One of the first questions new clients ask us is, “What’s my case worth?” The answer is always, “It depends.” No two cases are alike, and only after collecting all of the relevant facts can we have an idea of the value of any particular case. Below are some of the considerations when evaluating a personal injury case.
One of the first things we determine is who is at fault for the incident. In some cases this is an easy task. In an automobile collision where multiple witnesses saw the defendant go through a red light, the defendant will probably admit fault. In other cases, liability is strongly contested.
As attorneys, we spend a significant amount of time doing things like interviewing witnesses, going to accident locations, reviewing video footage, and talking to experts in order to determine who was at fault. No matter how badly you were injured in an incident, do not be surprised if the defendant is unwilling to make an offer to settle your case if liability is not clearly in your favor.
If we can prove the defendant was at fault, we look at the damages involved. Damages are the types of harm for which the injured party can be compensated.
- Pain, Suffering, and Loss of Life’s Pleasures
Often, the largest area of recovery is for pain, suffering, and loss of life’s pleasures. While this encompasses the pain caused by the injury, it also includes things like inability to enjoy family or social activities, difficulty sleeping, humiliation caused by the injury, and the sense of loss that accompanies a serious injury. The recovery for pain and suffering must be backed up by the medical evidence.
- Scarring and Disfigurement
In certain cases, such as those involving burns, amputation, or surgery, the victim can make a claim for scarring and disfigurement. In these cases, it is important that progression of the injury be well documented through photographs and video. The recovery can include visible marks on the skin, but it can also involve things like limping or involuntary cramping of certain body parts and the humiliation that can result.
- Medical Bills
A big issue in personal injury litigation is recovery of both past and future medical bills. The rules regarding whether you can recover for medical bills vary by the type of case and often involve health insurance liens. We spend a lot of time investigating the type of health insurance to determine whether it has a right of reimbursement and, if so, the allowable amount. Future medical bills can be difficult to prove, and we often hire experts to explain to the jury what the future holds for our clients.
- Wage Loss
Recovery for wage loss is an important part of many claims. We can make claims for both past and future wage loss. These claims can be complicated, as they depend on the records of the doctors, past employers, and vocational evaluators. In addition, we must investigate whether any disability insurance coverage applies and, if so, whether the insurer has a right to be reimbursed for their payments.
- Punitive Damages
Punitive damages can be claimed in situations where the other party’s conduct in causing an incident was outrageous and “in reckless disregard of an existing peril.” Punitive damages are not designed to compensate the injured party. They are intended to punish and deter the wrongdoer. They are typically allowed only in cases of extreme wrongdoing.
- Loss of Consortium
If an injured person was married at the time of the incident and when the lawsuit was filed, the spouse can recover for loss of consortium. This is a claim that encompasses the impact on the spouse’s home life, family life, and relationship with the injured party.
- Attorney Fees/Costs
In a personal injury case, a party generally cannot make a claim to recover their attorney fees and costs from the other side. This is known as the “American Rule.” There are some non-personal injury situations, like certain cases involving violation of a consumer statute or breach of a contract, where a prevailing party can recover their reasonable fees and costs.
Another thing we consider is the amount of insurance coverage available for the claim. No matter how bad a person’s injuries, if the defendant doesn’t have the insurance coverage or assets to pay, the recovery will be limited. This is why it is important to have adequate medical, underinsured, and uninsured motorist coverage on your automobile insurance policy. These coverages will give you a source of recovery if you are injured in a car collision by someone with insufficient insurance coverage.
We also consider the type of court where a lawsuit will be heard. If a lawsuit is going to be filed in the state court of common pleas, we consider the possible counties where it can be brought. Each court of common pleas in Pennsylvania has its own rules and procedures to consider. Some cases are brought in federal court. The rules in federal court are quite different than state court and the cases tend to move much faster.
If you’ve been injured by another person and want to discuss your potential case, contact the attorneys at Warren McGraw & Knowles LLC as soon as possible for a free case evaluation.