Settlement Value: What is My Case Worth?
A common question in personal injury cases is, what is my case worth? Many people think that in “whiplash” cases, the value is three times the medical bills. This article addresses some of the essential factors considered by attorneys and insurance companies when arriving at a settlement value for a claim.
The most critical factor in determining the value of a claim is whether someone did something wrong. Many people believe they are entitled to
compensation when they get hurt. What these people forget is that there needs to be a legal basis for the claim. That is, a person or company
did something wrong and caused the harm. Absent evidence of wrongdoing, there is no claim. The fault of another is usually not difficult to
determine in car crashes. Typically, the wrongdoer ran a red light, made an unsafe turn, or was following too close and rear-ended another
However, in other types of more complex claims, such as product defect cases, proving a manufacturer or designer of a product created a
defective product that caused harm can be challenging.
Also, California is a comparative fault state. For example, John is driving down the road. He enters the intersection to make a left turn and waits for oncoming traffic to clear. When the light turns red, John starts to turn to clear the intersection. He does not see the oncoming car driven by
Sally. Sally accelerates when the traffic signal is yellow and tries to beat the yellow light. She enters the intersection on a red light, and the
collision happens. In this situation, Sally is at fault for running a red light. John may be comparatively at fault for failing to see Sally
John’s comparative fault will act to reduce his damages claim against Sally. For example, if John’s losses are $10,000 and he is 10% at fault, he is
entitled to $9,000 ($10,000-10% ($1,000)=$9,000).
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
Another critical factor is the statute of limitations. California law states that a person has no claim unless it is timely made. The law places a
deadline for filing a lawsuit in all personal injury cases. For example, the deadline for filing a claim in a motor vehicle accident is two years from
the date of the accident. The period is called the statute of limitations. There are deadlines for many other types of cases. Waiting too long can
be fatal to your case. It is essential to consult with a lawyer so that your claim is timely made.
The value of a claim also depends on the harms and losses suffered by the victim. California allows compensation for harms (also called
noneconomic damages) and losses (also called economic damages) suffered by a person in an accident. What are harms? They are things such
pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. What are losses? They are things such as lost wages and medical bills.
For example, the harms related to the loss of a leg are substantial. The loss of a limb leads to permanent impairment. It also leads to severe and
permanent disabilities. The emotional impact can be overwhelming. In contrast, the harms associated with minor neck sprains are significantly
less. Victims ordinarily can live their lives without restrictions or limitations until the injury heals.
Also, the same or similar injuries affect people differently. Many people understandably have great difficulty coming to terms with a
catastrophic injury. The emotional toll is devastating. How a particular injury affects a person is another important factor.
Also, the economic losses are much different. The medical treatment related to a mild strain may cost $2,500-$3,000. In comparison, past and
future care for an amputated leg can run into millions of dollars.
Thus, the harms and losses a person suffers is a critical factor to determine settlement value.
Another factor is the capability of your attorney. Attorneys are not created equally. Not all lawyers who advertise can maximize your recovery in
a personal injury case. The most important qualities include experience, including trial experience. One of the first things an insurance adjusterdoes is research your attorney. The adjuster wants to know how experienced your attorney is and if your attorney will go to trial. The public
would be surprised to know that most personal injury attorneys don’t go to trial, and insurance companies know who they are. As a result,
insurance companies make lower settlement offers to those attorneys knowing they are reluctant to go to trial. Most trial lawyers belong to the
American Board of Trial Advocates.
Experienced trial lawyers know the evidence needed to prosecute your case successfully. They see the evidence juries find persuasive and
compelling. Thus, they are in the best position to understand how to maximize your recovery, either at settlement or trial. Schedule a free consultation with our experienced trial lawyers.