The Truth Behind “How Much is my Injury Case Worth?”
“What is the value of my case?”
That’s a question that every personal injury attorney has to answer for their client. As a trial attorney, I get asked that question regularly by clients and potential clients. It’s a very fair question, since our civil justice system can only provide financial compensation to resolve injury cases.
Finding out the value of a personal injury case isn’t like looking at the price of an item on Amazon. Using an “injury value calculator” on a random website is click bait, and not useful. Predicting the outcome of a case based on what a friend or relative’s case resolved for is equally unhelpful.
A case’s value ultimately comes down to only one question: What is a jury most likely to award, in the county where the case will be heard? And yes, this question is equally important for cases that settle out of court. Both injured folks (the plaintiffs) and insurance companies defending the at-fault party (the defendant) must always consider that a case may end up being tried before a jury if a settlement can’t be reached. That’s why this one question is the ultimate indicator of case’s value.
It’s not a quick or simple question to answer most of the time. There are many, many factors that affect what a jury may award. Here are only a few:
- The type and severity of the injuries;
- How consistently health care appointments were attended;
- The injured person’s medical history;
- Whether the injured person was somehow at fault for their injuries;
- The attorney’s experience level;
- The attorney’s willingness to fight the case in court if necessary;
- The attorney’s reputation among insurance companies;
- Whether the county where the case may be heard is more conservative or less conservative;
- Whether the case settles vs. going to court
In short, be very skeptical of an attorney who promises to give the value of a case based on a single phone call, or even a short consultation, regardless of what the television commercials might promise. That’s like knowing how a book ends by only reading the cover. The information given is a guess, and probably not an informed guess. The potential client may be speaking with a law firm that handles a large volume of cases, and quickly places a value on a case in order to be able to move on to the next one. If an attorney incorrectly evaluates a case, an injured person may not be awarded enough in a settlement to cover 100% of their medical expenses, time off of work, or future care needs.
Only an experienced trial attorney that has taken the time to fully investigate the evidence in a case can anticipate what a jury in a particular county is likely to do, and that takes time. Even then, many attorneys view case value as a range rather than one number, with a high end, reflecting a “best case scenario”, and a low end, with some room in between.
Feel free to use the information above when consulting with an attorney. Do your homework. We welcome these types of questions at our law firm, and any firm that focuses on handling serious injury cases should do the same. If not, that’s a red flag.