Oftentimes, my clients are very concerned with what their case is worth. In their minds, it is usually worth a great deal. Part of my job is to bring my clients back down to Planet Earth. I will not make false promises or inflate your expectations. No one will ever be able to see the case through your eyes. That said, you must bring yourself out of that mindset. You can think your case is worth a million dollars, but it doesn’t really matter what you think. What matters usually is what a jury is apt to think, or before that, what an insurance adjuster assigns to the case. However, people still ask me, “How much is my case worth?” Well, there is no magic formula.
The best way to determine how much your injury claim is worth when you are injured in a car accident is to look at how an insurance company would value your claim. An insurance carrier will first look at the types and amounts of damages suffered and then at percentage of fault.
This includes medical expenses incurred to treat an injury, such as doctor’s visits, hospital expenses, emergency room expenses, fees for chiropractic care, physical therapy and any type of medical devices that may be needed for your recovery, such as neck braces or crutches. If you don’t have health insurance, there are other ways to get medical treatment.
Medical expenses are typically used as a benchmark for determining the reasonableness of damage awards. Keep in mind you may have a very serious injury, but without medical records and expenses, your case may very well be compromised. That is why I cringe when clients call me six weeks after an accident. They tell me of the serious injuries they sustained, yet they still have not seen a doctor!
Future medical expenses are recoverable if the injured party can show that he or she is likely to need continued medical care as a result of the accident or injury. This amount may be determined by the advice and opinions of your doctors and/or other medical specialists you have seen for treatment. Generally speaking, the future need for medical care must be “reasonably certain” to be incurred.
Pain and suffering damages may be granted for physical pain resulting from an accident or injury. A jury will look at the nature of the injury, the severity of the pain, and how long you are likely to be in pain to determine the amount of damages. Remember that NO ONE will see this case through your eyes. A jury’s evaluation of your case may differ greatly from your own.
If you are unable to work because of your injury, you may recover the amount of money you would have earned if you had not been injured. Lost wages should be documented where possible. If you have a business that suffered, you might have to show an earnings track record before the accident and your earnings after the accident. If there is a disparity, you might be able to prove that as an element of your case.
You may recover damages for lost earning capacity if you can show that your ability to earn money in the future has been impaired. Past earnings will be used to determine an appropriate damage award, but a jury will likely focus on what you might have earned had the accident or injury not occurred. Again, speculation isn’t going to cut it. You will need to demonstrate to an insurance adjuster or jury that your numbers have a strong foundation.
You may also obtain recovery for the value of property that was damaged, including your vehicle and its contents. This also includes loss of use (i.e., rental value for the period of time you were without a car). Please remember that defendant (or their insurance company) is not obliged to buy you a new car! They are only supposed to put you back in the position you were before the accident happened.
Finally, every client has to make a decision at some point. They can either take the offer being made or generally speaking, file a lawsuit against the other party. In some cases, filing a lawsuit makes sense. However, you need to take into consideration the costs of filing a lawsuit. Even though you may recover more money from a jury, you may actually end up with less money when all is said and done.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,