What is my case worth?
We are taught from a young age not to talk about money–it’s impolite. Unfortunately, money is usually the only remedy for accident and malpractice victims. The only way to “right” a wrong, so to speak. Therefore, it is important to get past this faux pas and have an honest discussion with your attorney about the value of your case.
Many people have misconceptions about what their case is worth. Often, this is because they heard “so-and-so” got a million dollar settlement and believe their case is similar, and that they too will receive a million dollars. Others have been told they can take the value of their total medical bills, multiply it by a number, and get the total settlement amount. These theories are simply not true. Predicting the precise value of a case is difficult, is fact specific, and turns on several factors.
Factors that Determine the Value of Your Case
One of the most important factors is the severity of the injury and how well the medical records document the injury. Adjusters rely on the medical records to describe the injury and diagnosis. Adjusters then input diagnosis codes into a computer software program that assigns a value to the injury. Permanent injuries are valued higher than others. Objective injuries (broken bones, scars) are valued higher than injuries that cannot be seen (pain, torn ligaments). The physical injury itself is just one of the many factors.
The medical history of the victim is also important. For example, if a person injures their neck in a wreck but had prior serious neck problems, this will affect the value of the case. Adjusters also consider the frequency and duration of treatment for the injury.
Pain and suffering is also part of the claim and will affect the value. Pain and suffering is just that–the physical pain of the injury, its effects, and the disruption it has caused in a person’s life. Putting a dollar amount on pain and suffering is hard to do because it cannot be seen. However, it is important to articulate how the injury impacted the victim because pain and suffering is an important aspect of the case.
If liability is not clear, the value of a case will decrease. For example, if the defendant driver was not clearly negligent, liability may not be so strong. Other considerations are whether there are witnesses, and if so, if they are credible and have a strong recollection of the event. Where the incident occurred is also important, as this will determine where suit must be filed. Some counties are much more favorable to plaintiffs, and a potential verdict would be higher in these counties than others. If a case would be filed in a plaintiff-friendly county, it may be worth more than a similar case filed elsewhere.
These are just some of the many factors that effect the value of a case. No two cases are the same, therefore it is not practical to compare one case to another. This makes it especially important to talk to your attorney about the strengths and weaknesses of your case because these will determine its value.