Have you ever wondered how a jury decides to award a certain figure to an injured plaintiff? Is there a book somewhere that assigns a value to a herniated disc or a fracture? In short, no. A valuation of a person’s injuries is a combination of many factors including age, lifestyle, the limitations caused by the accident, and even where the lawsuit is filed. Today, juries are far less inclined to award significant damages than they were in the 1990’s. Defense verdicts and minimal damage awards have become more common even in cases where the defendant’s liability is conceded. These factors have driven down settlement values because defense counsel are more confident about going to trial.
While estimating an injured person’s damages is not an exact science, there are certain general parameters plaintiff’s attorneys keep in mind. Someone who has received only primary care or chiropractic treatment, even for a lengthy period of time, and who has not been terribly inconvenienced or lost significant time from work can expect to receive under $15,000.00. If an individual in this situation has limited tort, most attorneys will not even take the case. (Read my earlier post for an explanation of limited tort).
Diagnostic evidence of a herniated disc, a fracture, nerve damage or other internal injury, and scarring or disfigurement will increase the value of the case. However, the impact on work and other activities is still a major consideration. Lesser impact, lesser damages. Greater impact, greater damages.
To obtain six figures, an injured plaintiff most likely will have to have undergone some type of surgery, have been disabled from work and activities for a significant period of time, and have permanent injuries that continue to have a significant impact on the person’s lifestyle.
To receive an award in excess of a million dollars, the case will most likely involve a death or a crippling injury likely to require substantial costs for continuing medical care into the future.
Evaluation and estimation of damages requires careful consideration of the client’s medical records, wages, earning capacity, period of disability, likelihood of recovery, continuing medical care if any, and, yes, even where the case will go to trial. (Philadelphia, good. The outlying counties, not so good). Beware of anyone who throws figures at you, especially high ones, before a full evaluation of your case. You are likely to be disappointed.