What’s my case worth?
It’s a simple question, but the answer is complicated. Like most legal questions, the answer is: it depends. In even the simplest cases, there are multiple factors to consider – some working together and others working against each other. The primary factors are typically (1) Liability – whether the other person / company is at fault, and (2) Special Damages – the dollar amount of your medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and any other financial expenses. The settlement value of any case will fall somewhere on a spectrum, but the range of that spectrum will depend on numerous factors, including but certainly not limited to:
- Severity of the injuries. Naturally, the severity of your injuries is a driving factor in determining the value of your case. Objective findings that can be documented in diagnostic films (like broken bones) usually carry more weight than subjective findings (like soft-tissue injuries). To a large extent, the severity of injuries will directly correlate with the amount of your medical bills, but that’s not always the case.
- Whether the injuries are in dispute. Were the injuries obviously caused by the accident, or will the defense take the position that the injured victim is malingering (faking it) or that his injuries were pre-existing, caused by something else, or merely aggravated? Will the defense have experts to support their challenge to the victim’s claimed damages?
- The nature and extent of the past and future medical treatment (emergency room, primary care, physical therapy, chiropractor, surgery).
- Is the medical treatment in dispute? Will the defense take the position that certain treatment was unnecessary or unrelated to the injuries at issue?
- Pain and Suffering. Pain and suffering is usually presumed based on the severity of the injuries and the amount of past and future medical treatment, but certain injuries and medical procedures are particularly painful or require a long recovery period.
- Permanency and Scarring. Did you make a full recovery, or are you left with chronic pain, permanent restrictions, or scarring?
- Lost Wages. Did the victim miss time from work? To what degree can the defense challenge it?
- Lost Earning Capacity. Is the injured victim able to perform the same job functions that they had before the accident? If not, they should be compensated for their loss of earning capacity. To what degree can the defense challenge it?
- Will the jury like the injured party?
- Will the jury believe the injured party?
- Will the jury be sympathetic towards the injured party?
- Do you have witnesses who support your case? If facts are in dispute, who is the jury likely to believe? This is especially important where there is a “battle of experts.”
- Attorneys involved. Some attorneys are simply more effective than others, and their experience/ability to prepare, research, anticipate issues, negotiate, mediate and/or take a case to trial will impact the value of your case.
- Risks of trial. Every case has risks, and the specific risks in your case will affect its value. They key to minimizing risks is to be fully prepared. Even then, there are always risks when your case will be decided by a judge or a jury.
- Predictability of jury verdict range. In most cases, an experienced attorney can predict that the jury verdict will likely fall within a certain narrow range. In other cases, however, peculiar issues make it difficult to predict the jury verdict range with any confidence. The uncertainty in predicting the value of these types of cases creates risk for the defendant, which may increase the value of your case.
- Last but not least, VENUE. The court where your case is filed is called the venue, and venue can have a significant impact on the value of your case. Will your case be filed in the city or in the county, in state or in federal court? Each court has its own personality, and each court selects its jury members from the residents in that jurisdiction. This makes each venue unique, and the impact of a particular venue on the value of your case is not always easy to predict.
So, what’s your case worth? The answer is that each case is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all calculation for predicting case value. Choose an attorney who will anticipate and consider these and other factors when evaluating your case, and who will educate you on the risks and rewards of litigation while helping navigate you through the legal system. If you would like to hear our evaluation of how these factors might affect the value of your case, contact us today for a free consultation.
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