If you ask Google, “How much is my personal injury case worth?”, you will get a long list of blog posts and personal injury calculators. If you ask a lawyer, “How much is my personal injury case worth?”, you will get a lawyer who tells you, “It depends.”
One of the classic jokes lawyers like to tell each other is that the answer to every legal question is, “It depends.” Clients roll their eyes when they hear that, but lawyers find it funny because, literally, the answer to almost every legal question is, “It depends.” How much will the insurance company offer me to settle my case? It depends. How long will it take to get my case to trial? It depends. How long will my prison sentence be if I beat up my lawyer for telling stupid jokes? It depends. There can be millions of legal questions, but “It depends” is almost always the right legal answer.
If you have been searching the Internet to find out how much your case is worth, you may have already read a dozen legal blog posts that tried to provide answers to your question. And you have likely been disappointed that the bloggers and injury calculators did not provide very satisfactory answers. That is because the answer to the value question is, “It depends.”
There are far too many variables to ever decide the value of a case without first doing a lot of work. However, there are some factors that are very important to know about when building a personal injury case.
Rather than asking, “How much is my personal injury case worth?”, we suggest you start by asking, “What factors can increase the value of my personal injury case?” If you ask that question, you may start getting some good answers. While this list is in no way exhaustive, the top ten things that can affect the value of your personal injury case are:
How do you intend to prove the value of your claim? Some people think they can just tell the insurance company or the judge about their case, but there is much more to it than that. The state of Utah has at least 75 Rules of Evidence that you will need to know and understand before you can effectively present your case. Knowing what evidence is necessary is critical, and an experienced personal injury attorney can use his or her knowledge of evidence to add serious value to your claim.
9. Pre-existing Condition
Did you have any injuries before your accident? Most people have had neck pain, back pain or headaches at some point in their lives. The extent of those pre-existing conditions can have serious implications to the value of your case. We wrote a blog post about this subject that you can read here.
How long did it take you to recover from your injuries? Have you fully recovered from your injuries? Do you still have unresolved symptoms? Did your accident leave you partially or totally disabled? Will you have to live with pain for the rest of your life? These are all important factors that affect the value of your claim.
7. Your Age
How old or young are you? How long will you be unable to work because of your injuries? What is your life expectancy? Are there people who are dependent on you for financial support? Will you have to consider Medicare’s interests in your settlement? Will you need court approval of any settlement you receive? People say that age is just a number, but it is an important number and you need to know how your age will affect your case.
6. Type of Accident
Were you injured in a motor vehicle accident? Trucking accident? Slip and fall accident? Workplace accident? Each type of accident brings its own risks and challenges. There are advantages to some and disadvantages to others.
5. Lost Income
What is the financial burden the accident has placed on you and your family? The amount of money you would have earned were it not for the accident plays a big role in determining how much your case is worth. Many people miss work while they are recovering from their injuries. Whether that is due to hospitalization or disabling conditions, the financial impacts of an injury can be significant and long-lasting. Some people have extremely serious injuries that will prevent them from ever earning money again. Those people face a particularly challenging future, and it is important for them to have the benefit of good legal counsel.
4. Injury Type
In evaluating personal injury cases, not all injuries are created equal. The type of injury you have greatly affects the value of your case. Insurance companies value injuries that are objectively verifiable (things like broken bones and scars) differently than they do subjective injuries (things like whiplash, strain/sprains and other soft-tissue injuries). Brain injuries and spinal cord injuries can increase the value of personal injury cases, but it often depends on the circumstances.
3. Medical Expenses
Medical expenses are one of the primary things that drive the value of a personal injury case. That is because there is generally a correlation between the amount of the medical expenses and the severity of the injury. A person who has incurred $100,000 in medical expenses is more likely to have sustained a serious injury than a person who has $3,000 in medical expenses. That, however, is not always the case. Many years ago, some lawyers would tell clients they could estimate the value of a case by multiplying the total amount of medical expenses by two or three. It is hard to say whether that was ever actually a good way to value cases, but it certainly does not work today. Insurance companies are constantly becoming more sophisticated and juries remain unpredictable. Medical expenses are an important part of your case, but there are other factors that are also important.
2. Comparative Fault
Under Utah law, you are only able to recover the percentage of your damages that were caused by the person who injured you. If your actions contributed in any way, you will not be able to recover the proportionate share of damages that were caused by your own fault. And to make things more difficult, if you were 50% or more at fault, you will not be able to recover anything at all. This means if a jury decides you were 25% at fault, your case value will be reduced by 25%. If a jury decides you were 50% or more at fault, the value of your case will be zero.And the number one factor that influences the value of your case is . . .
If you want to know the value of your car accident or personal injury case, you will have to look in the mirror and ask some hard questions. How much will a jury of your peers like you? Are you good looking? Do you have a nice smile? Do you come across as grateful or greedy? You may be tempted to laugh at such questions when you think about a personal injury case, but this is one of the biggest factors that drives successful jury verdicts. Juries are made up of people, and people to tend to be nicer to those whom they like. A 2010 article in the Cornell Chronicle noted that “in a court of law, it pays to be attractive.” We would all like to think that jurors are completely rational when making their decision, but the reality is emotion plays a large role. The way they view you will significantly impact the way they view your case.
Our offices are conveniently located in Spanish Fork to serve all of Utah County, Juab County and Sanpete County.