WHAT IS MY PERSONAL INJURY CASE WORTH
The discussion to follow explores the value of an individual’s personal injury claim. Each case is different and there is no pre-determined value. The information contained herein should not be construed as legal advice, but is instead intended to be for informational purposes. Anyone with a personal injury claim should consult counsel for a proper evaluation of their claim.
In most states there are state laws that require the insurance company to make a diligent inquiry into the facts and circumstances surrounding an accident and make a determination as to whether it will accept liability within a reasonable time.
Once liability is established, and there is no fault on the part of the injured party, the injured party is to be compensated for an amount of money which will reasonably and fairly compensate him or her for applicable damages. If the injured party has some comparative fault in causing the accident, the recovery of damages may be reduced by that fault. The burden is on the injured person to prove his or her damages.
The compensation available to an injured person varies by the type of injury and whether there are economic damages, permanent injuries, and future medical needs. By way of example, in many states, an injured person is entitled to recover for:
– The Nature;
– Duration; and
– If applicable Permanency of injuries
Each of the foregoing are separate elements of damages to be considered by the jury. The issue is how best to request recovery from the jury on these damages. There are two basic approaches to advance these damages. You can argue a lump sum or alternatively the per diem method.
• If you do not have a particularly troubling injury, then you can suggest a lump sum number that can fairly compensate the injured person for his or her injuries.
• The lump sum should be rationally related to the facts of the case, such as arguing that a Plaintiff with minor injuries should recover $6,000.00 for having to endure pain, and medical treatment for six weeks as opposed to arguing for an extremely large number that may cause the jury to become less empathetic to the injured party.
However, if you have significant pain, a lengthy duration of suffering, or extensive injuries, then you can stress a per diem argument. The following example illustrates a per diem presentation of damages:
Joe, a delivery driver suffers a torn rotator cuff. Joe is off work for 240 days and is unable to use one-half of his upper extremity for many months. Joe could present a per diem argument by arguing:
• The nature and extent of the injury on a scale of 1-10 could be argued as a 6 or 7.
• Based on the severity of the injury it could be argued that Joe is entitled to a per diem of $60 – $70/day for the injury.
• So the formula would be 240 x $70.00 = $16,800.00 for that element of damages
• A similar formula could be employed for pain and suffering damages.
To varying degrees, an injured person is entitled to recover for all reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred. Some states allow recovery for bills incurred without regard to third-party payments, while other states will adjust for what has actually been paid or is owed. In a traditional tort claim the injured party is entitled to recover for:
• All reasonable and necessary medical bills incurred as a result of the auto accident.
• The present value of future medical costs reasonably certain to be incurred in the future.
• Past medical bills require testimony that the treatment was for injuries caused by the accident and were reasonable and necessary to help the injured person.
• Future medical expenses do not require the same specificity as past medical expenses and may be established by a showing of a degree of medical certainty of future medical expenses.
PAIN AND SUFFERING:
An injured person is entitled to recover for pain, suffering, and mental anguish as they may be applicable. The injured claimant may also recover for those that are reasonably certain to be experienced in the future.
• Mental Anguish is applicable if the injured party has sought psychiatric treatment, counseling, or has been prescribed anti-anxiety or other medications prescribed to deal with anguish associated with injuries such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
• Future pain, suffering, or mental anguish must be established by a reasonable certainty and not left to speculation.
• Generally medical providers are the best source of testimony to present to the jury.
QUANTIFYING PAIN AND SUFFERING
Pain and suffering can be difficult to quantify. People tolerate and manifest pain and its effects differently. The most objective way to quantify pain and suffering is to advance to the jury the amount prescribed for the nature, extent, and duration of injuries. Going back to Joe, the delivery driver, a presentation of damages could be presented as follows;
• Joe the delivery driver argued for compensation for the nature, extent and duration of his injuries of $16,800.00
• Joe was unable to use ½ his upper extremity and suffered through painful rehabilitation for up to 240 days.
• Ask the jury to consider taking the $16,800.00 assigned to the nature, extent and duration damages and multiply it by the severity of the injury to reach a pain and suffering award. Under this argument the jury would be asked to assign a number from 1 – 10 for Joe’s pain and suffering as assigned below.
0 = No Injury
4-6= Injury Requiring Medical Attention
10 = Severe Trauma
• Based on the evidence ask the jury to multiply the nature, extent and duration of Joe’s injuries in the 4 – 6 range. At 5, the amount would be $84,000.00
LOST WAGES AND PROFITS:
• An injured person that works is entitled to the value of any earnings or salary lost and the present value of any future earnings or salary
• A self-employed or other business person is entitled to any lost profits and the present value of any profits reasonably certain to be lost in the future
There are other miscellaneous damages that may be applicable, such as room and board required in obtaining medical care, transportation costs, scarring and disfigurement compensation, and other type damages. You should consult with a personal injury attorney about your claim as soon as possible as it is important to secure evidence as soon as possible after an accident has occurred.
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