Every personal injury clients asks, understandably, “what is the value of my case?” The second question, invariably, and appropriately, is “what do I get in my pocket?” The first question, frankly, is a difficult question to answer. It requires years of experience- actually seeing the numbers returned by the juries and judges that decide accident cases. The second, how much hits my pocket, is easy. It’s just math. Let’s focus on the first question.
While the question is difficult, a vital role of a skilled personal injury attorney is to give their client a fair evaluation of their case, including how much that case is worth. In fact, it might be the most important thing an injury lawyer does.
This gives the personal injury attorney the opportunity to apply their experience and knowledge to a given set of circumstances, and evaluate the claim. There are a multitude of factors that go into determining what a case is likely to return in court. Case analysis can sometimes be complex and textured. Some of these factors are objective, but some are subjective. This latter category is where the experience, background and track record of the personal injury lawyer can be determinative. I’ll explore each of the factors that go into case evaluation in some detail. But let me say a couple of things at the outset. A fair assessment of the value of the case is just that. Fair.
If you think you can plug some numbers into an online calculator, and you will get the same answer regarding case value that a seasoned personal injury litigator will give you, I would respectfully disagree.
There is no simple formula that allows one to plug in the amount of medical expenses and lost wages, multiply by 2.5, or 3, or 5, or whatever, to get fair value. In other chapters, we’ve talked about the computer software that the insurance companies use to assign values to cases. Surely, those systems do use formulas, at least in part, to determine value. But there is no subjective analysis, determination and insight in math and multiplication.
Secondly, a fair case evaluation opinion is the result of a process, not an event. If someone is giving you their opinion as to the value of your case the day after the accident- you should question that opinion.
The information that goes into a case evaluation can take months, and sometimes years, to come in. Serious injuries may take many years to resolve. Very serious injuries may never fully resolve. In those situations, I look to the medical evidence to ascertain when the injured person has reached a medial baseline, or plateau of stability. My process is to gather and assimilate all of that information, once available, so as to be able to present a coherent, reasoned proposal for settlement to an insurance company.
-This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 7/8/20.