One of the first question we often hear from people who meet with an attorney at Belt & Bruner to discuss their accident is: "Can you tell me what my case is worth?" It is a question that does not have a simple answer. No two injury cases are exactly alike. Unfortonately, there is no standard form or reliable case value calculator or personal injury calculator to make a general estimate of the value of a personal injury case.
Components that Establish a Case's Value
In order to have a valid, compensable claim, it is imperative that the individual who caused your harm be legally at fault and his or her actions be the cause of your damages. Breaking this down, the three critical legal components in establishing the value of your case will be:
When you assess damages, you should consider:
Insurance policy limits also will be a critical factor in determining the value of your claim. The amount you can recover may be limited by the defendant's available insurance coverage. (However, in an auto accident, you can protect yourself from underinsured or uninsured drivers by purchasing UM/UIM coverage.)
Talk to Your Lawyer about the Value of Your Claim
Your lawyer should give you a range of values for your case or claim. All of the factors discussed above as well as your lawyer's experience with juries in the case's jurisdiction can be factors in the evaluation of your lawsuit. Your lawyer should closely examine all of these factors.
Although some lawyers may advocate the use of ratios, personal injury calculators, claim calculators, auto claim calculators, wrongful death claim calculators, damages ratios or other types of formulas found on the Internet, these programs are merely tools. They are not conclusive in determining the value of your case.
When trying to determine the value of your legal claim or lawsuit, your attorney should base his numbers on a combination of all of the factors above. Your lawyer should also be able to explain to you how these factors increase or decrease the value of your claim and discuss why your claim has the value that he or she recommends.
Keep in mind: In some instances, especially early in your case, the question, "How much is my claim or case worth?" cannot be easily answered. To obtain a meaningful answer requires analyzing many facts and much information. Most importantly, it involves using the experience of a lawyer who has handled numerous personal injury cases.
To learn more about determining the value of your case in Alabama, please contact the Belt Law Firm, P.C. Our firm provides free consultations and features offices in Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville.
When an attorney sits down with you to discuss your case and its worth, there are a number of factors to consider about your injury claim. Among the questions the lawyer will cover are:
Are your injuries severe or extensive? Are you going to be able to return to work when you recover? Will your injuries limit your ability to return to your job or do the kind of work you were doing before the accident? Were any of your injuries pre-existing? What restrictions and physical limitations will you have on your activities? Have you been diagnosed with a permanent disability? Have you suffered partial or complete paralysis as a result of your injuries? What are the costs of your medical bills to date? These are the kinds of questions related to your injuries that affect the value of a claim.
Have you missed work and missed paychecks as a result of your injuries? What is the cost of your lost income to date as a result of your injury? Will you be able to return to your previous job when you recover? Do you expect your loss of income to extend into the future?
Whether or not the injuries you suffered due to another's negligent or wrongful conduct make you unable to perform the duties associated with your job is an issue that often requires medical and vocational evidence.
Evidence in Support of Lost Wages
You can present evidence to support your lost wages claim that includes:
Additionally, experts can assist in making your claim for lost wages. For instance, vocational experts can assess how your injury either prevents you from working or requires you to undergo retraining or rehabilitation. Economists can help to forecast what you would have earned over the course of your working life if you had not been wrongfully injured.
You can expect that your claim and your evidence will be met with much resistance by the defense. Also, if you are self-employed or own your own business, proof of your lost wages can be complicated. Again, it may very well require the use of an economist or accountant when trying to determine the level of lost income.
Loss of Earning Capacity Damages
In addition to lost wages, one may be entitled to recover loss of earning capacity if the injuries suffered in the accident impair your ability to earn wages in the future.
In most states, the burden of proof for these types of damages is "reasonable certainty." If you can establish that it is reasonably certain that your ability to earn wages in the future is impaired, you should be able to recover economic damages for the loss associated with that figure.
Talk with Your Lawyer about Lost Wages Damages
In order to determine lost wages in your case, your lawyer should know what records to compile and have a network of highly qualified experts available for consultation. In many cases, lost wages can comprise a significant portion of your total damages award.
If you would like to learn more about how lost wages are determined in a personal injury claim, simply contact Belt Law Firm, P.C., by phone or online. We are available to offer a free consultation about your case.
