Determining The Value Of Your Case
If the accident took place recently or you’re still treating the injuries there is no way to determine how much a personal injury case would be worth. You have to consider and weigh many factors that fall into two categories: liability and damages. It’s useful to consider each category separately, keeping in mind that a significant favorable outcome requires at least some factors to lean in your favor for each category.
To recover in a personal injury case the injuries must have been caused by negligence or some otherwise wrongful act of another. In New York, that involves determining the degree to which all involved were responsible for the accident. For example, in a typical rear-end car accident (both cars traveling in the same direction and one car drives into the back of another), the rear car will in most situations be 100% liable for the injuries of everyone in the front car. On the other hand, in a side-swipe accident where the two vehicles in adjacent lanes collide, the jury might consider the available evidence (testimony of parties and witnesses, police report, pictures from the scene, etc.) and assign partial liability (80/20, 50/50, etc.) to each car. Then there are situations with a multi-car pileup, or a broken traffic light, or conflicting witness statements – who knows how the jury would interpret and weigh each piece of evidence, and split the liability among parties?
If one party is even slightly liable the other party can recover from the first. For example, if Alice drives into Bob who was distracted and slightly speeding, ultimately you could have this situation:
(determined by Jury)
|Total Injury Amount
(determined by jury)
|Recovery from other Party|
At the end of the day, although Alice is mostly at fault, Bob will owe her $12,000.
Damages in a personal injury case are even harder to predict than liability. There is no formula to represent a person’s pain and suffering in dollars. A few of the many factors that are considered are:
- Type of injury
- Kind and amount of medical care to treat those injuries
- Total amount of medical bills, lost wages, other expenses
- Has the person fully recovered? Likely to recover in the future?
- The extent of past and future pain and suffering
- How much does the injury interfere with the quality of life and work in the past and future?
This is just the tip of the iceberg that the jury might look at. Juries are made up of everyday people and there is no telling which way the wind will blow. Everything else being equal, a jury in Long Island may typically come up with a smaller number than the jury in Brooklyn, but a higher number than a jury upstate.
Bottom Line – What’s The Case Worth?
It is very hard to estimate a case worth early on. In most situations the upper limit of how much can be recovered in a personal injury case is the limit of the insurance policy that carries the liability. As the case is investigated, the evidence gathered, and witnesses deposed the liability factors tend to become more clear. As the extent of injuries becomes established or treatments are concluded, the amount of damages becomes more clear.
Depending on the accident It is sometimes possible to make a wide estimate for a case worth at the first consultation close to the time of accident. Often, even a broad estimate is impossible. As more information comes in over time, the case value becomes more clear.
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