You have been injured and it looks like you have a strong case on liability. As you work with your attorney toward resolution of your personal injury claim, once liability is established, you must determine a value for your claim as well, so that you can move toward settlement or another resolution mechanism.
Method For Valuation
Value can be highly subjective, and each case must be valued independently. And while insurance companies and attorneys often see value differently, it is the purpose of personal injury law to try to make the injured plaintiff whole again. We cannot wipe away the injury, but we can provide recompense in the form of money.
The value of your case is a total of all of your special damages such as medical bills, lost wages, property damages, and other out-of-pocket losses. Insurance companies and personal injury attorneys often use a multiplier between 1.5 and 5 of your special damages to help establish valuation. This total is then added to what is known as general damages.
General damages are more subjective in terms of quantification. They consist of such things as pain and suffering, emotional distress caused by the injuries, stress, anxiety, lost opportunities due to your injuries, and changes in your life that you may have had to adapt to because of the injuries suffered. General damages can also include having to contend with a long-lasting or permanent injury or disfigurement. If you have a long-lasting or permanent or severe injury, it is important that your case be handled by an experienced personal injury attorney. These cases are complex and the damages and valuation issues in these cases are complex. General damages figures are quite subjective and are often a point of contention between insurance companies and personal injury attorneys in the resolution of a case. The factors that go into your valuation of general damages can also have an effect on the multiplier used in determining the valuation of your case. Make sure that you fully understand all aspects of your case on general damages and that you can support your general damages valuation. General damages, while more subjective, are often persuasive in terms of valuation, especially when the injuries suffered are severe and/or permanent.
Did You Play Any Part In Your Injuries?
If your actions played any part in your injuries, you can expect that the value of your case will be reduced somewhat. The amount of the reduction will depend on the way your jurisdiction treats what is known as “contributory” or “comparative” negligence. Some states reduce your damages by your percentage of fault. Others will bar any recovery if you are more than 50% at fault. And other jurisdictions will bar any recovery if you are found at fault at all.
It is imperative that you never admit fault whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant. Instead, make sure that you hire an attorney that you trust and understand the particular issues in your case that can affect damages.
It is important to know that while this formula is often used, it may not reflect the true value of your case. Your injuries may be more severe or permanent, adding to the value of your case, or the defendant may have engaged in an intentional bad act, subjecting them to punitive damages.
Another way to determine valuation is to look at jury awards in similar cases within your jurisdiction. While these jury awards will often vary wildly, they can be instructive regarding valuation for general damages, especially in complex personal injury cases. In addition, they can be persuasive to an insurance adjustor who may be looking at a high level of liability exposure regarding his insured client. In these cases, a jury award can provide ample evidence to an insurance adjustor of how an impartial arbiter of the facts might see this plaintiff and his or her injuries.
No matter what tool you use for valuation, before accepting any offer from an insurance company make sure that you get at least one opinion about the true value of your case from a trusted attorney.