If you have been seriously injured in an accident, your injuries may prevent you from taking part in normal marital and family activities with your spouse and children. Your spouse and children may be affected by your injury. Serious injuries often cause hardships for family members other than just the injured individual. Alabama law allows the spouse of a personal injury victim to bring a claim for loss of consortium. These claims are typically brought at the same time as the main personal injury claim.
We often hear people say that they have been told that their case should be worth some multiple of the total value of medical bills and lost wages, such as three times the value of economic losses. For example, if their medical expenses totaled $40,000 and their weeks of lost income totaled $20,000 of losses, then their claim should be worth three times $60,000 or roughly $180,000.
There is no magic ratio or rule-of-thumb formula for determining case value. Every individual accident involves its unique own set of contributing factors, including the location where the accident occurs, whether it is Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile or another city. In order to assess the value of the case, we have to do a specific analysis of the following five categories:
You may seek compensation for medical bills related to treatment of your injuries in a personal injury accident. We review the bills that you have received related to your injury.
The types of medical costs that that you may have include:
We also need to consider whether you will have additional medical expenses going forward. Future medical bills may be a significant consideration in some cases, depending on the severity of the injury. If you have suffered a catastrophic injury and are paralyzed with paraplegia, you will face approximately $518,000 in medical costs during the first year after the injury and roughly $69,000 a year in the following years, according to the Alabama-based National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. About a third of people with spinal cord injuries are re-hospitalized one or more times during any given year after an injury.
Proving future medical expenses requires testimony from a qualified physician or medical expert about the anticipated future costs of your injury. If you are going to incur future medical expenses, these expenses will have to be estimated and taken into account at the time of the settlement. The attorneys at Belt & Bruner have developed a good understanding of the type of future medical care and treatment that will be needed from having represented a number of victims of catastrophic injuries. It is important to work with a law firm that has an established network of recognized medical experts to assist with proving future medical bills.
Basically, you are entitled to recover lost earnings for the time you missed from work and the time that you will miss from work in the future due to your injuries. But if your injuries make you incapable of performing your job, you may be entitled to wages that will be lost in the future as a result of reduced earnings capacity.
To make a claim for lost wages, we gather evidence to show the income that you have lost as a result of the injury and expect to lose in the future. The types of evidence that an attorney at Belt & Bruner will gather include:
If you have a permanent disability that will reduce you earnings capacity, economists can help us forecast what you would have earned during your working life if you had not been injured.
Another aspect of evaluating the fair value of your case is determining how you have been affected by the injury to date. Pain from a serious injury can disrupt your life and make even simple tasks like getting dressed, going shopping and doing work in the yard difficult, if not impossible.
When even simple chores become painful as a result of an accident caused by another, you deserve compensation. Alabama law allows an injury victim to seek compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress as part of a personal injury claim.
Has your injury affected your relationship with your spouse? Loss of consortium relates to the impact that your injuries have on your non-injured husband or wife. Your husband or wife may have sustained losses also if you can no longer provide financial support, help around the house or enjoy sexual relations with your marital partner.
A knowledgeable attorney can advise you whether a loss of consortium claim should be pursued based on the facts of your case. Just because injury caused stress or strain on a spouse does not mean a loss of consortium claim should be pursued. If a valid loss of consortium claim exists, these claims can have significant value when a spouse sustains significant or catastrophic injury.
The amount that you may recover as an injury victim often reflects the limits of the insurance coverage of the at-fault individual or business. The fact is that most individuals or businesses that cause accidents do not have the financial resources to pay a court judgment in excess of their available insurance policy limit. So the amount of insurance available serves as a kind of limit in many cases.
Insurance coverage can present some of the most complicated issues in a personal injury case. For that reason, it is important to work with an experienced attorney who will scrutinize the accident and identify all the potentially responsible parties and their insurers. That may expand the insurance coverage available to you.
If you are injured by a driver who is uninsured or has only minimal auto insurance coverage, you may be able to make a claim against your own uninsured/underinsured motorist policy to provide compensation for your injuries and losses.
Let’s set up a time to meet and go over the facts together. Our compassionate attorneys focus on helping individuals and families in Birmingham and throughout Alabama who are coping with serious personal injuries caused by others. While the results we have achieved in past cases are not predictive of the results of future cases, we are proud of the verdicts and settlements we have delivered for our clients. If you have questions about the value of your personal injury claim, please call our experienced Alabama personal injury lawyers at Belt & Bruner at 888-336-1334 or contact an attorney online. Our knowledgeable accident and injury attorneys are ready to help you.