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It will probably come as no surprise that one of the first questions that my perspective clients always want to be answered is “How much is my personal injury case worth?” I understand that for many people this is a primary concern because they have, through no fault of their own, been placed in a position where they can no longer take care of themselves and their families because of not being able to work due to their injuries.

The unfortunate truth, though, is that until I have had time to investigate and establish the legal facts of a case, I can’t really even give a ballpark answer to this question with any confidence. There are a number of factors that come into play when determining the value of a case or the settlement you might expect to receive. In this post I will, in very general terms, try to explain the most major factors that come into play, with the majority of cases, in the hope of helping you understand the process that must be gone through.

This is by no means meant to be an all-encompassing article as every case must be judged on its own merits and there is an exception to every rule.

Word of Caution

Before I start to dig into this week’s subject, I would like to add a note of caution. Never accept a settlement offer from an insurance company before consulting a personal injury attorney. I don’t care if their representative coaches your kid’s little league team. It doesn’t matter if they go to church with you. It makes no difference if you taught them in the third grade and they were such a sweet child.

Insurance companies are in business for one reason, to make money. They take a very dim view of their people turning loose of one penny more than they feel they should have. No one, whether an attorney, adjuster or simple company agent is going to be with them for long, much less have any hope of prospering, if they do not fight tooth and nail to keep money in the company coffers and out of your pocket.

That said; let’s take a look at how to determine what your personal injury claim might be worth.

What Funds are Available

The reason I wanted to cover the above, from the start, is because, in the majority of personal injury cases, such as auto and motorcycle accidents, the defendant is going to be an individual and most people simply don’t have sufficient income or assets to make it worthwhile to push forward with a case. This means that the primary factor in deciding the value of the case will be what insurance converge the responsible parties have.

It is also always a good idea to check and see if you, yourself have any insurance coverage that might come into play such as uninsured/underinsured coverage. It always amazes me how many of my clients have coverage that they don’t even know exist.

Your Actual Damages

Despite the big money settlements that you see making the news, the majority of cases will be settled for the actual damages that you can prove you have sustained. Of course, these damages should include factors such as loss of future income, loss of quality of life, pain, and suffering, etc.

This isn’t to say that your claim may not end up being one of those settlements that you read about, but those cases develop from your attorney being able to find at least partial responsibility lying with someone who has very deep pockets such as a corporation or government body.

Percentage of Damages

A third major factor that can have a huge effect on the size of your personal injury settlement is the percentage of liability that a jury may find lies with which parties.

The best way I know to explain this is by using an extreme example. Say you are riding a bike, you get forced off the road by a major carrier’s 18 wheeler and suffer a head injury as well as other minor injuries. On the surface, this looks like a goldmine case. There is one problem, though, you weren’t wearing a helmet.

The company’s lawyers are going to argue that if you had been wearing proper safety equipment you would have only suffered minor injuries and therefore bear the majority of the responsibility or liability for your own injuries.

If the jury agrees with them, you could still win your case but not receive the compensation that should have been yours. For instance, in round numbers, the jury decides your injuries are worth $100,000 but you are 70% responsible because you failed to wear a helmet. You would receive just $30,000 in damages.

These are just the simplest of examples of what goes into determining what a personal injury case could be worth. As you can see, though, it is never easy to put a true value on a case before your personal injury attorney has had a chance to fully investigate all the facts that can come into play while handling it.

I would like to stress once more, that if you have suffered an injury, you should consult a personal injury attorney before accepting any settlement offer. If you are in the Melbourne, Florida area, I hope the attorney will be me. I’m Brad Sinclair of Sinclair Law. We go the extra mile for you.