether to settle a case or take it to trial. If the insurance company or defendant offers you a settlement, you have to determine whether you think it is a fair compensation for your loss. You should be able to look to your attorney for help and guidance in making that decision.
If you have been the victim of a personal injury, or someone is suing you for personal injury, give me a call. I will help you as much as I can to evaluate the claim before you. I will take the time to counsel you on your settlement options and help you find the best path through your suit. If you want to take your claim to trial, I am able to help provide you trial representation as well. Call 412-209-0657 and ask for Matthew Becker.