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One of the most frequent questions we get here at We Win Injury Law from our clients is “what is my case worth?” This is a great question and weighs on most people’s minds as bills are adding up from their injuries. In the legal industry, attorneys refer to this as “case value.” While there may be a quick response on smaller cases regarding general value, the exact amount is very difficult to determine and is always dependent upon a careful case by case analysis. At we win Injury Law we analyze each case to ensure our clients receive maximum value regardless of how big or how small.
However, there are several factors that influence case value, which we will go into more detail below, but those are: 1) the extent of your injuries, 2) the insurance limits, 3) pre-existing conditions, 4) lost wages and future lost wages and 5) future medical costs.
The Extent of your Injuries.
The most important factor in determining case value is the extent of your injuries. This is a simple concept for most to understand, if I have a paper cut, then the costs to the injury will be minimal if at all.
However, if I am in an accident, and I lose my left leg, then certainly this injury will value my case higher. Adding to this, is these amounts include the total cost of your medical treatment, any lost wages, any other out-of-pocket expenses relating to your accident and the cost of the pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life you experienced due to your injuries. For example, a client who may fully recover, but received hundreds of thousands of dollars in surgery cost may have the same value as someone who is not as injured, but whose injuries result in a permanent disability.
Adding to that, the pain and suffering that one experiences because of their injuries is also a factor, but a difficult factor to determine. For example, someone who has a burn injury will experience a higher case value because of their pain and suffering. Having an experienced attorney to itemize the above-mentioned injuries will strengthen your case and is also the best way to maximize case value.
Insurance Policy Limits.
The at-fault party’s insurance limits, combined with your own Under Insured Motorist (UIM) policy limits, are generally the total amount available to you as the victim. This can severely limit the money insurance companies have available to compensate you for your case.
For example, even if you have a million-dollar case value, if the insurance limits of the at-fault party are the state minimum $25,000/$65,000 policy, and your UIM is only $100,000, then you’re limited to $125,000 in recovery. In this situation, you will look at whether the at-fault party has other insurance policies available, or sometimes a private investigator is utilized to determine the at-fault party’s assets.
However, you typically give up the ability to recover the insurance policy limits if you sue the at-fault party for their assets. Having an experienced attorney team to search for policies, or to evaluate the at-fault party’s ability to pay is a must. What is more, attorneys still have ways of negotiating with your medical providers to maximize a case value even if the case is limited by inadequate insurance policy limits.
The third factor that can impact your case value is pre-existing medical conditions. This is because insurance companies are only required to compensate you for injuries that relate to, and which were caused by the accident. They are not required to pay damages (i.e., money) for an injury that may have existed before the accident.
For example, if you had a torn shoulder prior to the accident from a sport’s injury, the insurance company may not be responsible for treatment related to a torn shoulder. However, if you are required to have any treatment related to the torn shoulder that you were not doing prior to the accident, you may be able to obtain compensation for the same. As such, pre-existing injuries could potentially limit the value of your case.
Another concept related to pre-existing conditions is what is referred to as the “egg-shell skull doctrine.” Under the egg-shell skull doctrine, insurance companies are not allowed to use someone’s propensity to injury, such as a thin skull, to excuse their insured’s conduct. As a result, if you are susceptible to injury because of a genetic defect, then the insurance company still must pay for your injuries. An experienced attorney can assist you with making sure the claim is properly handled and that the insurance companies pay for the injuries their insured caused or made worse.
Lost wages and future lost wages.
The fourth factor that impacts your case value is your lost wages and your future lost wages. Your actual lost wages should be somewhat simple to determine, mostly because they are based on your actual lost wages should be somewhat straightforward to determine, mostly because they are based on your hourly or salaried wage, factored by days you have missed. You should make sure that any missed work has an accompanying letter from your medical providers detailing why you cannot work and/or any work limitations.
Future lost wages are where the process becomes a little more difficult to quantify. This is because there are several factors that are considered, including whether you are permanently disabled, which impacts whether you can work with limitations. Maybe you can work, but not in the same profession you worked before, and sometimes your high paying physically demanding job is no longer an option because of your injuries.
Typically, when future lost wages are involved, our attorneys will retain an expert to evaluate your future earning capabilities to prove to the insurance companies that they will need to compensate you for your future lost wages.
Future Medical Costs.
The last factor determining case value is the costs of your future medical costs. The future medical expenses you might have are easy to determine if you are made whole during recovery from your injuries, but this is complicated when you will require constant future medical assistance. For example, someone who is paralyzed because of an auto-accident, will likely require future medical care for the remainder of their life.
Trying to submit this information to the insurance companies is complex, and often our firm will hire an expert to come up with a life care plan. These will include an itemization of every single future medical cost you can expect from your injury or disability.
As you can see, the above items greatly impact your overall case value. Our We Win Injury Law Attorneys are happy to answer additional questions you may have about your overall case value.