How Much is Your Personal Injury Claim Worth?
Updated: Jan 12, 2020
If you have sustained an injury your life has likely become more difficult and complicated. Maybe you are unable to work or participate in your regular activities and hobbies, but are instead forced to spend all your time going between the doctor’s office and the pharmacy. Of course, while you are unable to work, bills continue to stack up. As a final insult, you may be experiencing significant pain that impacts your sleep, peace, and ability to spend quality time with friends and loved ones.
In light of all the difficulties you are facing you decide to pursue a personal injury lawsuit -- but how much is your case worth? No two cases are alike, and there are numerous things to consider when it comes to personal injury lawsuits. However, to get an idea of the estimated value of your case, the factors discussed below should be considered.
Does the at-fault party have insurance? If the answer to this question is “no” then it is likely the at-fault party is not worth pursuing a personal injury claim against. If the at-fault party is uninsured, it is very likely they do not have any valuable personal assets worth pursuing. However, if your injuries were sustained due to a motor vehicle accident, you or your attorney should check to see if your insurance policy contains uninsured motorist coverage (if the at-fault driver was uninsured) or underinsured motorist coverage (if the at-fault driver had a small amount of insurance that is insufficient to compensate you for your injuries) so that a claim can be made under your policy for your damages.
Damages in a personal injury case are intended to "make the plaintiff whole" after an injury. Of course, sometimes it is not possible to make the plaintiff whole, and it is difficult to put a dollar figure on things like pain and suffering, but the goal is to best put the injured person back into the position he or she would have been in had the injury not occurred.
The types of damages that are available in a personal injury claim can vary depending on the type of case, the circumstances of the injury to the victim, and the laws of the state. In general, personal injury damages include the following:
1. Medical Bills
If you must undergo testing or treatment, or if you must receive medical care of any type, such as hospital stays, pain management, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, or surgery, the at-fault party (or their insurer) must pay for the costs of the medical bills.
However, it is very important to note that most of the time injured victims must turn over some or all of this money to their health insurer if the health insurer has been paying the bills prior to a settlement or damage award. If you do not have health insurance, typically the medical provider must be reimbursed directly.
2. Lost wages
Compensation for lost wages or lost income is another aspect of a damages award in a personal injury case. This includes payment for any work that you had to miss because of the injury or because of treatment for the injury. If you were able to take vacation days or sick time, you should be compensated for the loss of those days. If you are permanently unable to work due to your injuries, then the lost wages that you would have made over the course of a lifetime may be required to be paid by the at-fault party or their insurer. The same is true if you have been disabled in some way that will reduce your future ability to earn, even if it hasn't taken away that ability entirely.
3. Pain and suffering
Physical pain and suffering and mental pain and suffering are types of damages recoverable in personal injury claims. The tendency of juries to award large damages for pain and suffering, especially when it comes to significant injuries, is one thing that makes insurance companies inclined to settle a case. When negotiating a claim, insurance companies will often employ techniques like a "pain multiplier" in order to try to arrive at a fair and reasonable number for pain and suffering damages. This involves multiplying actual financial losses (medical bills and lost wages) times a number that the insurer deems appropriate (usually, between 1 1/2 and 5).
4. Punitive Damages
Pursuant to Kentucky statute (KRS 411.184), punitive damages are recoverable when one caused damages to another when acting with oppression, fraud or malice. Punitive damages, although paid to the plaintiff, are not intended to make the plaintiff whole. Instead, their purpose is to punish the at-fault party for particularly egregious wrongful behavior.
Percentage of Fault
The extent that each person or entity is at fault is the most important factor impacting how much the insurance company is likely to pay to settle your personal injury claim. Fortunately, Kentucky is a pure comparative negligence state. States like Kentucky that recognize pure comparative negligence allow individuals to collect for damages even if they are 99 percent at fault. However, the amount of damages is limited by the party’s actual degree at fault. So if a person is determined to be 99 percent at fault, they can still collect 1 percent of their damages under a pure comparative negligence system.
Determining fault for an accident is not an exact science, but in most claims both you and the insurance adjuster will at least have a good idea whether the insured person was entirely at fault, if you were a little at fault, or if you were a lot at fault.
The Type and Severity of Injuries
The type and severity of your injuries will always directly affect the value of your claim. The more severe your injury, the more valuable your claim. In theory, that seems obvious. In reality, however, there is much more that goes into determining your settlement amount.
The way your injuries affect you also plays a role in determining the value of your claim. Can you perform everyday activities like walking, talking, eating, and driving a car? Did you have to have surgery? What is your recovery time? Will you be able to return to work? Has your relationship with your spouse been affected? Be sure to also disclose all pre-existing injuries or conditions to your lawyer as such may impact the value of your claim as well.
Your age will also come into consideration to some extent in determining the value of your claim. Very young victims and very elderly victims may receive a higher jury verdict or settlement due to sympathetic feelings towards innocent children and elderly people. Along with your age, your anticipated life expectancy, and the number of years that you would otherwise be expected to continue working are also factors.
If the other party is liable for your injuries, you will be entitled to compensation for your out-of-pocket medical costs and your future medical expenses.
While this post covers most of the factors considered when evaluating the value of a personal injury claim, personal injury claims can be complex. As such, it is always a good idea to contact a personal injury attorney when you are considering pursuing a personal injury claim.
This article is provided as an information resource and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified legal professional. In all cases, contact your legal professional for advice on any matter referenced in this article before making any decisions.