It’s one of the most common questions personal injury lawyers hear: how much is my case worth?
Unfortunately, this question is also one of the most difficult to answer. That’s because there’s no simple formula to decide, no automatic value that even the most experienced attorney can apply to your circumstances.
In every personal injury claim, there are countless details at play – things like what kind of accident happened, what injuries you suffered, and what the at-fault person or organization did to cause the injury. These details mean that no other case is exactly the same as yours, and they affect how much money your case will ultimately be worth.
There are dozens of factors that alter how much your case is worth, but there’s only one way to know for sure: have an attorney evaluate your case.
Among the most important factors that determine how much your case will be worth are your injuries, your medical treatment, fault, and insurance coverage.
What injuries you suffered in the accident can play an important role in how much money you will receive. Generally speaking, the more serious your injuries, the more money your case is worth. But not always.
A visible, easily recognized injury may be worth more than the kind of injury onlookers can’t see and aren’t very familiar with. An insurance company (or, if your case goes to trial, a jury) may be likely to give you more money for a broken bone than for a herniated disc in your neck or back. And that may be true even if the broken bone heals with little more than a cast and the disc injury requires surgery and months of physical therapy.
Is this fair? No. Unfortunately, though, what insurance adjusters and jurors (real or imagined) think about how severe your injury is has a lot of influence on your case value.
Even two people with the same injuries might have cases of different value. Two victims might suffer a herniated disc in the same region of their spines. But if one can be treated effectively without surgery and the other requires a discectomy or spinal fusion surgery, the second case will have a higher value for a number of reasons.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should undergo extra treatments and procedures just to try to boost the value of your claim. For one thing, insurance companies aren’t going to pay for a procedure you don’t need, and they won’t be tricked into paying you more for undergoing unnecessary treatments. And, of course, every procedure – and particularly, every surgery – presents some element of risk. But it does mean that if your doctor recommends surgery, getting that procedure can benefit your case as well as your physical recovery.
It’s not all about what kind of treatment you get, either. Sometimes when you got your medical treatment matters, too.
If you saw a doctor immediately after the accident and got all of your treatment on time and consistently, your case value will be better than if you waited a long time to get treatment. If you were inconsistent in getting medical care and your treatment history is full of gaps, an insurance company may claim that your injuries must not have been that serious, and the compensation you get might be less.
It’s not enough for you to say the other person – driver, property owner, doctor – caused your accident. Your lawyer must be able to prove it through evidence, such as:
If there’s little evidence that the other party caused your accident, your case might be worth less – or you might not have a case at all. On the other hand, if you have plenty of documentation that shows that, for example, the driver was reckless or the business allowed a safety hazard on the property, your case value might be higher.
Exactly what the other party did to cause your accident can also affect your case value. You might get more money if the at-fault person’s behavior was particularly shocking – like driving with a BAC of four times the legal limit – compared to an action that seems less serious, like following the car in front a little too close. In certain cases, juries may even award punitive damages, additional monetary compensation intended as punishment for the defendant.
The amount of evidence and the heinousness of the other person’s actions don’t correspond to how much you’re suffering or even how much the accident costs you financially. But these factors can still impact the value of your case.
One aspect that affects how much your case is worth might be established months before your accident actually happened. The choices made in purchasing insurance coverage can limit how much money you get for your claim – and that goes for your insurance and the other party’s insurance.
How much coverage the at-fault party purchased determines the maximum amount of money you can get from the insurance company. But your own choices matter, too. If you agreed to limit your right to sue by purchasing insurance coverage with the verbal threshold (in New Jersey) or limited tort (in Pennsylvania) option, you will only be able to get compensation for pain and suffering if your injuries meet specific requirements. You could have serious injuries but still be unable to recover any money for your pain and suffering if you don’t have the “right kind” of injuries.
This is no exhaustive list. Everything from where your case would go to trial to how sympathetic a jury would be to your problems can alter the value of your case.
With so many different factors to consider, how can you possibly figure out what your case is worth and how to get the full amount of compensation you deserve? By talking to a lawyer.
Just because there’s no formula where you can easily plug in numbers doesn’t mean there’s no way to figure out your case value. It just means that it’s more nuanced, as much of an art as it is a science.
An experienced attorney can weigh the different factors involved in your case and determine how much each is likely to affect you. As your case progresses and more details emerge, he or she can get a clearer idea what your case will be worth. Then your lawyer will work to get you the money you deserve.
Many accident victims shy away from talking to a lawyer because they’re afraid of paying more in legal fees than they can afford. But by never even discussing the case with an attorney, they prevent themselves from getting the full amount of money they’re entitled to.
That’s why we offer free consultations and why we take on clients without ever charging any upfront fees. Our No Fee Promise makes the claims process risk-free for you because you pay nothing unless and until we get compensation for you.
When insurance adjusters see that you not only have a lawyer, but that you have a lawyer with a reputation for fighting to get what clients deserve, they realize that we won’t back down. We won’t settle for less than you deserve. And we won’t let them take advantage of you.