When you are preparing to make a personal injury claim, you are probably wondering how much your case will be worth. At the very least, your case will be worth the economic damages you have suffered, including current and future medical expenses, lost wages, reducing earning capacity, and loss of future income. Any damages beyond this point are difficult to determine because every injury case is unique. While an exact value can’t be assigned to your case, an experienced personal injury lawyer can give you a good idea of what you can expect to receive in a settlement.
To better understand the value of your case, a good starting point is understanding how insurance companies determine the value of claims to begin negotiations. Most insurance companies use a damages formula explained below.
Types of Personal Injury Damages
To begin with, you can be eligible to receive many forms of compensation in an injury case depending on your accident. Damages are classified as special (economic) damages and general (non-economic) damages. Special damages are the easiest to define and quantify and they include medical bills, lost wages, and reduced or lost earning capacity. General damages are much harder to quantify and predict.
The estimated value of your injury claim gets complicated when general damages are introduced into the equation. These damages are harm and losses you suffered from the accident that are not financial, including loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.
If someone else’s negligence caused your injuries, your case will most likely include at least some general damages. The more serious, painful, or long-lasting your injuries, the higher the value of your general damages.
How the Damages Formula Works
When you make an injury claim, the adjuster working for the insurance company company will negotiate with you or your injury lawyer to determine a fair settlement amount. To determine a starting point for negotiations, the adjuster will probably start by adding up your medical expenses, or medical special damages. This amount will then be multiplied by a factor of 1.5 to 3 if you have fairly minor injuries that resulted in a full recovery or up to 5 if you suffered long-lasting, very painful, or serious injuries. Lost income will then be added to the figure.
There are several factors that can increase the value of your injury claim. The damages formula will increase based on:
- The length of your recovery
- The amount of pain you suffered
- How invasive or long-lasting the condition
- How visible and serious any permanent effects or scars are (Facial scars, for example, increase the value of your claim more than scars on your legs)
- How obvious the medical evidence in your case. Hard injuries like fractures generally have higher general damages than soft tissue injuries that don’t show up on medical tests
Remember that this formula is just used to determine a starting point for negotiating your claim. Your injury lawyer will represent you throughout this process to present evidence, protect your rights, and seek a fair settlement that fully compensates you. Most injury cases settle before trial or even before a lawsuit must be filed, but it is sometimes necessary to go to court and seek a jury verdict.
An Injury Lawyer Can Help You Seek Maximum Compensation
Unfortunately, there is no formula that will determine the exact value of your case and calculators you may find will only give you a general idea. The severity and type of injuries always has a direct effect on the value of a claim, but dozens of factors can potentially influence your settlement amount. For example, cases in which liability is clear and you sought immediate medical attention have a higher value than cases in which liability is shared or unclear or you delayed treatment. The greater the evidence of treatment and diagnosis, the higher your settlement will most likely be. If you are found even partially at fault for your injuries, remember that your settlement award will be reduced under California’s comparative negligence laws.
Reaching a fair settlement is one of the most difficult aspects of a personal injury claim, but an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you protect your rights and best present your case to seek maximum compensation for your medical expenses, disability, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.