Anyone injured unlawfully might wonder whether they should claim compensation for their losses. However, many potential claimants balk at the thought of adding a legal dispute to their growing list of injury-related concerns. Understanding your injury claim’s value will help you determine whether to connect with a local lawyer, accept a settlement offer, or use private insurance benefits. While every case differs, individuals injured by negligent motorists, dangerous and defective products, or poorly maintained floors might obtain financial compensation from one or more liable parties.
Overview of Personal Injury Claim Calculations
Multiple factors contribute to the overall value of car crash, slip-and-fall, and accident-related litigation. However, civil tort claims primarily exist to put injured parties back into the financial positions they were in before the incident. Recovering this position usually requires demanding that negligent parties compensate injured claimants for all past and future losses stemming from their unlawful acts.
As such, the majority of injury settlements and verdicts hinge on three main factors:
- The severity of the injuries sustained
- The claimant’s actual financial losses
- The circumstances surrounding the accident
Passengers involved in the same motor vehicle collision could receive substantially different payouts, depending on how each of their injuries specifically impacted their daily lives.
Insurance companies strive to mitigate their liability by challenging the factors listed above. Adjusters frequently attempt to shift blame onto the injured party and lessen the severity of the claimant’s injuries. Liable auto or property insurers often allege that the injuries pre-dated the accident or that the losses did not originate from the crash. Claimants should maintain detailed records of their direct and indirect losses from the accident date to protect themselves from false insurance assertions.
Injuries Often Resulting in High-Value Accident Cases
Conditions resulting from the injuries sustained in the accident that require claimants to significantly adjust their lifestyles over extended periods often result in the highest personal injury awards. Such conditions generally include injuries causing a partial or total disability, such as an inability to perform previous household tasks or essential job functions. Back and neck conditions, including herniated discs and nerve trauma, commonly cause disabilities.
Examples of other life-altering conditions resulting from accidents include:
- Paralysis – Serious damage to the spinal cord frequently results in paraplegia or quadriplegia. In either case, claimants may lose their ability to walk or even breathe without assistance. Wheelchair confinement, pain management, expensive physical therapy, and around-the-clock home healthcare often accompany paralyzing spinal injuries.
- Amputations – Road bicycle accidents, truck crashes, and vehicle-pedestrian collisions may result in relatively untreatable fractures necessitating amputation. Full-thickness burns might also require removal of the damaged limb to prevent fatal infections and debilitating pain.
- Burns – Often described as one of the world’s most painful injuries, extensive third-degree burns frequently result in the need for multiple skin grafts and anti-rejection medication. They often cause recurrent infections in addition to physical and emotional scarring.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) – From minor concussions to life-threatening brain stem damage, head trauma could result in loss of cognitive function. This loss might include an inability to communicate and move effectively, short and long-term memory loss, difficulty with mental focusing, and personality changes. Many claimants suffering from head trauma after an accident cannot work due to decreased concentration and increased irritability.
- Post-traumatic fibromyalgia – Traumatic accidents may trigger this rare but painful condition that affects the claimant’s entire body. Fibromyalgia results in whole-body pain, extreme fatigue, and has no known cure.
- Blindness – Some accidents involving burns, TBI, or direct-impact trauma result in vision loss. Losing your sight as an adult often means suspending your career while learning to read without your vision, as well as new ways to complete daily tasks.
These conditions frequently result in extensive medical bills and job loss, including the need for around-the-clock nursing care. Seriously injured claimants often report suffering from additional losses, such as pain, depression, emotional trauma, family breakdown, and lost enjoyment of life. You may claim compensation for both past and future calculable damages and intangible damages, including pain and suffering.
To help these cases settle within the applicable statute of limitations, a lawyer will typically retain economic, occupational, and medical expert reports speculating on the amount of your future financial losses. If a careless individual or entity caused one of the above life-altering injuries, this might result in six or seven-figure personal injury verdicts.
Calculating the Value of Direct Economic Losses
To estimate an accident case’s economic significance, professionals generally start by calculating the amount of your direct financial losses to date. This process typically centers on two major types of post-accident damages: medical costs and lost wages.
The most extensive category of damages in accident injury cases typically relates to medical expenses. These expenses may include anything from the initial emergency room bill to trauma counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Generally, claimants may estimate their economic losses due to medical bills by adding up:
- Ambulance and related medical transportation expenses, including mileage for doctors’ visits and therapy
- ER, hospital, and surgical center costs
- Doctors’ bills
- In-patient rehabilitation and nursing expenses
- Medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, crutches, special pillows, hospital beds, and shower bars
- Necessary home modifications for medical needs, such as ramps or widened door frames
- Physical therapy expenses, including chiropractic care, massages, acupuncture, occupational therapy, and cognitive rehabilitation
- Counseling expenses dues to related conditions, such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety
- Prescription drug and pharmacy costs
- Home nursing care and household help
Claimants may estimate their average monthly medical expenses due to their injuries and multiply this number based on their prognosis. Patients should consider any upcoming surgeries and speak with experts about common complications associated with their injuries, such as infections and muscle pain, before making a settlement demand.
Lost Income, Career Opportunities, Employment Benefits
Courts usually require written reports from occupational and economic experts if an injury caused a permanent disability or necessitated a career change. Employers may provide employees with the necessary paperwork, or claimants might calculate their lost income from paystubs for short-term losses.
