What is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
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One of the first questions we often hear from people who meet with an attorney at Belt & Bruner, P.C. to discuss their accident is: “Can you tell me what my case is worth?” It is a question that does not have a simple answer. No two injury cases are exactly alike. Unfortunately, there is no standard form or reliable case value calculator or personal injury calculator to make a general estimate of the value of a personal injury case.
Components that Establish a Case’s Value
In order to have a valid, compensable claim, it is imperative that the individual who caused your harm be legally at fault and their actions be the cause of your damages. Breaking this down, the three critical legal components in establishing the value of your case will be:
When you assess damages, you should consider:
- Property losses (particularly vehicle repair or replacement)
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering and emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages
Insurance policy limits also will be a critical factor in determining the value of your claim. The amount you can recover may be limited by the defendant’s available insurance coverage. (However, in an auto accident, you can protect yourself from underinsured or uninsured drivers by purchasing UM/UIM coverage.)
Talk to Your Alabama Personal Injury Lawyer about the Value of Your Claim
When you contact a personal injury lawyer in Alabama, he or she should give you a range of values for your case or claim. All of the factors discussed above as well as your lawyer’s experience with juries in the case’s jurisdiction can be factors in the evaluation of your lawsuit. Your lawyer should closely examine all of these factors.
With offices in Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, and Montgomery, our attorneys can quickly travel anywhere in the state of Alabama if nessasary to investigate your case and answer any questions in person that you may have.
Although some lawyers may advocate the use of ratios, personal injury calculators, claim calculators, auto claim calculators, wrongful death claim calculators, damages ratios or other types of formulas found on the Internet, these programs are merely tools. They are not conclusive in determining the value of your case.
When trying to determine the value of your legal claim or lawsuit, your attorney should base numbers on a combination of all of the factors above. Your lawyer should also be able to explain to you how these factors increase or decrease the value of your claim and discuss why your claim has the value that they recommend.
Things that Affect the Value of Your Injury Lawsuit
When an attorney sits down with you to discuss your case and its worth, there are a number of factors to consider about your injury claim. Among the questions the lawyer will cover are:
- What Are Your Injuries? Are your injuries severe or extensive? Are you going to be able to return to work when you recover? Will your injuries limit your ability to return to your job or do the kind of work you were doing before the accident? Were any of your injuries pre-existing? What restrictions and physical limitations will you have on your activities? Have you been diagnosed with a permanent disability? Have you suffered partial or complete paralysis as a result of your injuries? What are the costs of your medical bills to date? These are the kinds of questions related to your injuries that affect the value of a claim.
- Have You Lost Wages? Have you missed work and missed paychecks as a result of your injuries? What is the cost of your lost income to date as a result of your injury? Will you be able to return to your previous job when you recover? Do you expect your loss of income to extend into the future?
- Have Your Spouse or Children Suffered? If you have been seriously injured in an accident, your injuries may prevent you from taking part in normal marital and family activities with your spouse and children. Your spouse and children may be affected by your injury. Serious injuries often cause hardships for family members other than just the injured individual. Alabama law allows the spouse of a personal injury victim to bring a claim for loss of consortium. These claims are typically brought at the same time as the main personal injury claim.
Busting the Ratio Myth about Case Value
We often hear people say that they have been told that their case should be worth some multiple of the total value of medical bills and lost wages, such as three times the value of economic losses. For example, if their medical expenses totaled $40,000 and their weeks of lost income totaled $20,000 of losses, then their claim should be worth three times $60,000 or roughly $180,000.
There is no magic ratio or rule-of-thumb formula for determining case value. Every individual accident involves its unique own set of contributing factors, including the location where the accident occurs, whether it is Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, or another city. In order to assess the value of the case, we have to do a specific analysis of the following five categories:
5 Key Factors for Filing an Injury Lawsuit
You may seek compensation for medical bills related to the treatment of your injuries in a personal injury accident. We review the bills that you have received related to your injury.
