How Much is an Injury Case Worth?

 

 

How much is an injury case worth? Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure what a case might settle for until the medical treatment is concluded and the doctor's prognosis rendered.

 

Lawyers and insurance adjusters evaluate personal injury cases in many ways. For simple cases, such as neck and back strains and sprains (soft tissue injuries) that heal over time, the key factors will be length of treatment and, perhaps, the amount of the medical bills.

Some adjusters and lawyers just multiply the total of the medical bills by three or four to determine the settlement value. That is an overly simplistic approach, which is used less these days than in the past. Yet the medical bills still figure into the settlement evaluations in this kind of injury case. The bills are also considered to a lesser extent in more serious injury cases.

The severity of the injury greatly influences the settlement offer. So will the characteristics of the individual. For example, a facial scar on an attractive young woman is "worth" far more than an elbow scar on an elderly man. A permanent injury to a child brings a far larger offer than will a similar injury to an adult. A herniated disc suffered by a skilled manual laborer has a greater "value" than a herniation sustained by a person with a sedentary job. A soft tissue injury sustained by a person with a long history of suing for accidents brings a lower offer than the same injury suffered by a first time plaintiff.

 

The largest jury awards, and therefore the largest settlements, involve severe head injuries, loss of limbs, paralysis, and death. Even these catastrophic injuries must be carefully documented to achieve maximum settlement value. It is especially important with catastrophic injuries for the insurance company to realize that your lawyer knows how to prove these kinds of cases. Claims adjusters are terrified of the huge jury verdicts returned on cases involving severe, permanent injury.

 

The other factors that influence settlement value include:

 

  • The amount of insurance coverage available for the claim,
  • reputation of your attorney,
  • reputation of your doctor,
  • amount of property damage,
  • amount of time missed from work, and
  • willingness of you and your attorney to hold out for top dollar.

 

These factors are important in all personal injury cases.

 

Jury research can also be consulted to determine what juries have awarded in similar cases. Jury verdicts set the market rate for settlements. Thus, if the average jury award for torn knee cartilage with two surgeries and a guarded prognosis is $175,000, it is likely that the insurance company ultimately will offer an amount close to this to settle such a case, provided they believe your lawyer is experienced and competent and the rest of the case is solid. The company will begin by offering much less, hoping to buy its way out of the lawsuit as cheaply as possible. If your lawyer realizes the true value of the case, he will hold out until the offer reaches or closely approaches $175,000.

 

In a major injury case the client must rely especially heavily on the lawyer. Clients simply cannot know the true "value" of their case without an honest lawyer working on their behalf. Clients sometimes try to compare their case to a friend's. Clients often wonder why the offer on their case is less than the settlement received by a friend or family member. Each case is different. It does the client no good to compare apples to oranges. Only after many years of experience with exposure to many similar personal injury cases is it possible to accurately assess the amount for which a particular case should settle


Michael E. Seelie, PA has represented people in Jacksonville, Florida and the surrounding communities of Orange Park, St. Augustine, Green Cove Springs, Callahan, Palatka, Fernandina Beach, Gainesville, and Lake City in accident cases since 1978.