Determining The Value of a Personal Injury Claim: Liability, Coverage, and Damages
When deciding whether or not to sue, or considering whether a satisfactory settlement has been reached, it is crucial to understand (or at least estimate) what your personal injury lawsuit might be worth. Arriving at a figure can help you determine whether a settlement is fair; or instead, if you would like to move forward with a lawsuit.
There are many factors that should be taken into account when approximating the value of a personal injury claim. Unfortunately, there is no surefire method of predicting how much a claim is worth. Risk is inherent to litigation, and there are countless variables at play in any given lawsuit. Even the most compelling cases are sometimes rejected by juries.
Generally, there are three things that influence the value of a plaintiff’s personal injury claim. This post will discuss how liability, damages, and insurance coverage impact the value of a personal injury lawsuit. It will also highlight some of the techniques we use at Estey & Bomberger, LLP to help our clients secure the largest verdict possible.
Liability: Who is Responsible?
The term liability refers to who is legally responsible for your injuries. A person, corporate entity, or government agency may be at fault for the injuries and losses you suffered in an accident.
It is important to understand that multiple parties may be liable for your injuries. For example, if you were hurt in a car accident in San Diego, the city of San Diego may be partially responsible for your injuries if a stoplight was malfunctioning at the time the accident occurred. The driver who hit you may also be liable for the injuries he or she caused by driving negligently.
Sometimes, it is very clear who harmed whom (like in a case where there is only one culpable party). But if there are questions about liability and how it should be apportioned among multiple parties, defendants may be reluctant to settle.
The amount of relevant, credible evidence demonstrating liability should be weighed when deciding how much a personal injury case might be worth.
Damages: Which Types are Available?
The term damages refers to the amount of money a court awards to a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit. There are different types of damages, including compensatory, punitive, and legal costs. Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate plaintiffs for the injuries they have suffered. These might include damages for past and future medical bills, lost wages, property damage, or pain and suffering. Punitive damages are awarded to plaintiffs where the behavior of the defendant is particularly reprehensible. Courts award punitive damages to punish the defendant and deter others from acting similarly. In some cases, a defendant might be required to pay the plaintiff’s legal costs.
In evaluating your personal injury claim, think about what types of damages might be available to you. Did you incur medical bills? Will your injuries require ongoing treatment in the future? Did your injuries cause you to miss work? If so, how much?
Damages can be very difficult to estimate. A personal injury lawyer can help you understand what types of damages may be available to you should you file a personal injury lawsuit.
Coverage: Is the Defendant Insured?
Another key factor that influences the outcome of a personal injury case is insurance coverage. Even if a jury finds in your favor and awards you damages, the amount you ultimately recover could be governed by the defendant’s policy limits. When a defendant causes catastrophic harm, insurance may not cover the total amount of damage. You must then look to whether the defendant has personal property that can be attached and whether the defendant is solvent. Some defendants attempt to discharge a personal injury verdict in bankruptcy.
A personal injury attorney can help you identify the right defendant or defendants against whom to bring your personal injury claims.
Expert Witnesses: How Can They Help?
Estey & Bomberger has secured multi-million dollar verdicts for their personal injury clients. Our attorneys work with prominent expert witnesses, including medical experts, occupational therapists, accident reconstruction specialists, psychiatrists, therapists, surgeons, neurologists, and toxicologists.
Expert witnesses play an important role in personal injury lawsuits. Testimony by expert witnesses can help the jury decide how much money to award a plaintiff by establishing how much harm a plaintiff has suffered. For example, a medical expert can testify about how much treatment a plaintiff will need in the future. An occupational therapist can testify about what therapy will be required to help an accident victim return to work. A psychiatrist can testify about the amount of mental pain and anguish an accident victim has endured.
Estey & Bomberger offers its clients unparalleled access to knowledgeable, experienced expert witnesses. To speak with an attorney about how expert witnesses could play a part in your personal injury lawsuit, call our offices today.
It is important to understand that litigation is far from an exact science. Assessing the value of a personal injury lawsuit is difficult, and is often best left to an attorney. To speak with an experienced California personal injury attorney, contact Estey & Bomberger at (800) 925-0723 for a free and confidential case evaluation.