How Much Is My Personal Injury Claim Worth?
“How much is my case worth?” This is probably the most common question we get at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers.
To answer it, we’ll need to look at the core details of your case and the specific situation you face. There are many variables involved; including personal and economic damages. Each case we handle is as unique as each client we meet!
Of course, there are some common factors in every personal injury case. We’d like to help you understand these basic concepts so you’ll understand the potential value of your case and what type of compensation you might be able to receive.
Five Factors That Affect Your Claim’s Value
First, let’s look at five key factors that strongly impact how much your potential personal injury claim is worth.
- Liability – Who is at fault for the accident?
- Injuries – How large are your associated medical expenses?
- Property damage – What monetary value can be assigned to your physical losses?
- Lost wages – How much work did you miss and have you lost productivity?
- Pain and suffering – How is the accident affecting your everyday life? How long will the effects last?
With these factors in mind, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you pursue compensation in court or arrange a private settlement. Often, this happens by demanding what you are due from the at-fault party’s insurance company.
To get a fully accurate and adequate award figure, your attorney will have to do a thorough investigation and make many challenging settlement calculations. So next, let’s dig a little deeper into how personal injury claims are calculated using the five factors listed above.
Liability for Your Accident
Liability is the primary factor that determines the base amount of your potential personal injury award. Establishing liability isn’t about finger-pointing and blame; it’s about answering the question of who is financially responsible for the expenses associated with your accident.
In some states, liability is clear-cut because the person/company who most directly caused the accident is determined to be 100% liable. California law does not operate that way.
California is what is known as a comparative negligence state. That means under the law, any party involved in an accident can be assigned a portion of the fault. There can be shared liability and each party will be given a percentage of liability.
So, for example, if the victim of a car accident in California was exceeding the speed limit but the driver who actually caused the accident ran a red light, the two drivers may share liability. Even if your own actions contributed to the accident, the other person could still be liable for a large portion of your expenses – meaning you have a great reason to make a claim against them!
Proving liability can be difficult, though. If there is no concrete evidence like traffic camera footage or eyewitness testimony, it may come down to your word against theirs. Having evidence to back up your story will help you establish liability and will, in the end, increase the amount of your personal injury claim.
Injuries From the Accident
Medical expenses usually make up the majority of your personal injury claim. You’ll need to show how badly you were hurt, how much of an impact those injuries had on your life, and how much doctors, hospitals, and therapists charged you.
The total medical component of your claim involves two separate expenses: actual bills and medical liens. Bills are just what you’d expect – the bills you receive from hospitals, medical practitioners, and other services like ambulance companies and physical therapists.
Medical liens are legally binding requests for payment that ensure medical providers will be paid when you have the funds to do so. A medical lien can be placed on any tangible piece of property you own, such as your home, and it must be paid or it will go to a collection agency.
Both bills and liens will be paid off by your personal injury award before you see any of the money. While this decreases the overall amount of your settlement or award, it streamlines the financial recovery process and makes the act of receiving your award much simpler on your end. By the time you have the money in your hands, your debts have already been settled.
One powerful reason to hire a personal injury attorney when you’re seriously injured is that your lawyer can negotiate with medical service providers to decrease the overall amount you owe. That means you get to keep more of your potential award and pay less to the hospital.
But it’s not always the immediate cost of your medical treatment that is the largest portion of this financial expenditure. Serious injuries often result in long-lasting effects that may require weeks, months, or even years of treatment to heal. Some injuries may never heal and will leave you with lifelong ailments, chronic pain, and disabilities.
All of these future expenses should be figured into the medical expense portion of your personal injury claim, above and beyond the hospital bills you’re currently facing. This is why you shouldn’t delay seeking medical treatment after your accident. You don’t want your need to be perceived as less than it actually is.
Property Damage Claims
The cost of repairing or replacing personal property damaged in an accident can be quite high. But good news: This portion of your personal injury claim is likely to be the easiest part to prove.
Your property damage claim is anything you have purchased, will purchase, or could need to pay to repair/replace because it was damaged in your accident. These expenses can include:
- Vehicle repair/replacement
- Clothing expenses
- Replacement of electronic devices like phones, GPS units, and watches
You can include damage to property that belongs to other individuals, like passengers in your vehicle. It can even include other people’s property damaged during the accident, like mailboxes or landscaping.
