What's My Case Worth?
What's My Case Worth?
I have written about this subject in a legal textbook and have lectured to fellow injury lawyers at the annual seminar hosted by the Texas Trial Lawyers Association in Austin. After successfully practicing personal injury law for almost 40 years, I know what a case is worth and what an insurance company should pay my clients -- and I fight to get it.
It can be difficult, however, to estimate accurately the value of a claim early in a case. One reason is that the extent of your injuries may not be fully realized for months, so the type and cost of your medical care and extent of lost wages and duration of pain is unknown.
These are some of the questions I will ask you when trying to determine how much money your case is worth:
- Is liability clear? In some cases the defendant is obviously 100% at fault for the accident. But sometimes the injured person or a third party may be partially at fault.
- Did the injured person seek medical attention promptly after the crash? Delaying medical care gives insurance companies and defense attorneys a reason to argue that there was not a serious injury.
- Was there reasonable and consistent medical care? Patients should follow their doctors advice and not miss appointments. Gaps in treatment are used by insurance companies and defense attorneys as an excuse to refuse payment of some or all the medical treatment sought.
- How serious are the injuries? Are there permanent injuries? Are there diagnostic testing and doctors' reports to support the claimed injuries?
- Will additional medical care be needed in the future? How much will the additional treatment cost?
- Is the injured person fully healed? Are they still in pain? Is there any permanent disability or disfigurement?
- Did you miss time from work? Lost wage claims need to be supported by doctors' notes taking you off work and information from your employer showing how much you earn and how much time was missed. For self-employed people, tax returns and receipts can be used to document lost wages.
- How much were the total medical bills? Were the bills paid by health insurance or are they still outstanding? Higher medical bills usually result in larger case values.
- Were any of the claimed injuries pre-existing? If a person has a prior injury in the same area of the body that was hurt in the wreck, proving the extent of the new damage can be difficult. Clear reports from doctors as well as old and new testing results can help show that the injury was exacerbated by the wreck, but in general new injuries are valued higher.
- Where will suit be filed if the case doesn't settle? Some counties are known to be more liberal or conservative when determining verdict amounts. This is especially true when determining pain and suffering and punitive damages.