Accidents disrupt people’s daily lives, leading to stressful medical bills and time lost from work. Because of the financial stress, many people want to know the value of their personal injury case. Confusingly, one person might receive thousands of dollars in a personal injury claim, while another might obtain millions.
You can use a damage calculator to estimate how much money you might receive in a personal injury claim. However, online calculators can only provide limited insight and estimations. To get an accurate estimate of your claim’s value, speak to a personal injury lawyer in your area. Lawyers know how to calculate potential compensation for a lawsuit and can account for nuances in your claim that a computer might overlook.
What Factors Affect a Claim’s Value?
Compensation awards often depend on how severe a person’s losses were in the accident. However, other factors may play a part as well. For example, victims with one or more eyewitnesses could receive more money since credible witnesses help prove their version of events. Victims who can prove they did not share any fault for the accident may recover more. Sympathy also plays a part—if a victim’s losses would make a jury feel sympathetic, the lawsuit’s worth may increase.
What Not to Do After an Accident
Your actions immediately after a traumatic event can affect the outcome of your case later on. Avoid these common mistakes to ensure that you set your claim up for success rather than failure. After an accident, do not:
Do Not Delay Treatment
Never delay medical care. After an accident, some people do not see a doctor right away and even say they feel fine. However, adrenaline can mask pain sensations, so victims may not realize that they have injuries when they actually do. To ensure that you do not have any hidden injuries, visit a medical professional as soon as possible.
Another reason to seek medical treatment quickly is to support your claim. If you fail to do so, the insurance company might use the delay of medical care against you. The insurance adjuster might downplay the seriousness of your injuries to devalue or deny your claim.
Do Not Speak to the Insurer Without a Lawyer
Do not speak to anyone at the insurance company without talking to a lawyer first. Many insurance adjusters mislead people about policy limits or make them think they cannot seek compensation. Other adjusters might pressure victims to accept quick settlements soon after a traumatic event.
If you need to make a statement to the insurance company, a lawyer can attend that statement with you. Usually, however, you will not have to speak much with the insurance company after hiring a lawyer. Instead, your lawyer will speak to them on your behalf and negotiate a settlement agreement for compensation.
Do Not Apologize for the Accident
Some people feel the need to apologize after an accident regardless of who caused it. However, an apology implies that the person accepts a portion or all of the responsibility for the accident. The defendant or their insurer could twist this apology into a declaration of fault, affecting the ability to seek compensation.
Therefore, you should not say you are sorry even if you believe you caused the accident. The evidence may point to the other person as the responsible party. Wait until your lawyer has all the facts before making any statement, so you do not accidentally devalue your claim.
Do Not Leave the Scene Without Taking Photos
Photographs can bolster your case since they clearly show the accident scene and severity of injuries. If you can safely do so, take pictures before leaving the accident. Document any details that you believe would help prove your case. Additionally, if you have photographs documenting your injuries, the opposing party is less likely to claim that you exaggerated your physical damages.
What Goes Into a Personal Injury Damage Calculator?
Around 95 percent of personal injury lawsuits settle before trial, so most victims can expect to see their case settle out of court. However, plaintiffs who make it into the courtroom may have the potential for a higher payout than a pre-trial settlement.
Many people wonder how lawyers calculate the potential value of their cases. Insurance companies and lawyers typically use a formula to determine a starting point for negotiations. A damage calculator creates estimates for both economic and non-economic damages.
Calculations for economic damages are straightforward since the losses are concrete. Your lawyer would find the total sum of every financial expense you accrued since the accident to calculate economic damages.
The items they add up may include:
- Medical bills: Trips to the doctor, emergency or hospital visits, and therapy fall into this category. Stays at a hospital are expensive, and x-rays, MRIs and surgeries increase the total expenses. Your lawyer would also include the cost of medical devices and ambulance fees.
- Future medical bills: Spinal cord injuries or other severe conditions require ongoing treatment. Victims might need long-term physical therapy or prescriptions. Your lawyer can estimate the bills you may receive in the future and add these to your personal injury damages.
- Lost income: To recover from severe injuries, a person may have to take time off. Your lawyer would add your past pay stubs or other evidence of income and compare this to how long you missed work to calculate lost wages. They would account for any personal time off or other benefits used during recovery.
- Future missed wages: Extensive medical treatment may require people to miss work in the future, even after a case settles. An injury could prevent an individual from ever returning to their old job.
