How much is my personal injury case worth? (Part 2)
In the previous post, we examined a situation where a pedestrian, through no fault of his own, sustained personal injury from being hit by a car that only had $25,000 worth of insurance. The pedestrian suffered a fractured femur that required surgery in order to put the bones back together. What if the car that hit him instead carried $10 Million worth of insurance? How much of that would the pedestrian get?
How much a personal injury case is worth depends on many factors. Cases settle based on what juries have awarded in similar cases, and what the appellate courts have sustained, or upheld. An award for injuries is only as good as its sustainable amount. Even if a jury awards millions of dollars for an injury, the defendant only has to pay this amount if it is upheld by a higher court. Much of what I describe below may seem cold and calculating, but this is how the system works.
Age of the plaintiff
A young person’s injuries are worth much more than an older person. The longer the person must live with the pain, inconvenience and suffering, the more the injury is worth.
Did the person lose time from work? This can be a very significant part of a personal injury lawsuit. If someone can never work again, and has to be compensated for a lifetime of lost earnings, this alone can be in the millions of dollars. Losing time from work also indicates an injury is more serious. You can be compensated for pain and suffering for an injury even if you don’t lose time from work immediately after an accident. Sometimes people who suffer certain injuries, such as herniated discs, do not feel the pain right away. These injuries sometimes take time to manifest themselves.
Certain counties are better than others. If your case is in The Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), or Queens, you have a much better chance of getting a substantial jury award, and thus a better pre-trial settlement. Juries in New York County (Manhattan), Richmond (Staten Island), Westchester, and the Long Island counties of Nassau and Suffolk generally award much less.
Scars, especially those that are visible in public, can significantly increase the value of a case. Scars are generally worth more on women than men, and are worth more when the plaintiff is unmarried. The rationale is that a person who is out on the dating scene will have a harder time finding a mate if he or she has a visible disfigurement. Scars that are highly visible, such as on someone’s face are generally treated as being worth more than scars in an area such as a foot.
An injury that required surgery shows that it is much more severe than one that healed with just physical therapy and/or time. If the Dr. must put a foreign object into your body such as an internal fixator, this will most likely increase the value of the injury.
Lack of comparative fault
You are more likely to receive money for your injuries if you cannot be blamed for causing them. For instance, assume that you have suffered horrific injuries in a trip and fall accident, and there is evidence that a premises owner know about the broken step that tripped you, but just didn’t feel like repairing it. Sounds like a great case, right? What if, however, there is ample evidence that at the time of the accident, you had been drinking. A jury may conclude that you tripped and fell partially due to your own alcohol consumption, and only partly due to the broken step.
Keep in mind that every case is different, and even the most experienced attorneys don’t have crystal balls. No one can see into the future, and no one knows what a jury will do. I have practiced personal injury law since 2007, and I am a former claims adjuster. My experience has taught me the proper settlement value of cases. If an insurance company won’t settle, I am prepared to take your case to trial. If you’ve been injured, it is very important to speak with an experienced attorney immediately.