When you have suffered a serious injury, your first thought is should be what steps you need to get well. Your focus should be on the things you need to do to return to health. You need to go to your doctor appointments, physical therapy, and follow the doctor recommended guidelines. The last thing you want to deal with is a civil suit to hold the wrongdoer responsible.
However it is the law that if someone causes injury, they are responsible to make you whole. When it is time to think about the harm that you have suffered because someone else was a reckless member of the community, there are are number of factors that determine the value of your case. The value of a personal injury case is as follows. You take three things, that the resulting sum is the value of the personal injury case.
- Medical Bills
- Pain and Suffering
- Loss of Earnings/Loss of Earning Capacity
1. Medical Bills
When you have been injured by someone else’s actions, they are responsible for making you whole. When you end up in the hospital from your injury, you will have medical bills. Sometimes these medical bills can be extensive. The total value of the medical bills will be considered. This means medical bills that have already been paid, and medical bills that will have to be paid in the future (ex. additional surgery).
Medical Bills also have been limited in the last year by a case called Howell v. Hamilton Meats. An example helps understand the limitation. If an injured party has a total of 200,000 dollars in medical bills, but the insurance company cut a deal to only pay 75,000 dollars for the 200,000 dollars of medical care, there will be different treatment of the value of the medical bills. The injured party can only recover the amount of money that was actually paid. This means when insurance is used to pay for medical bills, the value of the personal injury case decreases. This is especially sharp, as insurance companies have very high volume of medical work, and often pay a fraction of the dollar for the same treatment.
2. Pain and Suffering
Calculating the value of pain and suffering damages is never easy. When trying to figure out the amount or value of injuries of you or someone you care about, there are a number of specific rules we urge our clients and friends to heed.
You should recover for your true pain and suffering. If you are not in pain, you should not recover these. However if you are suffering, their needs to be some way to quantify your injuries. The closer you can link your day to day pain with a specific and calculable dollar amount, the more effective you will be at recovering these damages.
The easiest way to quantify your pain and suffering is a calculation related to your special damages. Doctors will often calculate that pain and suffering is a multiple of the special medical damages. Your pain may causes you damages because it prevents you from doing certain things. For example, it may prevent you from being able to stand all day. Because you work less, your suffering is directly costing you money.
Another way to quantify pain and suffering is to demonstrate activities that you will no longer be able to undertake, due to the pain and suffering. These can include specific areas of life, tasks that are too difficult, or activities that you used to enjoy.
3. Loss of Earnings and Loss of Earning Capacity
If you are injured, you are entitled to any money or income that you would have received if the injury had not occurred. To determine the amount of money that you would have made records of past wages and hours worked are allowed. These wages can be adjusted to reflect wage increases, if you were supposed to get a raise between the time of the accident and the time of the trial. This number is considered the loss of earnings. If you are self employed, this process is more complicated as the amount you earn needs to be calculated by an expert.
The loss of earning capacity is the difference between what you would have earned, and what you will be able to earn after the accident. This is a number that is calculated based on the rest of your life. Wages and experts will determine the amount of money you would have made over your lifetime, absent the injury, and then discount it for present value.
Image thanks to Steve-h