If you’ve been injured in an accident and are planning on pursuing a personal injury claim, it’s likely one of the first questions you’ll have is what your injury case is worth. While every situation is unique, there are specific factors to look at when valuing an injury claim. When you work with Shrager & Sachs, we’ll help you build a strong case and ensure you receive full and fair compensation for all your accident-related losses. Before we break down what you may be eligible for, let’s take a look at what the law considers to be damages.
Understanding Legal Damages and Accident-Related Losses
In personal injury law, damages refer to your injuries and losses. When someone else’s negligence causes you harm, you have the legal right to seek compensation from them for the damages you suffered. According to a Martindale-Nolo Research study, most personal injury payouts range from $3,000 to $75,000. The overall average was $52,900. However, many of the catastrophic cases we handle resolve for substantially more than typical cases with less severe injuries. The range varies considerably due to the myriad of factors which affect each and every case.
An experienced attorney will be able to value your case based on a number of factors like the evidence they collect, the experts they speak with, and your own testimony. For example, they’ll want to have a detailed understanding of your physical injuries and what your maximum medical improvement looks like. For losses that are not directly calculable, they’ll likely draw on their legal experience and similar cases that were successful in the past.
Determining Settlement Value With the Help of a Lawyer
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to determine what a plaintiff is owed for their personal injury. When you work with a lawyer, they will take into consideration all of your losses, which will likely fall into two categories: economic and noneconomic. We’ll discuss those more in detail below. There’s also a chance you could be eligible for punitive damages.
Once you understand the damages you’ve incurred and a potential settlement amount, your lawyer will frame a demand and formalize it in a demand letter. Because the demand letter should leave room for negotiations, your attorney may request a sum greater than your actual losses. It’s likely the defendant or insurance company will try to negotiate the number down. If this happens and you can still reach an agreeable amount, settlement is possible.
In the event settlement is not possible, the next step in the personal injury claim process would be to file a lawsuit. In order to receive a monetary award through a lawsuit, you’ll need to receive a verdict in your favor from a judge or jury.
Special damages, also referred to as economic damages, are the most concrete form of compensation for a personal injury. This is because they are numerically calculable. Examples include lost income, medical bills, and property damages.
Depending on the extent of your injuries and the lasting consequences, we can look into ensuring you have compensation for future lost wages and the future cost of care if you require medical assistance, treatments, or devices for a disability or life-altering medical condition.
To determine economic damages, your lawyer will collect documents like past pay stubs, records of missed work, medical bills, and prognosis information from your doctor.
General damages are typically sought at the same time as special damages. These damages, however, are less specific and tangible. Because they are more subjective, they are often referred to as noneconomic damages.
Common examples of general damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of consortium. Depending on the extent of your injuries, you may be enduring a significant amount of physical or emotional pain. Additionally, you may be unable to participate in hobbies or activities that previously brought you joy. In the event you lost a loved one, a wrongful death claim can help you seek compensation to ensure your family’s future.
Calculating noneconomic damages means looking at factors like the plaintiff’s age, occupation, and income, as well as the severity and permanency of the injuries.
Punitive damages are rarely awarded, as they serve to punish the at-fault party for particularly egregious actions and discourage others from taking similar actions in the future. If, for example, a negligent driver decided to get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol and caused an accident that resulted in the death of someone else, those filing the claim may be eligible for punitive damages.
The burden of proof with punitive damages is higher than that of economic or noneconomic, which is why they are so difficult to obtain. When awarded, however, they typically exceed the amount of general and special damages.
Pennsylvania Laws That Affect Injury Case Value
There are a number of laws in Pennsylvania that could affect the value of your personal injury claim. Your lawyer will have a comprehensive understanding of those laws and will be sure to explain them to you so you know your rights.
For starters, personal injury claims are typically based on negligence. In PA, claims are subject to modified comparative negligence. In regard to compensation, this means that you cannot recover damages if you are found to be more than 50% at fault for your injuries.
In some states, damage caps are in place that limit the amount of compensation any one plaintiff can collect when filing a claim. While no caps exist in most cases, there is a $250,000 cap against the Commonwealth and a $500,000 cap for claims against local governments. In addition to that, pain and suffering damages are only available against local governments when claims involve death or permanent disfigurement.
Another important part of filing a successful claim means abiding by the statute of limitations. For most personal injury and medical malpractice claims, the plaintiff has two years from the date of the accident to file. If you fail to meet the statute of limitations for your injury claim, you will render yourself ineligible for any amount of compensation—regardless of your injuries and suffering.
Legal Representation in Philadelphia
Trying to determine how much your injury case is worth on your own could result in jeopardizing your chances of receiving full and fair compensation. In order to ensure the best chances of recovery and a secure financial future, we recommend working with a trusted personal injury attorney from Shrager & Sachs.
At Shrager & Sachs, we have a proven track record of helping our clients achieve successful personal injury case outcomes—whether it be through settlement or verdict. If you have questions about a potential claim or you’d like to start the filing process, schedule a free consultation with our firm today.