The types of medical costs that that you may have include:
- Emergency room treatment
- Costs of hospital stay
- Diagnostic tests such as X-rays, MRIs and CT scans
- Cost of surgery
- Casts, braces or splints
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Psychological counseling
We also need to consider whether you will have additional medical expenses going forward. Future medical bills may be a significant consideration in some cases, depending on the severity of the injury. If you have suffered a catastrophic injury and are paralyzed with paraplegia, you will face approximately $518,000 in medical costs during the first year after the injury and roughly $69,000 a year in the following years, according to the Alabama-based National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. About a third of people with spinal cord injuries are re-hospitalized one or more times during any given year after an injury.
Proving future medical expenses requires testimony from a qualified physician or medical expert about the anticipated future costs of your injury. If you are going to incur future medical expenses, these expenses will have to be estimated and taken into account at the time of the settlement. The attorneys at Belt & Bruner have developed a good understanding of the type of future medical care and treatment that will be needed from having represented a number of victims of catastrophic injuries. It is important to work with a law firm that has an established network of recognized medical experts to assist with proving future medical bills.
Basically, you are entitled to recover lost earnings for the time you missed from work and the time that you will miss from work in the future due to your injuries. But if your injuries make you incapable of performing your job, you may be entitled to wages that will be lost in the future as a result of reduced earnings capacity.
To make a claim for lost wages, we gather evidence to show the income that you have lost as a result of the injury and expect to lose in the future. The types of evidence that an attorney at Belt & Bruner will gather include:
- Medical records proving the date of your injury and the extent of your impairment;
- Job descriptions explaining the kinds of work that you are unable to perform;
- Pay stubs and income tax statements establishing the amount of income that you earned in the past.
If you have a permanent disability that will reduce you earnings capacity, economists can help us forecast what you would have earned during your working life if you had not been injured. In addition to lost wages, one may be entitled to recover loss of earning capacity if the injuries suffered in the accident impair your ability to earn wages in the future.
Pain and Suffering
Another aspect of evaluating the fair value of your case is determining how you have been affected by the injury to date. Pain from a serious injury can disrupt your life and make even simple tasks like getting dressed, going shopping and doing work in the yard difficult, if not impossible.
When even simple chores become painful as a result of an accident caused by another, you deserve compensation. Alabama law allows an injury victim to seek compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress as part of a personal injury claim.
Loss of Consortium
Has your injury affected your relationship with your spouse? Loss of consortium relates to the impact that your injuries have on your non-injured husband or wife. Your husband or wife may have sustained losses also if you can no longer provide financial support, help around the house or enjoy sexual relations with your marital partner.
A knowledgeable attorney can advise you whether a loss of consortium claim should be pursued based on the facts of your case. Just because injury caused stress or strain on a spouse does not mean a loss of consortium claim should be pursued. If a valid loss of consortium claim exists, these claims can have significant value when a spouse sustains significant or catastrophic injury.
Insurance Policy Limits
The amount that you may recover as an injury victim often reflects the limits of the insurance coverage of the at-fault individual or business. The fact is that most individuals or businesses that cause accidents do not have the financial resources to pay a court judgment in excess of their available insurance policy limit. So the amount of insurance available serves as a kind of limit in many cases.
Insurance coverage can present some of the most complicated issues in a personal injury case. For that reason, it is important to work with an experienced attorney who will scrutinize the accident and identify all the potentially responsible parties and their insurers. That may expand the insurance coverage available to you.
If you are injured by a driver who is uninsured or has only minimal auto insurance coverage, you may be able to make a claim against your own uninsured/underinsured motorist policy to provide compensation for your injuries and losses.
Consult the Alabama Personal Injury Lawyers at Belt & Bruner, P.C. Today
Let’s set up a time to meet and go over the facts together. Our compassionate Alabama personal injury lawyers focus on helping individuals and families in Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, Montgomery, and throughout Alabama who are coping with serious personal injuries caused by others. While the results we have achieved in past cases are not predictive of the results of future cases, we are proud of the verdicts and settlements we have delivered for our clients.
If you have questions about the value of your personal injury claim, please call our experienced Alabama personal injury lawyers at Belt & Bruner, P.C. at 205-933-1500 or contact an attorney online. Our knowledgeable accident and injury attorneys are ready to help you.