- Property damage: Keep a copy of each repair bill you receive. Your lawyer can include the repair or replacement cost for any broken or damaged item, like a cell phone, clothing, or a vehicle.
- Other expenses: Parents might receive money for child care costs. In cases of fatal accidents, families may seek funeral or burial expenses. Your lawyer can advise you on any damages that you should seek in a claim based on your circumstances.
Non-economic damages are not tangible losses. Because the court cannot easily value mental anguish or the loss of companionship, lawyers may use their judgment to decide on the dollar amount for damages like pain and suffering.
A personal injury damage calculator typically applies a multiplier to the sum of economic damages to find the non-economic total. The value of the multiplier depends on who does the estimate.
Personal injury damage calculators do not always provide an accurate idea of what to expect in compensation. Speak with your lawyer to confirm your lawsuit’s value before making settlement demands. Other factors may affect the dollar amount.
Punitive Damages in a Lawsuit
In a few instances, the court deems compensatory damages to be insufficient. As a result, the judge may allow an award of punitive damages. Punitive damages punish the liable party for their bad acts. The judge must see evidence of malicious actions or gross negligence to award punitive damages.
The penalty deters the defendant and others from committing similar acts. However, in trials where the plaintiff wins, roughly 5 percent receive punitive damages. Guidelines exist to calculate potential punitive damages, but estimates vary widely from state to state. Some states may cap punitive damages in medical malpractice or other claims.
Speak to your attorney if you believe the defendant’s behavior was grossly negligent or malicious in your case. You may be able to seek punitive damages to increase your claim’s value.
Damage Caps Could Apply to Your Claim
When you sue another party, you can get money for economic and non-economic damages if you win. However, you might live in a state with damage caps. A damage cap limits the amount of compensation a person may receive and can reduce the defendant’s liability.
While a cap may seem unfair, some states have implemented caps to prevent the cost of doing business from increasing. Some worry that consumers might have to pay higher insurance premiums without damage caps. Commonly, laws cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.
During trials, most jury members do not know about damage caps. However, even if they did, they could not get around the limit. If the jury awards a victim compensation that exceeds the limits, the court reduces the amount.
Can You Reopen a Settled Claim?
No, you cannot. Some people accept a settlement offer from the insurance company in the days following the accident. Unfortunately, if they discover another injury a few weeks later, they cannot pursue another settlement.
Similarly, a lawsuit ends when the plaintiff signs a release of liability form. This document signifies that the injured party has waived their right to sue the defendant for the same accident in the future. Once a victim signs the release of liability, they can receive any agreed-upon payments. However, victims generally cannot reopen a case once they agree to an offer and sign the papers.
A few circumstances could allow a person to seek further compensation for losses after accepting a settlement offer. For example, they might discover another party is at fault and sue that party for damages. Another example is if the defendant and their insurer entered the out-of-court settlement in bad faith. Further, a judge can dismiss a case “without prejudice” in court. In this circumstance, claimants can reopen the claim by presenting new evidence as long as the statute of limitations has not run.
Each state has different rules about opening a personal injury lawsuit after a settlement. To know whether you can reopen your claim, speak with a lawyer in your area. They can advise you on whether you have any viable claims.
How Do You Receive a Settlement Payout?
The time between completing the settlement process and receiving your check is typically not long—usually just a week or two after signing the settlement forms. However, any unpaid liens can extend the waiting period. Once your lawyer deducts fees and pays any outstanding liens, they will send you the remainder of the money in a structured settlement or a lump sum.
Under a structured settlement, you would receive several regular checks over a long period. You and your lawyer would discuss the frequency of payments and the distribution amount with the other party. A structured settlement provides flexibility and may be beneficial for long-term needs. Furthermore, a structured settlement may provide interest on your compensation.
However, some people prefer their compensation to arrive in a lump sum. With a lump sum payment, you would obtain the entire settlement in one check, allowing you to pay for immediate expenses and to invest the money however you see fit.
Discuss what form of settlement is suitable for your needs with your lawyer.
Lawyers Give You a Personalized Estimate
Calculating compensation can be complicated for someone who has little experience. Relying on an online calculator alone cannot give you the same quality estimation as a lawyer. A good lawyer understands the subtleties of a lawsuit and knows how much injuries are worth; they look beyond the surface-level losses to ensure that nothing gets left on the negotiating table.
Contact a lawyer near you if someone negligently injured you in an accident and you want to know how much your case is worth. A personal injury damages calculator may give you a ballpark estimate, but a lawyer can consider your unique circumstances to determine how much your losses are worth.