In the old days, there probably was a “formula” for determining the value of the typical personal injury case. Today, there is no such formula. Instead, insurance companies and experienced personal injury attorneys evaluate their cases based upon the “marketplace.” The marketplace for a personal injury claim is what amount of money a jury in the jurisdiction where the case will be filed is typically giving for these sorts of claims and/or less the amount of money needed to pay to go to trial, including the costs to pay any expert witnesses or treating doctors to appear at trial to testify on your behalf.
There are many factors that go into settlement calculations. When we give you a figure at the point in time in your case when we believe the case may be ready to settle, we have given you an estimate. If the case is tried, the verdict could be higher, or could be lower, than our estimate. Sometimes cases can settle relatively early. Sometimes they can settle in the middle of trial. Nevertheless, here are factors that can affect settlement values:
- Severity of the injury. Injuries that involve fractured bones, torn ligaments, herniated discs in the neck or back requiring surgery, traumatic brain injury, permanent scarring, or catastrophic injuries will generally result in higher settlements than cases involving sprains, strains and bruises.
- Whether medical treatment is completed. It is far easier to estimate settlement values when your treatment has ended and you have finished all of your medical care. You generally do not want to settle a claim if future care is anticipated. However, if your case has to go to trial, we can ask your doctor to testify about future medical care. This can go into the jury’s calculation when they are considering a verdict.
- Property damage to all of the cars/vehicles in the accident. In accidents where there is little or no damage to your car and the other cars, settlements will generally be lower than cases where there is major damage. High amounts of property damage, as well as visible damage recorded on video or photographs are valuable to both insurance companies and juries.
- The degree to which you may have been at fault in the accident. If you contributed to the accident in any way, your ability to be fully compensated is reduced under Pennsylvania law.
- Your medical history. If you had any prior medical care or surgery to the area of your body that you injured in the accident which is the subject of the lawsuit, this will negatively impact settlement values.
- The type of healthcare provider you choose to see. Cases involving orthopedists, neurologists, neurosurgeons and other specialists will generally have higher settlement values.
- The amount of insurance available for the accident. Unfortunately, the amount of insurance the property owner (in a fall down case) or the other driver ( in a motor vehicle accident case) has will determine your financial recovery. Many people who are insured carry low levels of automobile coverage. You can protect yourself, however. In a car accident case, or motorcycle case, if the other person’s insurance is low, you can turn to our own Underinsured Motorist Coverage for additional protection, if you purchased it on your own insurance policy.
- The jurisdiction where the case will be tried. The demographics of jury pools differ from county to county. So too, if the case is to be tried in the Federal Courts, the jurors can be different from those in state courts. Simply put, some juries are more generous than others when it comes to compensating personal injury victims, and where the case will be tried is therefore very important. This fact alone must be taken into consideration when evaluating a case for settlement purposes.
Stuart A. Carpey, who has been practicing as an attorney since 1987, focuses his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing injured individuals in a vast array of personal injury cases.