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How Much Is My Car Accident Case Worth?

Putting a value on a case is part science and part art. The basic idea is to get you everything you lost as a result of a car accident. In theory this is very simple, but it can often become complex. I always tell people that there are a lot of factors that go into the calculation, and that it really requires an intimate knowledge of the case.

That said, here are the things most likely to impact the value of your case:

Pain & Suffering

It is difficult to describe "pain and suffering" to someone who has never had a serious accident. Imagine that you are in an accident and you break your leg. This requires a cast, maybe a titanium rod in your leg, some rehabilitation and months off of your feet. As a result you are going to miss time at work, miss time with your friends and family, miss a ski trip, and many other things. You are also going to spend a lot of time at medical appointments. If your break is really bad, you are probably going to be doing a lot of sitting around and gaining weight. You may have to permanently give up marathons, martial arts or dance. So it's not just that a bone was broken. You may end up with a broken leg that cascades into a number of other things, impacting your life in ways you could not have imagined, for years to come. For point of reference, think of an Olympic athlete who gets hurt 2 weeks before the games and has to stay home. Now you may not be an Olympic athlete, but your dreams and plans are no less important than theirs. You may miss some equally important event in your life.

So pain and suffering is not just about some pain - which is serious in and of itself. But it is also supposed to capture everything you lost, or suffered through, as a result of your car accident.

Medical Bills

Any time you get treated for injuries related to a car accident, those bills will be chargeable to the other driver (assuming he is at fault). This is true whether you have insurance or whether you are uninsured. In the case that you are uninsured, the state or county will want to be paid back and will assert a lien on your settlement. Similarly, your health insurer (for example Kaiser) will assert a lien or other right to be paid back out of the settlement proceeds. So if your medical bills are $5,000, the doctors who took care of you (or the insurance company who paid them) will want to be compensated out of your settlement.

Future Medical Bills

If an injured person anticipates needing future treatment, their settlement will need to take that into account. Sometimes this is future surgery, sometimes it is future physical therapy. In most cases it is not 100% clear that the person will need future treatment, so the insurer will not want to pay 100% of the bill. So if the surgery costs $100,000 and there is a 50% chance the injured person will need it, there is a really good argument that the insurer should pay $50,000 for future medicals.

Sometimes people are left paralyzed or otherwise needing constant medical care. The costs can be enormous, and may last for decades. In these long-term care cases, the future medicals are likely to be enormous.

Lost Wages

It is usually pretty straightforward to calculate lost wages. An injured person who earns $500 per week and misses 1 week of work is entitled to recoup $500. The trick is that many times the people miss months and month of work, and the insurance company thinks they are lazy and trying to game the system. So then it is a question of how much of the time off of work is due to the accident, and how much is due to something else.

Permanent Scarring/Disability

If you have permanent scarring or disability, you are obviously entitled to recover for that. The amount of your recovery will depend on where the scarring is, who noticeable it is, etc. Likewise with disability. If you can not move your left pinky finger (and you are right handed) your disability is not catastrophic. On the other hand, if you are paralyzed from the waist down, your loss is catastrophic.

For more information on valuing your personal injury case, feel free to contact me.