How Do You Determine the Value of A Personal Injury Case?

Dec 11 10:24 2008 James W. Dodson Print This Article

This article helps you determine the value of your personal injury case and some helpful tips.

There is no magic formula or process by which some one can predict with certainty the amount of money a personal injury case may be worth. If there were,Guest Posting society would not need personal injury lawyers. One could simply apply a formula to come up with the value of the value of a case. If this were so there would be no need for a trial. Yet we know the trials are necessary when the two sides cannot agree on the value of a case.

In discussing the value of an injury claim I will assume the injured party had no comparative fault. As I discussed previously, if the insurance company is able to prove the injured party was also at fault in the accident, their comparative fault would reduce any damage award by the percentage of their fault. Additionally, consideration must be given to the probability holding the response will party liable for the accident. If there is a very low percentage of probability that they would be held liable for the accident, the settlement value of the case would be substantially reduced. If they were absolutely at fault, with no evidence to the contrary, the value the case becomes simply a matter of calculating the loss suffered by the injured victim.

Bearing those factors in mind, the value of any injury case is a function of the injury and damages suffered by the victim. Those damages are generally broken down into two categories. First, special damages are those capable of being calculated with certainty. Special damages include past and future medical expenses, lost earnings, lost earning capacity (the ability to earn money) and property damage. The second includes intangible damages. A person's intangible losses are more difficult to calculate and juries are instructed to use their own common sense and judgment in determining the value of those damages. Intangible damages include pain, suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, scarring, disfigurement, and loss of the enjoyment of life. These intangible harms are purely subjective, difficult to determine and often vary among jurors who are deciding the case.

Ultimately, the value of the case is what a jury would award on any given day. The injured party's attorney and the insurance company are continually trying to evaluate how a jury might see the case and how much money a jury might award. Each side creates a range of their estimation of the value of a case. Settlement is possible when the money offered intersects with the range both sides feel the case should fall within. No settlement is possible if the plaintiff believes their case is worth $50,000 but the insurance company is offering only $25,000. Their settlement ranges have not intersected.

No value can be placed on a case until all of the damages are known. All medical treatment must be completed and any estimate of future medical treatment must be provided by the treating physician. That means the injured party must reach what lawyers and doctors refer to as maximum medical improvement, meaning further medical treatment is not raising the injured party's level of recovery. They have reached a plateau. Further medical care may be required, but it will only maintain their condition, not improve it. Waiting for the injured party to reach maximum medical improvement is often the determining factor in any delay in resolving the injured party's claim. A lawyer is not capable of predicting whether an injured person will need further treatment, such as a major surgery. That information is provided only by a physician. The need for future surgery, for instance, may be a significant factor in the value of the case. Attempting to reach a settlement prior to reaching maximum medical improvement could result in significant future medical needs not being taken into consideration in determining the value the case.

Other important factors to consider regarding the value of an injury case include whether the person has had significant medical treatment in the past, their general health, their life expectancy, and their need for future medical treatment. Another intangible factor is whether the injured party is someone a jury would like and believe, which means are they seen as someone with credibility. This is definitely a factor insurance companies take into consideration in determining how much a case is worth for settlement purposes. Other factors include the significance of the accident property damage and trauma, the extent and permanent nature of any injuries, whether the injured party was required to miss extensive time from work, the amount of the medical expenses, both past and future, the county where the case will be heard, the particular adjuster assigned to the case as well as the unique culture of the insurance company and any defense attorney they select to represent them. All of these factors combine into a unique combination of circumstances which will greatly influence the value of any case.

Virtually no two cases are alike, even if the accident and injuries involved are nearly identical. This means the evaluation of two cases which appear to be similar on the surface may actually produce widely different evaluations due to other factors, including those listed above. Evaluating personal injury cases takes knowledge, experience and hard earned intuition. Without these traits you may be at a serious disadvantage when negotiating with the insurance adjuster. Unless you're in the business of evaluating and settling personal injury cases for a living, you should look to an experienced personal injury attorney for guidance.

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About Article Author

James W. Dodson
James W. Dodson

Attorney James W. Dodson is a Clearwater, Florida personal injury trial lawyer with over 20 years experience representing clients in all types of injury claims including vehicle accidents, fall cases and wrongful death. He is the author of three books offered FREE to consumers as a guide to dealing with accidents and insurance. Visit his website at for FREE copies of these books, other articles, videos, news and commentary.

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