This calculation should also include the value of lost fringe benefits, including health insurance coverage, paid vacation, and retirement contributions. Claimants may also argue for damages based on lost future income and career opportunities, including reasonably expected raises and lost promotions.
An attorney may assist a claimant negligently injured in a car accident, slip-and-fall, or bicycle crash in calculating the value of these direct losses and speculate about future expenses.
Take the following example: Assume a claimant suffered from a career-ending traumatic brain injury at 30 years old. Doctors estimate the initial medical costs at $100,000 with an additional $50,000 per year in rehabilitation and household expenses for ten more years. These numbers put the direct medical costs at $600,000. The claimant also lost a job worth $70,000 per year and $100,000 worth of raises, adding another $800,000 to the claim and putting the direct economic losses at a minimum of $1.4 million.
Estimating Pain and Suffering Damages Based on Actual Economic Losses
Many claimants report suffering more from the psychological trauma associated with their injuries than directly from injuries themselves. Nearly every state recognizes the importance of these non-economic costs, usually referred to as pain and suffering damages.
Overall, injured claimants might recover for the following incalculable losses, as supported by personal testimony, journal entries, expert psychologist and pain management reports, photographs, and statements from friends, family, and caretakers:
- Physical and emotional pain
- Mental suffering and anguish
- Inconvenience and time-related losses, such as doctor visits, insurance paperwork, and taking longer to get dressed
- Lost enjoyment of previous activities, such as swimming, dancing, and going to the gym
- The frustration associated with the inability to work or engage in daily life
- Relationship turmoil resulting from the claimant’s medical condition
- Worry and related concerns linked to financial losses
Because you cannot put a monetary value on grief and emotional anguish, courts and insurers have three ways of calculating pain and suffering damages:
- Multiplying direct economic losses by a seriousness factor
- Estimating the daily rate of non-economic costs and multiplying that number by the length of time suffered
- Submitting the claim to a jury based on the evidence of suffering
The circumstances surrounding the accident may affect pain and suffering calculations. If the claimant suffered from life-altering injuries after being struck by a drunk driver, insurers might pay more in pain and suffering damages.
Adding Punitive Damages to Accident Compensation
Most accident litigation arises from an individual’s carelessness. Texting while driving or failing to fix a loose rug might all result in unintentional but debilitating personal injuries. If the conduct that caused your injuries arose from a mistake on someone else’s part, you could not generally claim punitive (punishment) damages. However, many jurisdictions permit claimants and their families to demand punitive damages if grossly negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct caused the accident.
Examples may include an employer’s willful failure to comply with workplace safety guidelines to save money, drunk driving, road-rage incidents, or intentionally pushing someone down the stairs.
Courts may require the party directly liable for such conduct to pay additional damages to an injured claimant. A personal injury attorney can help you determine whether your case qualifies for this type of award.
Realistic Limitations Associated With Calculating the Value of Personal Injury Claims
You deserve compensation after being injured by another’s negligent conduct. Nevertheless, most individuals and small businesses do not have the resources necessary to compensate claimants for extensive losses. The majority of accident-injury claims settle with the liable motor vehicle or property insurer for under $100,000 or within the applicable insurance policy limits. When multiple parties contribute to an accident, you might claim damages from each liable insurer.
Once you accept an insurance settlement, you typically waive your right to recover additional damages from the insured. If an insurance policy cannot reasonably compensate you for your losses, an attorney might file personal injury litigation against a resource-rich defendant. Most high-value accident settlements follow large-truck crashes, workplace incidents, or incidents involving corporate liability. A lawyer may review your case’s facts, analyze the claim’s maximum insurance value, and compare this number with your compensable losses.
Additional Costs Affecting the Net Value of an Accident Settlement
Once successful claimants accept a settlement offer or obtain a favorable judgment, they must generally pay their lawyers and creditors before pocketing the remaining balance. Accident attorneys typically accept injury cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning they take a portion (typically about one-third) of the final settlement as their compensation. Further, personal injury law firms often front all litigation-related expenses, including requesting medical records and hiring expert witnesses.
Lawyers usually take their fee off the top of the settlement then subtract reimbursable case costs from the remaining balance. While this may seem like a lot, claimants rarely recover substantial damages after an accident without working with a qualified attorney.
After legal counsel recovers their fees and costs, qualifying third-party creditors may claim a portion of the settlement.
The priority of these claims depends on state law, but may include:
- Child support arrears
- Services rendered by state or federal welfare providers (Medicaid, Medicare, or SSD)
- Medical expenses paid by a private health insurer
- Lost wages paid by a private disability insurer
- Litigation liens from experts or private lenders
An experienced attorney may help claimants avoid unnecessary liens and excessive reimbursement claims.
The Benefits of Speaking With Legal Counsel After an Accident
If you sustained injuries in a car crash, slip and fall, or workplace accident, consider contacting a local plaintiff’s lawyer about your claims. Experienced personal injury attorneys in your area likely spent years settling, litigating, and fighting for injured claimants’ rights. They might give you a ballpark estimate of how much your accident claim is worth and realistically forecast your potential net recovery. It often costs nothing to discuss the value of your case with an accident lawyer near you.