As a personal injury attorney, I’m often asked, “What’s my case worth?” Often, clients ask this question during the initial interview, and my answer is always the same: “We need to wait until the end of the medical treatment.” In this column, I will briefly explain the process and some of the factors experienced personal injury lawyers use to arrive at a just settlement.
Let’s start at the beginning. There is a car accident and a man is injured through no fault of his own by another driver. In general, the person liable for the accident — and therefore that person’s liability insurance company — must pay the injured person for any:
- Pain and Suffering
- Lost income and loss in earning capacity
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Loss of family, social, and educational opportunities, and
- Emotional damages resulting from the above
Calculating the medical bills and income lost is the easy part; there is just no simple way to put a dollar figure on pain and suffering, disability and other permanent injuries. Having the best medical and occupational professionals who are willing to write comprehensive expert reports is an absolute necessity; along with having an experienced personal injury attorney is necessary if you want to recover maximum compensation.
Let me give you a real life example:
James, a 30-year-old man, was injured in a motorcycle accident. The costs of his medical care amounted to $50,000 incurred over a two-year period. Unfortunately, James also suffered a permanent injury to his spine, permanent scarring to his face and arms and was off of work for a month.
The personal injury damages that James can demand of the insurance company include:
- The full amount of his medical bills ($50,000), regardless if paid by health insurance at a discounted rate or not.
- Two years of past pain and suffering.
- 50 years of future pain and suffering from his permanent injury (Social Security life expectancy table).
- Compensation for his facial and arm scars.
- Future medical expenses related to expected arthritis and possible back surgery.
- Future prescription drug benefits.
- One month for lost wages.
- Travel expenses to and from treatment.
Other damages may be available, but for purposes of illustration only, I touched upon the most common.
During negotiations, the adjuster for the insurance company typically will not tell you what formula they use to arrive at how much they feel your claim is worth. They don’t want you to know what dollar amount they would be willing to settle on; but an experienced personal injury lawyer will have professional relationships from prior cases with many of the adjusters and all of the companies.
No amount of money will ever replace a healthy back. But the law does protect injured victims the best it can, in the form of money compensation. A good personal injury attorney would get a settlement that gives James the maximum amount of money to compensate him for past and future pain, disability, lost wages and all past and future medical treatment.
In my next column, I will take a look at Intentional Personal Injury and what is going on in the NFL.