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How Much Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
13th Jul 2022

One of the first questions many injured victims ask their lawyers in the first call is “how much is my claim worth?” The simple answer is, no attorney can answer that so early. If they do quote you a value, their quote is likely a shot in the dark designed to get you to sign up, and you should steer clear immediately.

An accidental injury can cause a victim to suffer a variety of financial damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, a reduced ability to enjoy life and engage in activities he or she once enjoyed, and the costs associated with managing chronic pain and other long-term conditions that can occur as the result of an injury.

Every personal injury case is unique. There is no “one size fits all” answer to this question because there are so many variables present in every case. Cases where victims suffered more severe injuries tend to have higher settlement amounts than cases involving relatively minor injuries, but even this is not true 100 percent of the time. Other variables include each involved party’s level of fault, the strength of the claimant’s body of evidence, and the nature of the victim’s damages. A personal injury claim could be worth a few thousand dollars, a few hundred thousand dollars, or even a million dollars or more.

Calculating Your Damages

There are two types of damages for which a personal injury victim can recover compensation: general and special damages.

Special damages are the damages that can be quantified easily. These include your medical bills and lost wages. If you have a document stating that you lost or spent a specific amount of money related to your accident, that loss is one of your special damages.

General damages, on the other hand, are the damages that cannot be quantified easily. These include your emotional trauma and reduced quality of life following the accident. Insurance providers have a few different ways to calculate these damages. The more evidence you can provide to show the extent of your general damages, the greater compensation you can expect to recover for them.

The specific dollar value of a personal injury claim is determined by the following:

What Happened?

Certain types of accident tend to cause more severe injuries than others. The type of accident you suffered, such as a car accident, a slip and fall accident, a truck accident, or a dog bite, could play a role in determining your claim’s value.

How Badly Were You Injured?

Severe injuries cause victims to suffer severe damages. Examples of severe injuries include:

  • Severe traumatic brain injuries;
  • Spinal cord injuries;
  • Injuries that result in the loss of a limb or extremity;
  • Injuries that cause the victim to be paralyzed;
  • Injuries that blind a victim or cause hearing loss; and
  • Severe burns or other injuries that result in permanent disfigurement.

Other injuries a victim can sustain in an accident include:

  • Broken bones;
  • Soft tissue injuries;
  • First and second degree burns; and
  • Cuts that do not result in excessive bleeding or hemorrhaging.

Evidence to demonstrate the extent of your injury and the treatment you received and will continue to need includes

  • Your medical bills;
  • Expert testimony from your doctor or a specialist; and
  • Photographs showing your condition at the accident scene.

Were you Partially at Fault?

In your personal injury claim, you must demonstrate that your injury was directly caused by another party’s negligence. If you were also at fault, you can still recover compensation for your damages, but the total amount you can recover is reduced.

California law follows the doctrine of pure comparative negligence. Under this doctrine, any individual, even one who was primarily at fault for his or her accident, can recover compensation from the other at-fault party. However, the amount he or she is eligible to recover is reduced according to the percentage of the fault he or she holds. For example, an individual deemed to be 70 percent at fault for an accident may have his or her $100,000 claim reduced by 70 percent, leaving the individual only able to recover up to $30,000.

Your lawyer can help you use the evidence you have to demonstrate the negligent party’s percentage of fault. This evidence can include:

  • Eyewitness testimonies;
  • A copy of the official accident report, if one exists; and
  • Photographs and video footage of the accident scene.

How Does the Injury Impact your Future?

Your medical bill compensation goes beyond the care you received immediately after the accident. If you suffered a long-term or permanent injury that will require you to receive additional medical care in the future, you can recover compensation for this care as well.

Similarly, your lost wages compensation can cover the projected future earnings and employment benefits you now cannot earn because of a disability.

Other considerations in this category are:

  • How the injury limits your ability to enjoy the activities you love, such as sports and hobbies, in the future;
  • How the emotional distress of the injury impacts your quality of life. It is not uncommon to develop anxiety or depression following an accidental injury; and
  • How any permanent disfigurement you suffered will negatively impact your life.

Evidence to support your claim for these damages can include:

  • Testimony from your mental health professional;
  • Documentation of your lost wages and future career trajectory; and
  • Your own testimony about how the injury impacts your enjoyment of life.

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