When calculating the potential value of personal property replacement, it’s important to remember that you will not receive the value you paid for the property when it was new. There will be a certain percentage of depreciation applied to the repair/replacement costs.
Your Loss of Earnings
Beyond direct expenses like medical bills and property replacement costs, you can also request compensation for lost earnings. The at-fault person can be held responsible for the financial impact your accident has had on your earnings.
Did you know that you can also seek compensation for the future financial impact that an accident may have? That’s right. If your injuries have left you with lasting or even chronic consequences, your ability to earn a livable wage or stay on track with your career could be significantly impacted.
This is another reason why having an attorney on board is so important. They can do the crucial calculation that shows the anticipated financial impact on your earnings. Having this calculation is essential if you want to be compensated for the full effect your accident will have on your financial future.
Your Pain and Suffering
Your pain and suffering is part of what is known as “general damages.” These damages aren’t direct and they can be rather difficult to calculate. Proving your need may require extensive evidence-gathering on your part.
Victims can include all of the following things in the general damages portion of a personal injury claim:
- Physical pain
- Mental suffering
- Inconvenience – to you or even family caregivers
- Physical impairment
You can even include more nebulous damages like the emotional stress that the accident and the recovery process has placed on your personal relationships. If your marriage is suffering a significant strain, you may receive compensation for it.
Expenses in a Typical Personal Injury Claim
Now let’s review the types of expenses that usually come along with a personal injury case. The total amount you receive will have certain expenses deducted from it, leaving an amount that goes in your pocket.
Expenses that are typically deducted from personal injury awards include:
- Your medical bills, because they are factored into your award
- The attorneys’ fees, which are usually contingency fees paid at the end of your case
- Any additional expert witness fees, unless your attorney includes them in their fees
- Liens that apply to your case, which go to medical providers and other companies
Before your case happens, a good personal injury attorney will be able to give you a ballpark figure of what these amounts will look like. In fact, they may be able to give estimates based on other real-world cases they’ve handled.
After your case concludes, what’s left after the expenses have been deducted is what you’ll receive. At this point, you’ll also have the immense relief of getting your medical bills paid, the satisfaction of holding the right person responsible, and the comfort of finally being able to move forward with your life.
Attorneys’ Fees Should be Clear and Straightforward.
A personal injury attorney’s fees should be easy for you to understand. If you have any questions about the fee structure, your attorney should be able to clear up your concerns – and if they can’t, look elsewhere for representation.
The fees you’ll be expected to pay will be laid out either at your initial consultation or shortly thereafter in the retainer agreement. These fees may include a base rate plus additional hourly figures added on top, or sometimes they’re calculated as a percentage of your total award.
Here at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers law firm, we never charge a fee unless we recover a financial award for you. We take our fees after your case ends and we’ll always be up-front and straightforward with the amount we charge.
Why Hiring an Attorney Maximizes Your Claim’s Value
Accident victims sometimes attempt to file insurance claims or start court cases without hiring a qualified personal injury attorney to help them. Doing so is within your rights, but is unlikely to maximize your compensation.
Why? Because having a good personal injury attorney on your side to provide legal advice and assistance brings big benefits. Having an attorney:
- Puts their knowledge and experience to work for you
- Focuses your energy on the most viable routes to compensation
- Prevents wasting time on activities that rarely lead to compensation
- Relieves you of the burdens of paperwork, deadlines, and negotiations
- Shows the other side that you won’t back down
- Results in higher settlement amounts, on average
- Increases the odds of winning in court if your case proceeds that far
Bottom Line: The Right Attorney Adds Value to Your Claim
As you can see from all of the information on this page, coming up with an accurate estimate of how much you’ll receive for a personal injury claim is not an easy thing to do. If you speak to a personal injury attorney who makes wild promises without knowing the details of your situation, beware!
Instead, find an attorney with the wisdom and experience it takes to make an accurate assessment of your case’s value. At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, we can help with a quick, free online case evaluation to start building a realistic picture of how much your claim is worth.
We Handle Your Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life
After a personal injury, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of the law, including personal injuries. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering while we handle the legal details.
We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.